This week’s Free Ride* muses on the songs of Florence LaRue, one of the voices of the 5th Dimension, who turns 68 today. LaRue shared vocals in the jazz/pop/R&B quintet with Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis, Jr, Lamonte McLemore, and Ron Townsend. After McCoo and Davis left to pursue duo and individual careers, LaRue became the front vocalist, with the group touring as Florence LaRue and the 5th Dimension. The group offers several contributions to the songbook of freedom, including a musical rendition of the beginning of the Declaration of Independence. While this song was included on the 1970 Portrait album, in a medley with A Change is Gonna Come and People Got To Be Free, it gained more notoriety for a live version. In 1969, the group was invited to perform at the White House for President Nixon and the governors of all 50 states. LaRue and her fellow singers were probably expected to give them a nice evening of light entertainment, with Up, Up and Away and Wedding Bell Blues and the like. Instead, they sang Thomas Jefferson’s lyrical introduction to the Declaration of Independence.
We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty
and the pursuit of Happiness.
President Nixon probably had an initial bout of confusion as they started, but when phrases like a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing, invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism; it is their duty, to throw off such Government came out, it apparently hit a little too close to home in the face of the swelling anti-war protests surrounding him. Somehow, that night our country’s founding document, with its emphasis on freedom, became a source of great controversy. The song finished to stone silence, until finally the President broke the silence with some awkward golf clapping, and his group of governors joined in with polite but less than enthusiastic light applause.
The President and the governors were no doubt unaware that the moon was in the seventh house and Jupiter was aligning with Mars, that peace was beginning to guide the planets and love was steering the stars. It was, as Florence LaRue and her fellow 5th Dimension singers told us, the dawning of the age of Aquarius.
I’m not sure that alignment has fully taken place, as we don’t seem to be living in that age of harmony and understanding. We still await true liberation, but at least the 5th Dimension can give us some great five-part harmony and a soulful rhythm to declare our independence from all abuses and usurpations. Let the sun shine in.