Road Trips with Jason Crane: The McCooniverse

When I was a kid I loved the TV show Solid Gold. I probably understood about 50% of what was happening, but I really enjoyed all the dancing and lights and the overall disco magic of the whole thing. That’s also how I learned that Marilyn McCoo existed.

She hosted the show from ’81 to ’84 (when I first saw it) and then again from ’86 to ’88. The cohost I most remember was Andy Gibb, and to be honest, I don’t think I knew that either of them had careers off the screen.

Because of the music my parents listened to on the radio, I also knew The 5th Dimension, particularly “Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In,” which I loved then and still adore to this day. As I got older and got into the funkier and more soulful side of life, I also came to dig their songs like “Stoned Soul Picnic” and “One Less Bell To Answer.” They seemed effortlessly cool.

Cut to a couple decades later, after the advent of the internet and, in particular, Wikipedia, and one day I’m going down a soul music rabbit hole when I click on the entry for The 5th Dimension and BANG! — whom should I find there but Marilyn McCoo! Turns out the host of Solid Gold was also one of the singers in The 5th Dimension. Mind blown.

As time went on I came to really appreciate the depth of McCoo’s talent. I learned that she recorded “Saving All My Love For You” first, before Whitney Houston made it a smash. I checked out her post-Dimension hits with husband (and fellow Dimension member) Billy Davis Jr. Gems like their number one hit “You Don’t Have To Be A Star.”

One of the things I love about music is its webs of interconnection. How you can know and love a song or an artist and suddenly realize they’re connected to a much larger cross-section of musical history. It’s like finding out the person who works in the office with you is actually your distant cousin.

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Travel note: I’ve been in 18 states in the 32 days since I left Tucson. That’s a lot of traveling, but it should slow down soon. I spent a month in the Northeast, up until Christmas. Then headed south, first to Wilmington (NC), then to the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia. As I write this entry I’m in Auburn, AL. By the time you read it I’ll be heading for Birmingham. My eventual destination for the near future is Key West, Florida. Oh, and Happy New Year!