Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Happy birthday Marilyn McCoo

It's times like this that I lament the distance between Portland OR and Portland ME. Days like this should be shared with old friends. Old (literally old these days) friends who know the joy of Marilyn McCoo. It's a special kinship that I share with Mr. Chris(t) Wilson.

Who can say how we first identified this passion. I think it was during a mid-90s tour of the Studios at Las Colinas in Dallas, when she was the video tour guide. But you're not here for the campy glee. You're here for the classy music. Did you know Marilyn recorded "Saving All My Love for You" before Whitney?

Of course Marilyn became the megastar she is today way back in 1967 as a singer with The Fifth Dimension. "Up, Up and Away" won Record of the Year, and its covert drug culture message permeated society. Just listen:

The Fifth Dimension advocated for a variety of civil rights issues, and were among the earliest calling for gay marriage equality, in the song "Wedding Bell Blues."

The Fifth Dimension first performed its medley of "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" from Hair when accepting its Nobel Peace Prize in the late 60s. It went on to top the Billboard singles chart and win another Record of the Year Grammy. Richard Nixon used the song to connect with young voters in 1972, cementing his win as President.

But the meteoric career of Ms. McCoo hit a snag in the early 70s when she faced controversy related to another Fifth Dimension song, "One Less Bell to Answer." Meant as an indictment of industrial chicken farming practices, "One Less" became a rallying cry for people who care about grammar. McCoo faced countless protest signs that said "One Fewer, Bitch." This made her sad.

The highlight of McCoo's career came in 1976, when she and Billy Davis were asked to write and perform an original recording at Jimmy Carter's inauguration. The first time pop musicians replaced the Poet Laureate in American history. The result "You Don't Have to be a Star" reached #1 and won another Grammy.

McCoo capped her career with an early 80s run hosting the mega-hit Solid Gold TV series. Emmys, Golden Globes, the first TV show to win a Nobel Peace Prize (McCoo's second)--there was nothing this show couldn't accomplish. It launched the careers of Madonna, Placido Domingo and Anderson Cooper, to name a few. Here she is with fellow 70s icon Paul Williams.

McCoo now lives in seclusion with husband Billy Davis Jr. They've been together 40 years. That last sentence is true.

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