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LaMonte of The 5th Dimension Celebrates 'Aquarius' Anniversary and Broadway Connections in New Memoir

On April 12, 1969, The 5th Dimension garnered their eighth Billboard Top 40 hit with the medley from Broadway's HAIR: "Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In." It stayed in the #1 spot for six straight weeks. LaMonte McLemore, founder of the multi-Grammy winning quintet, tells the secrets behind this Platinum medley--finding it, recording it, and its perfect place in history--in his new memoir, "From Hobo Flats to The 5th Dimension: A Life Fulfilled in Baseball, Photography and Music." Mac, as he's warmly known, chatted with his biographer, Robert-Allan Arno, for the occasion.

Robert: Mac, everyone has asked you to write your book for ages, why now?
LaMonte: The timing is perfect, like it was when we recorded "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In." The 5th Dimension will celebrate its 50th anniversary in the fall, my wife and I are toasting our 20th wedding anniversary now, and my mother will be having her 101st birthday in June...I'd say "the moon is in the ideal house!"
Robert: There was lots of magic in the air when The 5th Dimension found "Aquarius."
LaMonte: I tell all about it in my memoir. Each of our members going to the Broadway show it came from, the toast of the town, HAIR, sealed the deal for us. Hearing Ronnie Dyson sing "Aquarius" in the show drove us to elation and our famed producer Bones Howe was slick in putting it together with "Let the Sunshine In," which is actually part of the song, "The Flesh Failures," also from HAIR. Now, how we got to see HAIR in the first place, is a "magical" story in and of itself...having to do with a lost wallet in a New York City cab!
Robert: The medley "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" was the apex of your amazing career, spending six consecutive weeks at number one.
LaMonte: Yes, and as we write in the book, it's perfectly placed in our nation's history, pre-first moon landing and all that good jazz about the "harmony and understanding" it helped to bring about during turbulent times of the day. Hey, even the recording in and of itself had that "magic," we were competing with a train whooshing by the recording studio. But we kept on singing...and whooshed right by it, to the top!
Robert: Its message of "peace and love..."
LaMonte: ...became an anthem for a generation. My colleagues Marilyn McCoo and Florence LaRue delivered crystal-clear leads; Billy Davis, Jr. did this awesome Gospel improvisation on the "Sunshine" part, and our beloved Ron "Sweets" Townson and I got to scale the charts. It was a...
Robert: "Groovy thing!" LaMonte, The 5th Dimension had a bunch of Broadway connections.
LaMonte: Yep, even our very first hit, written by Jimmy Webb, "Up-Up and Away," had a major Broadway show tune feel. We thought it was too pretty for the psychedelic mood of the charts circa '67, but the record company put it out anyway, and it just seemed to soothe our restless nation.
Robert: The 5th Dimension was clever in amalgamating Pop, Jazz, R&B, Gospel, light opera, torch and Broadway sounds.
LaMonte: Thank you, my vision as the group's founder was to do something hip...and different. Our five voices lent themselves to a sound all our own, someone called it "Champagne Soul."
Robert: The group recorded other tunes from Broadway, "Day by Day" from "Godspell," and "Light Sings" from "The Me Nobody Knows."
LaMonte: Yes, I loved our getting to "have church" with "Day by Day," we liked to do it live in our shows, too. The fans loved "Light Sings," but I personally think it didn't capture the same verve as "Aquarius," that's what our producer was hoping for. Maybe it was done too pretty--that word again--and needed a bit more edge...but hey, the fans love it.
Robert: And lo and behold, The 5th Dimension--always innovators--took the Broadway revival of Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin" on the road in the '80's.
LaMonte: Yes, we toured in that show and worked the same schedule as Broadway. Our 5th Dimension concerts were always high energy, but this was a performance and schedule unto itself. I never worked as hard, or felt as accomplished as an artist.
Robert: You talk about these Broadway connections in-depth, and so much more in your new memoir.
LaMonte: Like "Aquarius," with the book, we seem to have a hit with our devoted fans, and so many more music lovers, too. That era never seems to go away, and I'm so pleased we got to give it new perspective. Plus I get to honor my humble beginnings, my Grandma who was my "prophetic muse," a Cherokee Indian who could not read or write, but predicted "The Age of Aquarius" and all the good I would be a part of. The 5th Dimension truly brought and bring people together and our Broadway influences are part of that spirit of community and energy we were blessed to bring to a worldwide stage.

LaMonte McLemore's "From Hobo Flats to The 5th Dimension" is available on Amazon; his book-signing tour and lectures continue in June with stops in St. Louis and New York City, at Ashford & Simpson's Sugar Bar, on Sat. June 13th, 6 to 8 PM.

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