Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. sing their hits at Feinstein’s at the Nikko this weekend. (Courtesy Sterling Winters Company)

Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. sing their hits at Feinstein’s at the Nikko this weekend. (Courtesy Sterling Winters Company)

Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis Jr have time and love

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

5th DimensionBilly Davis Jr.Feinstein’s at the NikkoMarilyn McCooPop Music

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted changes to The City's streets including Slow Streets closures to increase open space access and the Shared Spaces program, which allows businesses to use public right-of-ways for dining, retail and services. (Examiner illustration)
COVID is reshaping the streets of San Francisco

Walk down Page Street, which is closed to thru-traffic, and you might… Continue reading

At a rally in February, Monthanus Ratanapakdee, left, and Eric Lawson remember Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai man who died after he was pushed to the pavement in San Francisco. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/Examiner file photo)
The criminal justice system can’t fix what’s wrong in our community

My 87-year-old mother walks gingerly, slowly, deliberately, one step in front of… Continue reading

Superintendent Vincent Matthews said some students and families who want to return will not be able to do so at this time. “We truly wish we could reopen schools for everyone,” he said. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFUSD sets April reopening date after reaching tentative agreement with teachers union

San Francisco Unified School District has set April 12 as its reopening… Continue reading

José Victor Luna and Maria Anabella Ochoa, who cite health reasons for continuing distance learning, say they have been enjoying walking in Golden Gate Park with their daughters Jazmin, a first grader, and Jessica, a third grader. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Some SFUSD families prefer distance learning

Health issues, classroom uncertainties among reasons for staying home

Most Read