When Marilyn McCoo and Florence LaRue teamed up with the Los Angeles R&B trio the Versatiles — Lemont McLemore, Ron Townson and Billy Davis Jr. — the ingredients were in place for a unique blend of pop-soul and California sunshine pop.
The group signed with singer Johnny Rivers’ Soul City label in 1966 and the following year was in the Top 10 with “Up, Up and Away,” picking up several Grammys and helping launch the career of songwriter Jimmy Webb.
During its top years of 1966-72, the Fifth Dimension also boosted the compositions of Laura Nyro (“Stoned Soul Picnic,” “Sweet Blindness,” “Wedding Bell Blues”) and hit its peak with “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” from the musical “Hair.”
McCoo and Davis, who married in 1969, left for a career as a duo in the mid-'70s, and the group carried on with various singers coming and going. The original five reunited in 1990 for a tour, and in the late 2000s LaRue was the only original member still with the group. Townson died of kidney failure in 2001.