Van McCoy  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Van Allen Clinton McCoy (January 6, 1940 – July 6, 1979) was an accomplished musician, music producer, arranger, songwriter, and orchestra conductor. He is best known for his 1975 international smash-hit "The Hustle", which is still played in dance halls and on the radio today, 30+ years after his passing. He has approximately 700 song copyrights to his credit and is also noted for producing songs for such recording artists as Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Stylistics, Aretha Franklin, Brenda & The Tabulations, David Ruffin, Peaches & Herb, and Stacy Lattishaw.



Early life

Van McCoy was born on January 6, 1940, in Washington, D.C., the second child of Norman S. McCoy, Sr. and Lillian Ray. He learned to play piano at a young age and sang with the Metropolitan Baptist Church choir as a youngster. By age 12, he had begun writing his own songs in addition to performing in local amateur shows alongside his older brother, Norman Jr. The two brothers formed a doo-wop combo named the Starlighters with two friends while in high school. They recorded a single entitled, "The Birdland", a novelty dance record, in 1956, which gained some interest leading to a tour with drummer Vi Burnsides. The Starlighters cut three singles for End(?label) in 1959. Marriage (by whom and to whom?) and other (?commitments) would eventually cause the group to disband in the mid-1950s. Van, (in the interim?) sang with a group called the Marylanders.(when?)


McCoy entered Howard University to study psychology some time later (when?), only to drop out after two years to move to Philadelphia, where he formed his own label, Rockin' Records, and released his first single, "Hey Mr. DJ", in 1959. This single gained the attention of Scepter Records owner Florence Greenberg, who hired McCoy as a staff writer and A&R Representative. As a writer there, McCoy penned his first hit, "Stop the Music", for the female vocal group the Shirelles in 1962. He also ran Vando and Share and co-owned Maxx during the mid-60s, supervising such artists as Gladys Knight & The Pips, Chris Bartley, and The Ad Libs. However, he really came into his own after first working for top producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller as a writer and then signing with the major April-Blackwood music publishing concern, connected with Columbia Records. McCoy would go on to write a string of hits as the 1960s progressed. He penned "Giving Up" for Gladys Knight & The Pips, (later a hit for Donny Hathaway), "The Sweetest Thing This Side of Heaven" for Chris Bartley, "When You're Young and in Love" for Ruby and the Romantics, "Right on the Tip of My Tongue" for Brenda & The Tabulations, "Baby I'm Yours" for Barbara Lewis, "Getting Mighty Crowded" for Betty Everett, and "I Get the Sweetest Feeling" for Jackie Wilson. He also put together the hit-making duo of Peaches & Herb, arranging and co-producing their first hit, "Let's Fall In Love", for the Columbia subsidiary Date, in 1966. The same year, McCoy recorded a solo LP for Columbia titled Night-time Is a Lonely Time, and, a year later, started his own short-lived label, Vando, as well as his own production company VMP (Van McCoy Productions).

Van wrote or produced most consistently for The Presidents ("5-10-15-20 (25 Years of Love)"), The Choice Four ("The Finger Pointers", "Come Down to Earth"), Faith, Hope & Charity ("To Each His Own" and "So Much Love") and David Ruffin ("Walk Away from Love"). In the early 1970s, McCoy began a long, acclaimed collaboration with songwriter/ producer, Charles Kipps, and arranged several hits for the soul group The Stylistics as well as releasing his own solo LP on Buddah, Soul Improvisations, in 1972. The album included a minor hit, "Let Me Down Easy", but it wasn't a success following poor promotion. He formed his own orchestra, Soul City Symphony and, with singers Faith, Hope and Charity, produced several albums and gave many performances.

Mainstream success

In 1975, McCoy released to low expectations the mostly instrumental LP Disco Baby for the Avco (later H&L) label. It should be noted, however, that the title song, "Disco Baby", was written by David Weiss and Hugo & Luigi, and performed by the Stylistics. Unexpectedly, a single called "The Hustle" from the album, written about the dance of the same name and recorded last for the album, went to the very top of both the Billboard pop and R&B charts (also #3 in Britain) and won a Grammy. The album was also Grammy nominated. McCoy, then regarded a disco hitmaker, never repeated the success of the song, although the singles "Party", "That's the Joint", and "Change with the Times" got significant airplay. The latter reached #6 in the Billboard R&B chart and was a Top 40 hit in the UK. There were no further major sellers in the USA, despite a series of follow-up albums, From Disco to Love (the 1975 reissue of Soul Improvisations), The Disco Kid (1975), The Real McCoy (1976), Rhythms of the World (1976), My Favorite Fantasy (1978), Lonely Dancer (1979), and Sweet Rhythm (1979)). However, he hit the UK top 5 again in 1977 with the instrumental hit "The Shuffle".

Van also had major success with former Temptation David Ruffin's comeback LP, Who I Am, featuring "Walk Away from Love", a number 1 R&B hit (#9 pop) in the USA and a UK Top 5 success. He went on to produce the next two albums for David Ruffin, which spawned further successes. McCoy produced Gladys Knight and The Pips' Still Together LP, and for Melba Moore ("This Is It" and "Lean on Me"). He discovered Faith, Hope And Charity, whose major success in 1975, "To Each His Own", was another R&B chart-topper for him.


He died from a heart attack in Englewood, New Jersey on July 6, 1979.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Van McCoy" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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