Musicians of “Aquarius” fame make marriage last
Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. credit friendship and faith
In the summer of 1969, soul music was at the apex of its popularity, and Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. were at the height of their careers. They belonged to the popular singing group The 5th Dimension, which performed its iconic hit “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” at the Harlem Cultural Festival, known as “Black Woodstock.” They also got married that summer. Fifty-two years later, many of the cultural divisions they saw in the summer of ’69 persist. So does their marriage—and their faith: They became born-again Christians not long after they wed. I talked to them about what they have learned together.
How did your marriage survive and thrive for more than 50 years in an industry that’s notoriously hard on marriage?
Billy: Our friendship has lasted us all the way through this almost 52 years of marriage.
Marilyn: It is friendship. That’s so important. And you know what? Our faith is also important. Because even with friendship you can go through some really tough struggles. I’ve been on my knees more than once saying, “Lord, please help me through this. Help me to understand.” You know what? He always helps me. Prayer works.
How did you maintain and nurture your faith in a difficult industry?
Marilyn: When you pray and you find out that prayer truly changes things, it’s easier. If you have something that works for you, you do it.
Billy: If both of you are believers, your faith becomes stronger. You start to gain more wisdom about life in general, and it makes you that much closer.
You two became musical icons during a time of political unrest and racial tension. Tell me what you saw then versus what you’re seeing now.
Marilyn: We look back on that time, and we had such hope for our country and felt that people were coming together. We saw it in the music industry. We saw it all around us. It felt like we were on the road for making good, healthy change for our country. And we look at this now, 50 years later, and we feel like, “What happened? What is the problem?” We have to make a statement about where we stand. We cannot sit back and not say something. And that’s why we decided to record Blackbird. Because we have to tell it from our perspective at our age.
We need to figure out how to communicate this so people will start to realize that we need to love one another and care for one another and try to understand that we’re more alike than we are different.
As you look back over the last 50 years, how do you feel like God has used you in this industry?
Marilyn: We try to do things the way we feel the Lord would want us to do them and treat people in a respectful way and a loving way. And we talk about our faith. Some people are afraid to acknowledge that they’re believers, but we stand up for what we believe in.
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