Diane Mack: Love keeps 5th Dimension stars together for 52 years

Diane Mack
Family Matters
Diane Mack

Can you guess the couple I am writing about? 

The wife was born in 1943, in Jersey City, New Jersey. Her parents were both physicians. 

At the age of 7, she moved with her family to Los Angeles. 

Her parents, Mary and Waymon, provided her, her two sisters and one brother with a solid middle-class upbringing 

Dance, piano and voice classes followed and by the time she was a teenager, she was set on a career in entertainment. 

Later in life she became an American singer, actress and television presenter. 

Her husband was born in 1938 in St. Louis. 

At an early age, he began singing in the church choir and formed a pop outfit called the Emeralds while in high school. 

After a return to the church and a name change to the Saint Gospel Singers, the group recorded a single, "I'm Saved," before he split for college. 

After a stint in the Army, he landed in Los Angeles, where he rekindled his friendships with two fellow St. Louis natives, Lamonte McLemore and Ronald Townson. Those three St. Louis gentlemen soon teamed with two beautiful ladies, McCoo and Florence La Rue, and, in 1965, formed the Versatiles. 

He met her, or she met him, and in 1966, their singing group of five changed their name from the Versatiles to the 5th Dimension and had their first big hit in the summer of 1967. 

“Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon? Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon? We could float among the stars together, you and I, for we can fly, we can fly. Up, up and away, my beautiful, my beautiful balloon.” 

Can you identify who I am writing about? 

Yes, it is Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. “Up, Up and Away” was their first big hit. I can remember that song and sing every word. At that time, I was in elementary school. Or maybe it was high school. 

Let’s flash back to 1967. Inflation grew as part of the effect to fund the war in Vietnam continued. There were 500,000 men and women already serving in Vietnam. 

Race riots continued to increase across cities in America and National Guard units were needed to bring back law and order. 

Plus, the Chevrolet Camaro car was introduced (I threw that in for my brother Thad). 

It was somewhat a time of doomsday. 

Between the Vietnam war and race issues, Marilyn and Billy of the Fifth Dimension, were singing happy thoughts. 

“Love is waiting there in my beautiful balloon. Way up in the air in my beautiful balloon. If you'll hold my hand, we'll chase your dream across the sky. For we can fly, we can fly.” 

McCoo and Davis songs included, “Wedding Bell Blues”, “One Less Bell to Answer”, “Worst That Could Happen”, “I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All”, “You Don’t Have to Be a Star to Be in My Show” and “If I Could Reach You.” 

This summer, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary. 

According to Closerweekly.com, “While that’s a testament to the enduring power of love for any couple, it’s even more impressive because these spouses have also been working together since their days as founding members of the 5th Dimension in the mid-1960s. 

“Of course, we sometimes bicker,” 79-year-old Marilyn mentioned. “But there is such joy that comes from performing on stage together.” 

Billy, age 83, added, “We wanted to talk about love. It’s a perfect thing because it’s so uplifting.” 

Agreeing with Billy, Marilyn affirms, “We felt like everyone could use something uplifting these days. ‘Up, Up, and Away’ made us win four Grammy Awards. It was so funny because we didn’t even know what a Grammy Award was. In 1967, the Grammy Awards weren’t on television yet!” 

Marilyn and Billy’s honorable faithful marriage, as well as their vocal music, epitomized harmony, cooperation, humanitarianism and peace – like the age of “Aquarius.” 

“Then peace will guide the planets, And love will steer the stars. This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius, Age of Aquarius, Aquarius, Aquarius ...” 

Diane Mack is coordinator of Putting Families First, Jackson County’s Family Week Foundation. Email her at Director@jacksoncountyfamilyweek.org.