Arts » Pop Music & Jazz

Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis Jr. still up, with a way

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The only “Wedding Bell Blues” for Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., who perform this weekend at Yoshi’s in Oakland, are the ones in the hit song they recorded in 1969.

The pair has been wed for more than 40 years.

It’s not all been bliss, but they worked through the hard times and literally wrote the book on maintaining a successful relationship with “Up, Up and Away: How We Found Love, Faith and Lasting Marriage in the Entertainment World.”

“I had reached a period in my life when I began to think about all of the things I had accomplished and what it meant,” McCoo recalls. She certainly had the trappings of success, but they did not fulfill her. “How could I have achieved all of this and still feel as if something was missing from my life?”

At a friend’s suggestion, McCoo began reading the Bible and experienced a spiritual rebirth. Davis remembers, “I knew we had a Bible in the house, but we never opened it up. It had sat in our library with an inch of dust on it until Marilyn picked it up.”

He too began a spiritual exploration and sought advice from fellow performers such as Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind and Fire; Leon Patillo of Santana; and singer Deniece Williams. “That was the night I renewed my relationship with the Lord,” Davis says. “This time it was personal.”

The couple met in the 1960s during the formation of a group called The Versatiles, which became The 5th Dimension, and would also feature Florence LaRue, Lamonte McLemore and Ron Townson.

The group had a string of hits such as “One Less Bell To Answer” and “Stoned Soul Picnic” penned by popular songwriters of the day including Laura Nyro, Jimmy Webb, and Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

Davis and McCoo left the group in 1975 to pursue joint and solo careers. McCoo hosted the syndicated music series “Solid Gold” and both have spent time in theater — he as James Thunder Early in “Dreamgirls” and she in “Show Boat” and “Man of La Mancha.”

Still, music was and always will be their first calling.

“When people come to our shows, they expect to hear our hits and we still love to sing them,” Davis says, “but many people don’t realize that Marilyn and I have our roots in blues and jazz.”

“This is the most fulfilling time in our lives,” McCoo says. “Not only do we share our talents with our audiences through our music, we’re also providing them with wisdom that we’ve acquired through the years to help them in their struggles and give them hope.

IF YOU GO
Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr.
Where:Yoshi’s, 510 Embarcadero West, Oakland
When: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 6 and 8 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $35 to $40
Contact: (510) 238-9500, www.yoshis.com