Up Up and Away
American Grammy winning singer and actress Marilyn McCoo became famous as the lead female vocalist of the group The Fifth Dimension with whom she sang with from 1966 until 1975. The former beauty queen spawned a number of hits with the group, most notably “Up Up and Away” (1967, won four Grammy Awards), “Stoned Soul Picnic” (1968), the chart toppers “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” (won two Grammy Awards) and “Wedding Bell Blues,” both of which were taken from the albums “The Age of Aquarius” and “One Less Bell to Answer” (1970). McCoo enjoyed subsequent success as a duo with former Fifth Dimension band member and husband Billy Davis, Jr. The pair picked up a Grammy Award in 1977 for the Billboard No. 1 hit “You Don't Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)” from their first album “I Hope We Get to Love in Time” (1976). Since the 1980s, McCoo has emerged as a solo artist. She netted a Grammy nomination for her album “The Me Nobody Knows” (1991) and a Grammy Award for her contributions to Quincy Jones' “Handel's Messiah.” McCoo is also remembered as the host of the 1980s music countdown series “Solid Gold” (1980-1984, 1986-1988) and for her roles in the TV series “Days of Our Lives” (1986-1987) and the movies “The Fantastic World of D.C. Collins” (1984, TV), “My Mom's a Werewolf” (1989) and “Grizzly Adams and the Legend of Dark Mountain” (1999). McCoo was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2002 and has been married to Billy Davis, Jr. since 1969.
“The fact that our relationship started off as friendship before we ever dated certainly has a lot to do with it. You can't spend this many years with another person if you don't like them and respect. Women will complain about things that men don't consider important, but women will do the same thing with men. We don't think we do because men often tend to be less verbal. But when your spouse says something, you need to listen. Paying attention to what the other person says is part of respecting each other and caring how each other feels.” Marilyn McCoo
Childhood and Family:
Marilyn McCoo was born on September 30, 1943, in Jersey City, New Jersey, to a doctor. She discovered she had a knack for singing early and honed in on the craft throughout her school years. When she was a teenager, Marilyn, who is known to her family and close friends as Silvio, performed on “Art Linkletter's Talent Scouts.” At age 19, her family relocated to Los Angeles where she began modeling and was crowned Miss Bronze California in 1962. It was also in L.A. that she befriended photographer Lamonte McLemore, who introduced her to Billy Davis Jr.
Marilyn and Billy Davis, Jr. (born on June 26, 1940, in St. Louis, Missouri) were married on July 26, 1969. After leaving the Fifth Dimension in 1975, the two continued to perform together as a duo until the early 1980s when they decided to pursue solo careers. In 2004, Marilyn and her husband published a book titled “Up, Up and Away,” in which they discussed their love and faith.
Marilyn has an older sister named Glenda Wina, who appeared in the TV series “Kojak” (1974, as Miss Wina) and the movies “Telefon” (1977, starred Charles Bronson) and “Cobra” (1986, starred Sylvester Stallone).
The Me Nobody Knows
Although Marilyn McCoo started singing at an early age, she did not consider it as a career until after she moved to Los Angeles and met photographer Lamonte McLemore. They then decided to form a group together and with the addition of Floyd Butler and Harry Elston in the lineup, the Hi-Fis performed in local clubs. The group caught the eye of Ray Charles, who later produced the jazz single “Lonesome Mood” for them. After embarking on a tour with The Genius of Soul in 1965, Butler and Elston left the group to form their own band.
McCoo and McLemore continued to work together in the new group called The Versatiles, whose members included Billy Davis, Jr., Ron Townson and Florence LaRue. Formed in 1966, the group signed with singer/producer Johnny Rivers' newly established Soul City label and launched their first single, “I'll Be Lovin' You Forever,” which was unsuccessful. The group rebounded with the cover song “Go Where You Wanna Go” from the Mamas and the Papas, which was a success. Having changed their name to The Fifth Dimension, the group enjoyed even more victory when the Jimmy Webb written song “Up Up and Away.” The song became a huge hit and peaked at No. 7 on the U.S. Pop Singles charts in the mid 1967. It also collected four Grammys in 1968, including Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. An album of the same name was also released in 1967.
The following year, McCoo and the group released “Stoned Soul Picnic,” which spawned the hits “Stoned Soul Picnic,” “Sweet Blindness” and the Ashford & Simpson written “California Soul.” The album went gold. 1969 saw McCoo and Davis get married and The Fifth Dimension achieve the peak of their success. “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” a medley of two songs from the musical “Hair,” rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for six weeks before earning platinum certification. It also won Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Contemporary Vocal Performance by a Group. They scored another No. 1 hit single with the Laura Nyro composition “Wedding Bell Blues.” Those two songs were included in the 1969 album “The Age of Aquarius.”
McCoo went on to produce other hits with her group, including the Burt Bacharach/Hal David written “One Less Bell to Answer” (1970, #2), “(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All” (1972, #8) and “If I Could Reach You” (1972, #10), before she and her husband left The Fifth Dimension in 1975. They then began performing as a duo and after signing a deal with ABC Records, released their debut album “I Hope We Get to Love in Time” in 1976. Although the title track was a mediocre chart hit, the follow up “You Don't Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)” was a smash crossover hit and rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Soul Singles charts. It went on to sell more than a million copies and won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. It was also in 1977 that the twosome started their show on CBS called “The Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr Show.”
McCoo and her husband recorded one more album for ABC Records in 1978 before moving to CBS Records the following year. However, after producing one album, the pair decided to concentrate on their solo projects. From 1981 to 1984, McCoo hosted the American syndicated show “Solid Gold” and returned to the series during 1986-1988. She also performed in nightclub and concert shows and joined the cast of the soap opera “Days of our Lives.” Prior to her stint on the hit series, McCoo had appeared in episodes of “It Takes a Thief” (1970, as Marilyn Lee), “The Love Boat” (1978, as Lenore) and “The Fall Guy” (1986, as Dalia) and in the TV film “The Fantastic World of D.C. Collins” (1984, as Vanessa Collins). She closed out the 1980s playing the supporting role of Celia Celica in the independent film “My Mom's a Werewolf” (1989), which starred Susan Blakely and John Saxon.
In 1990, McCoo teamed up with David Coburn, Whoopi Goldberg and LeVar Burton for the animated series “Captain Planet and the Planeteers” and played M.C. in an episode of “Night Court.” She returned to the studio for the 1991 album “The Me Nobody Knows,” which nabbed a Grammy nomination. She released a Christmas album in 1994 and picked up her eighth Grammy for “Handel's Messiah.”
McCoo next had a featured role in the adventure film “Grizzly Adams and the Legend of Dark Mountain” (1999), which was directed by John Huneck and David Sheldon and starred Tom Tayback. The same year, she was also seen as Joan Monroe in an episode of “The Jamie Foxx Show,” a role she reprised for a 2001 episode called “Always and Forever.” In addition to appearances on TV and in movies, McCoo has also acted in several stage productions, including “Anything Goes,” “Man of La Mancha” and a Broadway production of “Show Boat” (1995-1996).
Grammy: Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, “You Don't Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show),” 1977
Grammy: Record of the Year and Best Contemporary Vocal Performance by a Group, “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” 1970
Grammy: Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal, Other Pop/Rock&Roll/Contemporary or Instrumental, Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year, “Up, Up and Away,” 1968