It’s a “Summer of Soul” for LaMonte McLemore of The 5th Dimension

“The 5th Dimension is forever,” smiles founder of the 6-time Grammy winning vocal quintet, LaMonte McLemore, musing about The 5th Dimension’s appearance in this summer’s award-winning musical docu-film sensation, “Summer of Soul.” Producer Questlove unearthed countless pristine celluloid hours of African American musical luminaries performing at The Harlem Cultural Festival, circa 1969. Akin to a “Black Woodstock,” Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Mahalia Jackson, Sly & The Family Stone, and more took to the stage before hundreds of thousands. The #1 song of the day (and the year for that matter), actually a “mash-up” of “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” courtesy of Broadway’s HAIR, performed with verve and optimistic joy by a brightly attired The 5th Dimension (Marilyn McCoo, Florence LaRue, Billy Davis, Jr., Ron Townson and McLemore) is one of the movie’s centerpieces.

“The 5th Dimension is forever,” smiles founder of the 6-time Grammy winning vocal quintet, LaMonte McLemore, musing about The 5th Dimension’s appearance in this summer’s award-winning musical docu-film sensation, “Summer of Soul.” Producer Questlove unearthed countless pristine celluloid hours of African American musical luminaries performing at The Harlem Cultural Festival, circa 1969. Akin to a “Black Woodstock,” Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Mahalia Jackson, Sly & The Family Stone, and more took to the stage before hundreds of thousands. The #1 song of the day (and the year for that matter), actually a “mash-up” of “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” courtesy of Broadway’s HAIR, performed with verve and optimistic joy by a brightly attired The 5th Dimension (Marilyn McCoo, Florence LaRue, Billy Davis, Jr., Ron Townson and McLemore) is one of the movie’s centerpieces.

Biographer of The Original 5th Dimension and Mr. McLemore, Robert-Allan Arno states, “To see The 5th Dimension on the big screen at the apex of their career is thrilling for their many fans, more so it underscores the unexpected power of the group’s unique ebullient flavor.” McLemore adds, “I’ll just say ‘Right on!’…we especially loved performing in Harlem, and bringing our magic everywhere, the world over.”

The songs of The 5th Dimension coined as “Champagne Soul” united generations, races, and crossed record chart boundaries during the turbulent times of the late 60’s and early 70’s. Uplifting anthems like “Up-Up and Away,” penned by Jimmy Webb, and “Stoned Soul Picnic,” written by Laura Nyro have transcended, the latter even influencing another legacy group, Earth, Wind & Fire. And Frank Sinatra thought “The 5th” was pretty cool too, having them as special guests on his TV special and taking them on the road, before they became headliners in their own right, in Las Vegas. McLemore explains, “It was two groups, the Supremes and The 5th Dimension who opened doors for other Black singing groups to headline in Vegas in our heyday era. And everyone knew our first and last names…just like the Beatles.”

McLemore wrote a popular memoir, now in its 2nd edition, “From Hobo Flats to The 5th Dimension,” with Arno as the as-told-to author. LaMonte McLemore not only delivered “The 5th's" elegantly hip hits as the quintet's smooth bass for over 40 years but is also known for his 5 decades with JET magazine, as the photographer for the enticing "Beauty of the Week" feature. The journey to becoming one of the most popular singing groups of The Rock n' Roll era came by way of “Hobo Flats,” where "Mac" and friends hung their resourceful hats and dreamed big. Mr. McLemore, who played baseball in the Dodgers Farm system, hits a home run presenting a memoir peppered with tasty anecdotes about countless celebrity colleagues from Sinatra to Diana Ross, Ray Charles to Richard Pryor, even Pharrell Williams.

With the timeliness of The 5th Dimension appearing in “Summer of Soul” and a resultant resurgence in interest in the original quintet and their individual members (like the married team of Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr., and Florence LaRue who headlines the current version of The 5th Dimension), Mr. McLemore declares, "Now is the right time to re-edify the important history of The 5th Dimension!"

Story courtesy Robert-Allan Arno

 

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