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ALMOST SINCE their inception a decade ago, The Fifth Dimension have become almost a musical institution. Not necessarily one to everyone's taste because for the most part, they've been considered almost totally a "middle of the road" act.

They have been accused of having too much of a 'white' sound, an accusation which may have alienated them somewhat from young black audiences. Times are, of necessity, changing!

With the recent departure of Billy Davis and Marilyn McCoo to form their own act together as a duo, The Fifth have had to undergo their first personnel changes since their outset.

In place of Billy and Marilyn, we now found Danny Beard and Marjorie Barnes and original members Florence, Lamont and Ron seem confident and certain that the two "have added a new burst of energy to the group".

They elaborate further: "We've been together for such a long time that we know each other very well. We knew that Billy and Marilyn wanted to go out on their own. It's just one of those things that you know.

"Fortunately, they gave us plenty of advance warning. So it was then a question of finding two new people. And Danny and Marjorie are coming in from a new space, a new time. and they're giving us a new lease of life.

"We're still at that 'getting to know you' stage, you could say."

Certainly, one of the immediate changes in the group's attitudes was visible with the release of "Love Hangover". How did they come to cover the song which has since gone on to become the biggest seller for Diana Ross since she left The Supremes — a platinum record?

"Well, our manager had checked out the song from Diana's album. At the time, Motown had released another cut as single on Diana to follow up on 'Do You Know Where You're Going To' — so we decided to go in and cut 'Hangover'.

"However, as soon as it was released, it caused a good deal of controversy over at Motown! They rushed out Diana's version — something we were hoping they wouldn't do — but they did!

"We realize naturally that if they hadn't, we could have had a million seller ourselves. Still, it did us good because we got a good deal of publicity behind it. Whenever people talked about Diana's version, they talked about ours."

What did Ms. Ross have to say about it? "Well, I saw Diana after the record had been released," Florence relates, "and we didn't discuss it but there was no problem."

And Lamont reiterates: "We've been friends with Diana for many years — back to when I worked for Motown at one point in time — and I came out and told her that I hoped it would make no difference to our friendship.

"She said that she understood that it was purely a business thing and anyway, she'd been in Europe when it had actually happened! So there's no problem between us!"

"Love Hangover" was certainly a different step for the group. Are we to expect more material in the same vein? "Right now, we're between record companies. We mutually terminated our contract with A.B.C.

"They were going through changes at the top and they frankly, couldn't hear the directions we wanted to go in. We should have a new record deal set very soon, and, yes, when we do there will be a definite attempt to find the right kind of material.

"Yes, we want a hit record — we haven't had one in two years — and although we're still continually booked, a record makes all the difference in terms of getting over to more people. We want to move away from that 'm-o-r' image into what's happening today.

"It may not necessarily be disco but it's definitely going to be something that is into pop/r&b. It's always been a problem because our show has always encompassed all areas and no producer has ever really captured us on record the way we appear live. They've always had that pre-conceived notion about our image.

"Especially now, with the new members, the energy that flows is more like a continuous heatwave than just a moment a funk!"

The Fifth have always had a strong reputation when it comes down to their live shows. "Almost more than any group, we have the voices that enable us to do opera, r&b, gospel, pop, m-o-r — whatever is needed. We've also always been innovators of a sort. We want to continue that trend because we were the first black group to accomplish a number of things.

"We opened the doors for a lot of other people and unfortunately, those achievements are glossed over. Places like Vegas — where we became a 'main room' attraction almost from the beginning — and rooms like the Americana here in New York. They'd never really used black acts until we came along."

The Fifth's tendency to play such venues has, of course, brought its share of criticism. "Yes, we've frequently been accused of sounding too 'white'. But music is colourless. We wanted to show people that blacks are capable of doing other things rather than just being 'shouters' — always doing r&b and so on."

The group accepts that in the future, they won't be leaning towards Vegas and like venues quite so much but they are realistic.

"We have high overheads and so we have to go where the money is right. If it's necessary for us to play Vegas, then we have to do that. But even though we've made it in those kind of places, we still never made the same kind of money that a white group would make.

"It's a whole different story now, too, in terms of hit records. Once you have a hit now, they throw people out there into places like Vegas. Before, you had to work to get there."

Whatever they put their hand to, The Fifth are assured of longevity. With the addition of Danny and Marjorie to the existing talents of Florence, Lamont and Ron, the group should find no problem in getting over to new audiences.

It's only a matter of time before they find the right material and return to being regular chart names too.

About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create Records as a leading reissue label.

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