Friday, April 12, 2019

50 years ago: The Fifth Dimension hit #1 with “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In”

Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In

The Fifth Dimension

Writer(s): James Rado, Gerome Ragni, Galt MacDermot (see lyrics here)

First Charted: March 8, 1969

Peak: 16 US, 15 CB, 14 HR, 12 AC, 6 RB, 11 UK, 13 CN, 3 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, -- UK, 2.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 13.9 video, 34.11 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

In the rock era, only two Broadway musicals have produced #1 singles: Louis Armstrong’s title song from Hello, Dolly! and a medley of two songs from the 1968 hippie musical Hair. BR The latter would never have happened if Billy Davis, a member of the Fifth Dimension, hadn’t lost his wallet in a New York City cab. SJ The passenger who found the wallet and called Billy was one of the producers of Hair. To show his gratitude, Billy invited the man and his wife to see the Fifth Dimension in concert. The producer, in turn, invited the group to a performance of Hair. BR

Before the group even left the theater, they knew they should record “Aquarius.” BR When they suggested it to Bones Howe, their producer, AMG his response was that “It’s half a song…it needs something on the back end.” BR The group paired the song with “Let the Sunshine In,” also from the play. SJ The resulting medley not only became the biggest hit of 1969 WHC but the “biggest and most lasting record” AMG of the Fifth Dimension’s career.

“Aquarius” is based on the idea that by the close of the 20th century, mankind would enter an age of enlightment. BB That concept and the song’s astrological references were perfectly suited to the hippie vibe of 1969. AMG Such ideas may seem dated today, but the song’s overall message of unity is timeless. AMG

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for The Fifth Dimension
  • AMG All Music Guide
  • BB Billboard (9/08). “All-Time Hot 100
  • BR Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 253.
  • SJ Bob Shannon and John Javna (1986). Behind the Hits: Inside Stories of Classic Pop and Rock and Roll. New York, NY; Warner Brothers, Inc. Page 27.
  • WHC Joel Whitburn (1999). A Century of Pop Music. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Page 94.

First posted 3/8/2012; updated 4/30/2021.

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