Who was this man whose music is still in demand around the world 25 years after his untimely death? Van Allen Clinton McCoy was born in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 1940 (1944 incorrectly reported elsewhere). He was the younger of two very talented sons of Lillian (Ray) and Norman S. McCoy, Sr. He grew up on Columbia Road, Northwest, in a loving Christian home that included his beloved "DarDar," maternal grandmother, Mrs. Mary Lindsay Ray. His parents were very active members of the, now historical, Metropolitan Baptist Church which became a central part of Van’s life also. He attended the neighborhood public schools, sang in the church and school choirs, performed on local programs with his brother, Norman, Jr. and spent every leisure minute at the family piano.
Van's musical venture started when his brother, Norman, Jr. and a few high school buddies formed a street corner singing group called "The Starlighters." Van became the lead singer, writer, and music director for the group. They quickly moved from school programs and talent shows to recording their first 45rpm single, "The Birdland," named for a popular dance of the late 50's. The group appeared on stage in Washington, D.C. (Howard Theater), Philadelphia (Royal) and New York (Apollo). Lady drummer, Vi Burnsides, of "Sweethearts of Rhythm,"? took the group to heart and carried them with her to many gigs in the Eastern corridor. "The Starlighters" ended as military draft, marriage and college called them away one by one. Van entered Howard University but left after two years and moved to Philadelphia and later to New York to begin a serious music career.
He was hired by the late Florence Greenberg as a staff writer at Scepter Records. He worked with Lieber and Stoller and later, David Kapralik, hired Van as a composer with April Blackwood Music. Van turned out hits for stars such as Chad and Jeremy, Ruby and the Romantics, Irma Thomas, Nancy Wilson, Barbara Lewis and the original Peaches and Herb. Columbia Records was impressed with the smooth and mellow quality of Van’s own voice and launched him as a singer. The famed, "Mitch Miller," produced an album of beautiful ballads, "Nighttime is Lonely Time," with vocals by Van McCoy.
Van didn’t want to be a vocalist and pulled away to pursue his real love, writing and producing music for other artists. He wrote for Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Roberta Flack, Vikki Carr, Tom Jones, Nina Simone, Jackie Wilson, Gloria Lynn, Brenda and the Tabulations, Nat Cole, Melba Moore, Stacey Lattisaw, David Ruffin, The Shirelles, Chris Bartley, Chris Jackson, and the list goes on-and-on.
He wrote some of the music for TV classic, "Woman Called Moses," the story of Harriett Tubman. Mae West, the legendary actress, produced and starred in her own movie, "Sextette" and asked Van to write the theme song, and to make a cameo appearance in the film. He was a frequent guest on the "Tonight Show" and appeared on the "Mike Douglas Show."
His last eight years were spent in partnership with writer/producer, Charles Kipps working with McCoy-Kipps Productions. As fame and fortune grew, Van was pressed back into singing, recording and performing. He formed his own orchestra, Soul City Symphony, and with singers Faith, Hope and Charity, produced several albums and gave many performances. Then came the Grammy nominated "Disco Baby" album and the Grammy winning, Gold single, "The Hustle." The Disco explosion of the mid- 70's propelled Van and "The Hustle" into a worldwide tour, and later to a great show at the Avery Fisher Hall in New York City.
Van McCoy, overwhelmed by the sudden burst of stardom and life in the fast lane, never got back to the mellow life and fun career he had so dearly cherished. The 39 year old star was stricken with heart failure in his fashionable home in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey and without regaining consciousness, died July 6, 1979 at Englewood General Hospital. The world lost a major talent at a very young age. The musical void he left has never been filled. Our respects to you MR. McCOY.
Courtesy of the Disco Museum
Last Edit: Jul 6, 2006 12:03:35 GMT -5 by Motorcity