5th Dimension came to prominence in the 1960s with their genre-hopping blend of pop, R&B, and Broadway, releasing a slew of gold and platinum albums along with chart-topping hits like Up, Up and Away and Medley: Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures). Although the group’s lineup has changed multiple times over the years, they achieved their biggest success with the original lineup of Lamonte McLemore, Marilyn McCoo, Florence LaRue, Ronald Townson, and Billy Davis Jr in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Here, we look back on some of their finest moments with our pick of the 10 best 5th Dimension songs of all time.
10. Go Where You Wanna Go
Go Where You Wanna Go was written by John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas fame and originally recorded by him and the rest of the group in 1965. The single was issued as a single on a limited release but later withdrawn. Two years later, producer Johnny Rivers suggested to the 5th Dimension that they should record a cover. They did, with the result that they entered the Billboard 100 for the first time, peaking at number 16.
9. Blowin’ Away
Laura Nyro may have been an incredibly gifted singer-songwriter, but the majority of her success came posthumously, During her lifetime, her songs provided more hits for other artists than they did for her. The 5th Dimension borrowed extensively from her songbook, with Blowin’ Away, a top 40 hit for the band in 1969, ranking as one of their best interpretations of her material.
8. If I Could Reach You
Written by Randall Clayton McNeill and first recorded by the 5th Dimension in 1972 for the album Individually & Collectively, If I Could Reach You became one of the band’s biggest hits, charting at number one on the Easy Listening chart. It also reached the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 – their last song to do so.
7. (Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All
Tony Macaulay wrote (Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All with the Carpenters in mind, but while the group was initially enthusiastic, they took issue with the reference to sleeping pills in the lyrics and pulled out. Fortunately, the Fifth Dimension were a little more liberal in their attitude to sleeping aids, and were happy enough to perform the song on their 1972 album, Individually & Collectively. It ended up becoming one of their biggest hits, charting in the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 and certifying platinum within a few months of its release.
6. Never My Love
Never My Love was written by brothers Don and Dick Addrisi and first recorded by The Association in 1967. It quickly became a pop standard, with dozens of others artists clambering to record it. The 5th Dimension recorded their version in 1970, earning a number 1 hit on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart in the process.
5. One Less Bell to Answer
The 5th Dimension recorded several songs by hitmakers Burt Bacharach and Hal David over their career, including the lovely One Less Bell to Answer, which took them to number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, number one on the Adult Contemporary chart, and number four on the Best Selling Soul Singles chart on its release from their fifth studio album, Portrait, in 1970.
4. Stoned Soul Picnic
Another Laura Nyro cover next, this time the perennially popular Stoned Soul Picnic. After producer Bones Howe heard the song on Nyro’s seminal 1968 album Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, he suggested it to the group. Not only did they record it, they named their third album after it. Released as a single in June 1968, it charted at number 3 on the pop charts and number 2 on the R&B charts, eventually certifying platinum.
3. Wedding Bell Blues
Laura Nyro wrote Wedding Bell Blues at the age just 18. She recorded it in 1966 for her debut album More Than a New Discovery, but hated arranger Herb Bernstein’s arrangements so much, she practically disowned the entire album as a result. Four years later, the 5th Dimension earned a number one hit on both the US pop charts and the adult contemporary chart with their soulful version. It was also a hit in Canada, reaching number 5 in the charts.
2. Up, Up and Away
Who knew songs about hot air ballooning could be so successful? Released in 1965, Up, Up and Away took the 5th Dimension to number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 9 on the Easy Listening chart, as well as scooping the top spot on both the Australian and Canadian charts. At the following year’s Grammy Awards, it swept the board, winning Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, Best Performance by a Vocal Group, Best Performance by a Chorus and Best Contemporary Song. Since then, it’s been covered and sampled by dozens of artists, including Bing Crosby, Diana Ross, Nancy Sinatra, The Prodigy, Andy Williams and The Impressions.
1. Medley: Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)
This medley was written for the 1967 musical Hair, and later released by the 5th Dimension as a single. It became one of their biggest ever hits, dominating the charts throughout the spring of 1969 and spending six weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s since been named by Billboard as one of the “Greatest Songs of All Time.” Even if the astrological aspect is a bit suspect, it doesn’t detract from the pure joy of the song one iota. It might have 1969 stamped all over it, but that’s just part of the charm.