By Shawn Raymundo
Billy Davis Jr. and Marilyn McCoo certainly have a way of making marriage seem easy.
“Billy’s an easy person to get along with for the most part,” McCoo said, before teasing, “Unless I’m cooking, and then I throw him out of the kitchen.”
“I have to stay out of the kitchen,” Davis concurred, while the two shared a laugh.
The seven-time, Grammy Award-winning duo have such a rapport and playful banter that it’s no wonder how their marriage has been able to last 50 years in an industry that oftentimes isn’t kind to celebrity couples.
But Davis and McCoo acknowledge—as almost anyone married will also tell you—there are challenges to every relationship, including their own. The two shared as much in their 2004 book, Up, Up, and Away, which shares its name with the 1967 hit song performed by their group, The 5th Dimension.
While speaking by phone with The Capistrano Dispatch, Davis and McCoo laughed a lot as they spoke about their music and marriage, which turned 50 last month. Though the two are able to joke about it now, they note how they used to have it out quite a bit in the beginning of their relationship.
“When we first started going together, we used to fight all the time,” McCoo said with a chuckle. “We fought all the time because we’ve both been very outspoken about what we think.”
The book, they explained, was meant to give readers “something that was real” and from which they could learn.
“The more we thought about it, we felt like, ‘Well, we can encourage people to not feel like (just) because you run into conflicts that your relationship’s not going to work,’ ” McCoo said.
One piece of advice McCoo said she likes to give those seeking advice before getting married: “You (have to) like the person that you’re going to marry.”
“I would ask them: ‘Do you like him?’ ” she said, as well as “Are there things that you like? Do you like the kind of person he is? Do you like how he feels about life and how he treats other people?”
Asked what they like about each other, Davis was quick to point out that they have a lot in common, especially music.
“We both love our music; we both love joking and jiving. We just connect,” he said before repeating himself for emphasis. “We just connect.”
For McCoo, what she’s always liked about Davis is that he’s a “good human being.”
“I liked that about him before I fell in love with him,” she said. “He’s a good man, and another thing that I found very special is he gets along with my family.”
McCoo and Davis first met in 1965, when the R&B and soul group The 5th Dimension—formerly known as the Versatiles—was formed.
Whenever Davis, who’s from St. Louis, flew into LA for the group’s rehearsals, McCoo would pick him up at the airport.
“We would talk about our lives; Billy would tell me about his life in St. Louis, and I would talk to him about mine and my passion for my work,” McCoo said. “And Billy would make me laugh. Billy was always saying something funny, and I found that I laughed a lot with him.”
Those shared moments with each other would continue even during social gatherings and parties with the rest of the group, McCoo said.
Instead of mingling with others, “Billy and I would find ourselves sitting together and talking to each other at the party,” she said.
“We started to confide in one another—some of our deepest issues and thoughts and things that we thought about life and all of that—and it just really turned into a friendship and a trust, a trust in one another,” Davis later said.
By 1969, Davis and McCoo were married. And in 1975, the two parted ways with The 5th Dimension, wanting to embark on solo careers. Not wanting to be apart, however, the two continued working together as a duo.
“We still never got to be solo artists, but we did get to do solo things. But because of our relationship, we didn’t want it to suffer because of being individual artists,” Davis said.
“You know being on opposite sides of the country and working in different places, it’s kind of hard to keep a relationship together when you don’t see each other very often,” said McCoo.
The two have continued to perform and work well together throughout the years, in part, McCoo said, because they both deeply care about their sound and harmonies on stage.
“Everything that we do, we want to make it the best it can be, and fortunately we both approach our music and our work in the same way,” she said, adding: “If we’re going to sing these songs, we want the harmonies to be right.”
Their harmonies will be on full display this Saturday when the two visit The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano as part of their recent shows, which is also titled “Up, Up, and Away.”
Davis and McCoo are looking to “bring back wonderful memories” for the audience by performing several of their hits, including “You Don’t Have to be a Star (to be in My Show),” for which they earned their seventh Grammy in 1977.
The duo also plans to perform tributes to musical acts from the same era.
“So we do those (hit) songs, but we also do songs that reflect on our times and music that we’ve always enjoyed—artists that are from a similar time that we were,” McCoo said, also noting that the show will incorporate a bit of blues in addition to pop and R&B. “So we have a nice mixture of music in our show.”
Tickets to see Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. at The Coach House on Saturday, Aug. 24, are $50. Doors open at 6 p.m., with the show scheduled to start at 8 p.m.
The Coach House is located at 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano. For tickets or more information, call 949.496.8930 or visit thecoachhouse.com.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow The Dispatch @CapoDispatch.