Ron Townson, founding member of the Grammy winning pop group the 5th Dimension, died in his home in Las Vegas on August 2nd. Townson suffered renal failure after a four-year battle with kidney disease. He was sixty-eight.
The St. Louis, Missouri native began singing at the age of six in school and church choirs, something he would do throughout his career. At Lincoln University in Jefferson City he directed university and church choirs. Throughout school Townson toured with the Wings Over Jordan Choir for eight years and served as conductor for two. In 1957 Townson left Missouri for Los Angeles, and in 1965 he and childhood friend LaMonte McLemore formed a singing group called the Versatiles. They changed their name to the 5th Dimension when they signed to Johnny Rivers’ Soul City Records.
The 5th Dimension were notable for a sound that blended pop, jazz, R&B and gospel. They scored their first hit in 1967 with the Jimmy Webb-penned tune “Up, Up and Away.” Songwriter Laura Nyro also penned several hits for the group including, “Stoned Soul Picnic” and “Wedding Bell Blues.” But the 5th Dimension’s biggest hit was “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” from the musical Hair. The Grammy-winning song remained Number One on the Billboard pop charts for six weeks in 1969. The group’s five original members — Townson, McLemore, Florence LaRue, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis — recorded their final album together, Earthbound, in 1975.
The 5th Dimension experienced lineup changes throughout the Seventies. Townson left to form Ron Townson and Wild Honey before finally rejoining 5th Dimension with McLemore and LaRue along with Phyllis Battle and Greg Walker. Due to his health problems, Townson retired from music in 1997.
He is survived by his wife Bobette Townson and one son.