By Natalie Messina
LOS ANGELES – Grammy Award-Winning Music Artists, Billy Davis Jr. and Marilyn McCoo, have been working with Kathy Ireland’s record company – Encore Endeavor One (EE1). Kathy Ireland, through her company's entertainment division has managed their careers for years. Management came to them and said that they would like them to record again since they hadn't had a hit in quite a while, so they were talking about a direction for the project. They were talking about things that were happening in our world right now. They were concerned about the division that's in our country. They were inspired by the young people and their desire to make a difference. The young people were challenging the older generation saying, “We’ve got to do something.” The things that have been happening and the shootings in schools – the kids were troubled by all of this. They were protesting and it reminded Billy and Marilyn of when they were that age, when they were protesting back in the beginning of the 5th Dimension days.
One of the things that happened is that they were talking to the senior producer whose name is Nic Mendoza. At the time, they were on stage doing some Beatles covers. It just so happened that one of the songs was “Blackbird'' which most people don't know was kind of a civil rights song. During this time of protest, they thought – what can we do that will speak for us and the young people? That's where they came up with the idea of the Blackbird Lennon-McCartney Icons. It was during a time when there were a lot of violent shootings and police would break into people’s houses without warrants and shoot black youngsters. That’s why they had all those protests going on. So, they wanted to put out something that could be healing for our country. Even though Billy and Marilyn were older than the young people who were protesting and trying to make this change, they wanted them to know that they are in agreement and that they care. They liked the songs that were put together and they made a statement about where their hearts were. Billy and Marilyn let them know that their hearts were where their hearts were. That was how they came up with the project idea.
Billy and Marilyn were really pleased when they went to Kathy Ireland, EE1 and BMG. BMG is one of the major distributors in the world. When they took the ideas to them and went in the studio and recorded it, they liked not only the opportunity to join in with the young people in their protest, but it was also a chance for them to all make the statement together. They were able to reintroduce them to some of that music. Some of the younger people were very much aware of The Beatles – which they were pleased about. They liked the idea of reintroducing the younger generation to The Beatles songs from their era.
Billy and Marilyn will be celebrating 53 years of marriage this year. They’re very proud of that accomplishment. Early in their career, they told their previous record company that they didn't want to record solo, they must record as a duo. They agreed and that's when they came up with, “You Don't Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show).” So, they were successful with that but the main success is that they were together and kept their marriage together. That was a major accomplishment.
Being in the music business, Billy and
Marilyn have won numerous awards. The award that they are most proud of is their Grammys – they have won seven Grammy Awards. Also, they are very proud of their Gold Records because this is something that all entertainers want to achieve. Billy and Marilyn have just learned that they have been voted to receive a second star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, to be presented within the next year, an unbelievable accomplishment. They are proud of having a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame because everybody who comes to Los Angeles sees those. Also, the Grand Prize from the Tokyo Music Festival is one award that they consider very important. They went there back in the 1970s and sang a song called, “The Two of Us”. That song ended up winning the Tokyo Grand Prize. Winning an award in another country was really exciting for them. They would love to go back to Tokyo, they still have a lot of fans in Japan.
The Summer of Soul was also a very special experience for Billy and Marilyn. Questlove (who is the Musical Director for the Jimmy Fallon show) – someone told him about a concert that happened in Harlem, back in 1969 and asked him if he had any knowledge about it. Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Sly and the Family Stone – a lot of major Motown artists participated in that show. The footage on that show had been put away for 50 years. Someone had been able to bring it back out and show it to Questlove. He saw the footage and said, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing! This is an incredible historical piece of work.” Then he made a documentary film of it called Summer of Soul that ended up winning an Academy Award this year. That was very special for Billy and Marilyn because this was back in 1969 (the year that they got married 53 years ago), and they were with the 5th Dimension and were invited to be a part of that festival. That was a major musical memory for them and the fact that it has gone on to become so important in music history in the United States – that has made it even more important. Not only did it win an Academy Award but it also won a Grammy as well as People’s Choice Awards. It also won the Sundance Film Festival. It's been a major project and they're very proud to have been a part of this historical experience
The most inspirational message for Billy and Marilyn to share with their fans is to tell them that if music and the arts are the direction that they really want to take in their lives – and it's really important to them – they want to encourage them to go for it. You have to believe in yourself and just give it everything that you've got. If you truly believe that you have the ability – you have to try. You have to go for it! For Billy and Marilyn, their faith has a lot to do with what they do and how they do it. Being Christian is very important to them and their relationship.
It's good to have that and be grounded in your faith. If you don't believe in something, you
will fall for anything. Amen!
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