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Members, the Original 5th Dimension, 6 Grammy Awards, 17 Top 40 hits, including "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In," "Up, Up, and Away"
Star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame
Duo performers, Grammy hit single, "You Don't Have to Be a Star"
CBN.com STILL GOING STRONG
Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. have been married for 35 years. That's a wonderful accomplishment in the entertainment business, where longevity in marriage can be scarce. However, this couple, who met as members of The 5th Dimension in 1967, says that there is no magic formula for a good marriage in or out of the entertainment industry.
"I credit our friendship," Davis says. "We went into this marriage like everyone else – we loved each other, we were friends, we fought, and we had emotional problems. But our commitment to each other was so strong that we just didn't want to do it without each other. Plus, we have the Lord in our lives, and that's an important part of our relationship."
McCoo concurs: "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 and Billy want to celebrate their marriage union as well as contribute positively to others. They hope that their new book will be a story of inspiration as well as a window into their faith and how the Lord helped them in their marriage. McCoo says, "We've written Up, Up And Away…How We Found Love, Faith and Lasting Marriage in the Entertainment World as truthfully as possible because we believe that this is the only way people can benefit from other's experiences." They share some of the personal problems they've had to work through in their own marriage: Billy's alcoholism, their finances, fame, the pressures of marriage, and the key lessons they have learned. Through their experiences, they show that marriage takes work, that commitments are not antiquated, and that people need to take their commitments more seriously.
McCoo and Davis have found that they are more alike than different. Marilyn says it is important for men and women to celebrate and accept the differences between them. Another key to sustaining any relationship is maintaining the basics of respect, communication, and setting priorities (i.e., how time is spent together).
According to Marilyn, marriage is give and take. When a dream opportunity came for her to perform in the Broadway production of the musical Showboat, Marilyn wanted to accept the chance to be part of the show, but she wasn't sure how Billy would respond to her living in New York for more than a year. To her surprise, Billy agreed. Though Billy didn't think it was a big deal, Marilyn saw this act of sacrifice as very valuable and strengthening to their relationship. Marilyn says she has had to turn down career offers for the sake of her marriage. It is all part of the compromise of marriage.
Marilyn says she is concerned about the condition of marriages today, especially Christian marriages. The rate of Christian divorces is higher than the rate of divorces among non-Christians. She says it is important for Christians to learn how to apply the Word to their marriages, because something is obviously missing in Christian marriages for the divorce rate to be so high. Marilyn spoke to a women's group recently, and the women seemed to wish that men would act like women. Billy has also taken the opportunity to speak to men about what being the head of the household really means. Marilyn and Billy observe that women have been taught in the church what their role is in marriage, but that men haven't necessarily been told. Also, she says that the "me generation" of the 1970s has hurt society and has caused confusion about marriage in today's generation.
JESUS AT THE ROXY
While with The 5th Dimension, Billy and Marilyn became friends. "I liked the way he thought," she says. "We had a common interest in music." In 1969 they married. Although Marilyn's family did not go to church, Billy had been raised with a strong Christian background. But the pressures of an entertainment career had shifted his attention from his faith. He and Marilyn had Christian friends who began to talk to the couple about God.
Billy realized how much he had shifted from acknowledging God in his life, while Marilyn also realized a void in her life. She began studying the Bible. One day friends invited Marilyn and Billy to attend Jesus at the Roxy, an event in Los Angeles. Although they had just finished a concert in Denver, they made it back to Los Angeles in time for the program. Three weeks earlier, Marilyn had already accepted Jesus without telling Billy. At the evening of the Roxy, she and Billy both committed their lives to Jesus.
TOP 40 SUCCESS
Marilyn and Billy and the three other members of the Original 5th Dimension sang their way to Top 40 success beginning in 1966 with hits such as "Up, Up, and Away." The group's blend of pop, rock, and "champagne soul" spilled into the 1970s with additional memorable songs that have earned the group a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.
Billy and Marilyn left the group in 1975 for a successful duo singing career and, later, solo careers in entertainment. Music has always been instrumental in both their lives.
Marilyn's parents are both physicians and solidly middle class. She first sang professionally in her teens but did not plan to make that her career. She studied theatre arts at UCLA and later earned a degree in business administration. After she graduated, her old manager invited her to join the group that became The 5th Dimension.
Billy Davis Jr. began his performing career in St. Louis, singing in the church and with his friends on the street. He joined a gospel group while still in high school and toured the Midwest with such well-known artists as James Cleveland and Lou Rawls. After a brief time in the Army, he established a club in St. Louis where he developed his talents as a singer.
Ready to expand, Billy headed for Los Angeles and the "big time." There he was invited to join the group that became The 5th Dimension. While he was in the group, he met and married Marilyn. Their first big hit, "You Don't Have to be a Star (to be in My Show)" won a Grammy award.
MUSIC, THEATRE, AND LOVE
Since then, Marilyn has hosted the hit television show Solid Gold, has made appearances on Days of Our Lives and Night Court, has had many concert specials, has starred on Broadway in the revival of Showboat, and has appeared in a variety of musical theatre productions from Dreamgirls to Man of La Mancha.
Billy has gone solo as a recording and performing artist touring nationwide. He was able to fulfill a lifelong dream by collaborating with the legendary gospel great James Cleveland on an album. Billy also has added musical theatre to his accomplishments, starring in the hit musical Blues in the Night at the prestigious Old Globe Theatre and in Dreamgirls at the North Carolina Theatre.
In recent years the couple has toured together on The Duke Ellington Songbook tour, which celebrated the 100th birthday of Duke Ellington and his music.
Marilyn and Billy continue selectively performing their touring show of It Takes Two, which features duets and love songs from the '60s and '70s. The magic of It Takes Two is in the real-life dynamic between McCoo and Davis as they perform the love songs together. The audience responds to the admiration and affection visible on stage. "It's been a real blessing for us to do It Takes Two because it's a nightly affirmation of our love," Davis says. "The audience responds to that. What comes from the heart goes to the heart. The new couples would like to have what we have, and the ones who have it know what we're singing about."
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