Billy Davis, Jr., and Marilyn McCoo: Still in Love
By Julie Blim with Scott Ross
The 700 Club
Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr., are best known for their wild success as part of The Fifth Dimension. The group’s long string of hits continues to play on radio stations today. Though they eventually left the group, their recording careers and their marriage have lasted more than four decades.
Scott Ross: The Fifth Dimension formed up when?
Billy Davis, Jr.: 1965.
Marilyn McCoo: Our first huge record, “Up, Up, and Away,” ended up winning four Grammy awards for the group. Then we had “Stoned Soul Picnic”, which was another million-selling record. It was always like that. We’d have one that was really big, and then a couple that were not quite as big.
Davis: And then there was “Wedding Bell Blues”.
And what of their romance?
McCoo: It wasn’t love at first sight.
Ross: I was going to ask that.
Davis: No, no, it took a couple of years. We started off friends.
McCoo: Yeah, we had no romantic interest in each other at all. But we started connecting, because we both had the same passion for music.
Ross: When did it began to evolve into a more romantic relationship? Was that a surprise to you?
Davis: We were really close. Then Marilyn got even more fresh. I said, “Well, maybe I’d better pay attention.”
McCoo: We’d be riding around in a limousine, [and] I would make sure that I sat next to Billy. We’d go around a corner. I would lean on him.
Davis: The problem was that she would lean on me, but when the car was straightened out, she was still there.
McCoo: So now everyone’s wondering when we’re going to get married. I thought, why should we get married? Every marriage I’ve seen ends up in divorce, including my parents. We had a great thing going, a wonderful relationship. Why mess it up with a marriage?
Despite their cynicism and habit of constant arguing, marry they did in July of ‘69. Billy and Marilyn soared with The Fifth Dimension for a decade before parting ways with the group in ‘75.
McCoo: That was when we recorded “You Don’t Have to be a Star (To Be in My Show)”. That was a No. 1 record and another Grammy award, so it was great. Then we didn’t have any more hits like “You Don’t Have to Be a Star”. So we got to the point where things got a little quiet, and we were sitting home waiting for jobs to come in that weren’t coming in as fast as they had. I started reflecting on my life, my career, and what it all meant and who I was. I began to realize that something was missing in my life. A girlfriend of mine told me one day, “Marilyn, if you ever feel like there’s a void in your life, that’s because the Lord is telling you that you need Him. She started me reading the Bible. I done a lot of spiritual exploration, but nothing pertaining to the Bible. I prayed to receive Jesus, and I didn’t realize what I was really doing at the time. Over the next few months, I must have prayed and asked Jesus to become my Lord and Savior at least 4 or 5 times because by now I’m discovering what this means.
Ross: So did you notice anything in her? Without her saying anything? Any change, any attitude adjustments?
Davis: The only thing that happened that was different in our lives was Marilyn was running around the house with the Bible. All the time, I’m looking at her because I knew that we didn’t have a spiritual life. I grew up in church. So when she was running around the house looking at the Bible, the Holy Spirit convicted me. Oh, yeah. I should have been the one that was trying to say, "Hey, come on, let’s go to church. Let’s deal with the spiritual part of our lives."
One day while driving through LA, the pair noticed that The Roxy Club was holding a revival …
Davis: Jesus at the Roxy. Why don’t we go? I said yes, cause I’m ready to go.
Ross: What did that do for you to see this moment for him?
McCoo: Well, that was another one of the times when I prayed to receive Jesus. So I decided, well tonight, Billy’s going to find out that I’m born again. I stood up to pray to receive Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and I peeked across the table and Billy was standing up.
In July 2009, Marilyn and Billy celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. They know a thing or two about making it work…
Ross: What’s the best advice you can say to couples?
Davis: We have to learn how to deal with each other’s stuff.
McCoo: Compromise. People think that compromise is a dirty word today. Don’t try to win every battle. You’ve got to learn how sometimes something is more important to your spouse. You have to learn how to give and take. We couldn’t have done it without the Lord, because we have truly had our struggles and we’ve worked through them.
With singing engagements and a new album out, Marilyn and Billy are still going strong. They also reach out to the homeless at a mission in Los Angeles.
Ross: After these years, do you guys still like each other?
McCoo: We want to encourage people that long-term marriages do work, that they relevant in today’s world, that they do mean a lot, that they can bring you happiness and fulfillment. Hang in there. It’s worth it. It gets better with time.
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