As singing duo Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. enter their 50th year of marriage, they say their chemistry on- and offstage hasn’t wavered a bit. The former 5th Dimension singers and successful solo artists credit their strong friendship with keeping their union so solid.
“When you have a really close friend, you usually stay friends for years,” says McCoo. “Of course, we have disagreements, but we work them out because it’s important to work them out.”
“You don’t want to lose a friend,” Davis interjects. “That longtime friend that you go through life with — that’s what we became and that still happens today.”
The seven-time Grammy winners — doing career-spanning sets at Feinstein’s at the Nikko in The City on Friday and Saturday — worked so well as friends and bandmates after meeting in 1965, that a romantic relationship once seemed out of the question.
So when an attraction first developed, they were terrified of pursuing it, for fear of destroying their friendship and their promising new “Champagne Soul” group that would, in a few years, produce effervescent chart-toppers “Up, Up and Away,” “Stoned Soul Picnic,” “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” “One Less Bell to Answer” and “Wedding Bell Blues.”
“If it didn’t work out, what were we going to do?” McCoo says. “We had concerns that we were going to break up, and then break up the group.”
Although McCoo and Davis overcame their insecurities and married in 1969, they would still break ties with The 5th Dimension six years later when their creative interest in the band fizzled out.
As a duo, they’d quickly earn the nickname “The First Couple of Soul” on the strength of the R&B single “You Don’t Have to be a Star (to Be in My Show),” which hit No. 1 in 1975 and landed them their seventh Grammy.
In ensuing years, they continued to record together and undertake solo projects.
Davis forged a successful gospel career and McCoo, a second-act avocation as a co-host on the popular 1980s music television series “Solid Gold.” She also earned her eighth Grammy for her contributions to the Quincy Jones-produced gospel album “Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration.”
Even when the couple wasn’t working together, they knew they had each other’s blessing.
“Because we understand how the other feels about the work that we do, it hasn’t gotten in the way when there’s been an opportunity for one of us, like when Marilyn was doing ‘Solid Gold,’” Davis says. “Not only that, but it gave me the opportunity to jump on TV more than the average person.”
Now, five decades and 15 gold and three platinum records later, the two remain excited as ever to record and perform together.
“When I first met Billy, if someone would have told me that this would last 50 years, I wouldn’t have believed them,” McCoo says. “But we share a friendship and a dream of wanting to sing and really enjoy doing it together.”
IF YOU GO
Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr.
Where: Feinstein’s at the Nikko, 222 Mason St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 30, 5 and 8 p.m. Dec. 1
Tickets: $67.50 to $110
Contact: (866) 663-1063, www.ticketfly.com