Florence LaRue is the only original member in the current 5th Dimension lineup performed with the group recently at The Barns at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Va. (Courtesy photo/Rush Selects for Wolf Trap)

It’s hard to believe the 5th Dimension officially began in 1967. The group has 22 Top 40 hits, five No.1 songs and six Grammys. Two hits, “Up, Up and Away” in 1967 and “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” in 1969, received Grammy Song of the Year. The group recently performed at The Barns at Wolf Trap to an audience eager to relive memories of those chart-topping sounds from the 60s and 70s. The 5th Dimension did not disappoint.

Florence LaRue is the only original member in the current 5th Dimension lineup that includes male vocalists Leonard Tucker, Floyd Armstrong, Sidney Jacobs and female vocalist Patrice Morris. Each member brings accomplished individual careers as vocalists. The evening at The Barns allowed each singer to shine. Harmonies were pitch-perfect. Like me, I know the audience wished to hear more hits, but during that 90-minute set, appetites were fed.

The 5th Dimension recently performed their award-winning hits at The Barns at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Va. Front row: Florence LaRue, the only original member of the chart-topping group. Behind LaRue (from left): Floyd Armstrong, Leonard Tucker, Patrice Morris and Sidney Jacobs. (Courtesy photo/5th Dimension)

5th Dimension Begins

The group is on a national tour that currently runs through October. A week before the DC-area stop LaRue and I discussed how began its successful track record. Hits from the 5th Dimension came from collaboration with some of the best songwriters in the business. They included Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Laura Nyro, “California Soul” composed by Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, Jimmy Webb, and many others. Webb wrote “Up, Up and Away” and “MacArthur Park,” first recorded by the 5th Dimension. LaRue spoke about becoming a group member with a surprising admission.

“I didn’t want to be in the group. I was in college, and my ambition was to be a teacher and a movie star,” she said. “I was in my last year of college, but I didn’t know how to get into movies, so my friends entered me into beauty contests. The year I was in the Miss Bronze California pageant, I won the talent category for my singing.”

Years later, LaRue met a guy who was a judge along with Eartha Kitt in that Miss Bronze California pageant. He told LaRue that when she she was in the pageant to perform in a white suit and hat to sing “April in Paris” in French, Kitt leaned over to say, “There’s your winner.” That guy tapped LaRue to be in the singing group he was forming that became the 5th Dimension.

Faith Keeps the Group Going

LaRue preaches the gospel about how her life has been divinely-driven. She feels a responsibility to be a positive spirit for others.

“We are a great influence, especially on young people,” she continued. “I think the way you dress, the lyrics that we sing, we have to be aware of what we are  doing and how we are influencing.”

The Wolf Trap fans were  mouthing lyrics and swaying to all the songs the group performed. The opening songs were hits from the group’s contemporaries like Motown groups and Earth, Wind and Fire. Hearing those songs provided context for how many big hits the 5th Dimension had during the 60s and 70s. They began singing “Working on a Groovy Thing,” composed by Neil Sedaka, who had his own chart-topping solo singing career. Applause was non-stop as the group sang “Wedding Bell Blues” written by Laura Nyro, “The Worse that Could Happen,” another Webb composition and “Last Night, I Couldn’t Get to Sleep at All” composed by Tony Macaulay. For one segment of the evening, a creative theme was a medley of songs about rain.

When speaking about working with Webb, LaRue touched on how Black listeners may have been slow to figure out the music of the 5th Dimension.

“Our music evolved into something that was not expected for Black people to do. But it fit our voices,” said the 80-year-old LaRue.

Being accepted by Black audiences came up for the group in the Oscar-nominated documentary “Summer of Soul.” Years of hits validate the 5th Dimension sound. Based on their tour schedule, the group returns to the DC area in October. Keep up with the 5th Dimension at http://5thdimensionlive.com

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Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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