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Billy Davis Jr.

R&B and gospel singer Billy Davis, Jr. is inextricably linked with pop-soul hitmakers the 5th Dimension and his duet partner and wife Marilyn McCoo. Davis and McCoo achieved fame together in the late '60s as founding members of the Grammy-winning, chart-topping 5th Dimension. As a duo, they earned the same major distinctions with "You Don't Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)," a 1976 smash that, appropriately enough, preceded the two co-hosting The Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. Show. Although they haven't recorded as often since the late '70s, Davis and McCoo continue to perform together and have released two albums in the 2020s, namely Coming 2 Gether and Blackbird. Davis' few solo recordings have the same positive, loving outlook as his group and duo work. They're highlighted by the 1975 soul single "Three Steps from True Love" and the 1982 gospel album Let Me Have a Dream. Billy Davis, Jr. was born in St. Louis. 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 Davis split for college. After a stint in the Army, he landed in Los Angeles, where he rekindled his friendships with fellow St. Louis natives Ron Townson and Lamonte McLemore. The three soon teamed with Marilyn McCoo and Florence LaRue, and in 1965 formed the Versatiles, recording the single "You're Good Enough for Me" before signing to Johnny Rivers' fledgling Soul City label the following year. Rivers renamed the quintet the 5th Dimension, and after scoring their first Top 20 hit in 1967 with "Go Where You Wanna Go," the group went on to record a series of smashes including "Up Up and Away," "Stoned Soul Picnic," the chart-toppers "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" and "Wedding Bell Blues," and the brilliant Burt Bacharach-penned "One Less Bell to Answer." "Up Up and Away," and "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" won a total of six Grammys. Davis and McCoo (who married in 1969) left the group in 1975, the year Davis released a solo single, "Three Steps from True Love," for ABC. The next year, Davis and McCoo launched their career as a duo with "You Don't Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)," a number one pop single and a Grammy winner for Best R&B Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus. After notching another hit with "Your Love," in 1977 they started hosting their own CBS network variety series, The Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. Show. They soon followed their 1976 and 1977 ABC albums, I Hope We Get to Love in Time and The Two of Us, with one for Columbia, 1978's Marilyn & Billy. Davis and McCoo wouldn't release another album as a duo for 30 years, but in 1982, Davis returned to recording with a gospel LP for Savoy titled Let Me Have a Dream, which was followed a few years later by a couple additional singles. Davis and McCoo rejoined the 5th Dimension the next decade for a national reunion tour, after which Davis turned to the theater to appear in productions of Dreamgirls and Blues in the Night. Throughout the latter half of the '90s, Davis and McCoo -- who also landed recurring roles together in The Jamie Foxx Show -- resumed touring as a duo. They've recorded sporadically since then. The Many Faces of Love, a set covering classic love songs, was released on their own label in 2008. Twelve years later, they returned with the gospel album Coming 2 Gether, quickly followed in 2021 with Blackbird, featuring new versions of songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
© Andy Kellman & Jason Ankeny /TiVo
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