She’s 73, loves to be called Granny and carries the sunshine spirit of the 1960s into the dark days of the present.
“We will not be terrorized,” said Florence LaRue, original member of the 5th Dimension as she introduced the group’s ‘60s anthem, “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In.” “We know what’s happening in the world, but this is a song about good health, love, peace and happiness. We still believe in those things today.”
The 5th Dimension featuring Florence LaRue played two sellout shows on Tuesday in the Savannah Center. The current group has Willie Williams, Leonard Tucker, Patrice Morris and Floyd Smith. The 5th Dimension’s original lineup had Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis Jr., LaMonte McLemore, and the late Ron Townson.
LaRue and her current singing partners put on a splashy, entertaining and soulful concert, mostly covering music from the ‘60s and ‘70s.
“The 5th Dimension has been doing this for more than 50 years and we feel blessed to be here in The Villages,” LaRue said. She looks radiant with youthful features and a flowing blonde hair. “But she loves to be called Granny,” said singing partner Willie Williams. “I wish my Granny looked like her.”
LaRue’s only concession to age was recent hip surgery.
“You might see me sitting down once in a while,” LaRue said, as she sat on a wooden stool. “It still hurts once in a while.” During one song, she kicked off her shoes for more comfort.
The group opened the show with a Motown-inspired version of “My Girl” and quickly followed with the soulful pop of “Working On a Groovy Thing.”
LaRue then sang lead on another 5th Dimension classic, “Wedding Bell Blues,” written by the late Laura Nyro. The group had some of the best songwriter’s of the ‘60s writing for them, including, “One Less Bell to Answer” by Burt Bacharach and Hal David
Nyro also wrote “Stoned Soul Picnic.” LaRue and the signers gave the song a Latin beat, mixing in some rap and R&B sounds.
They brought shimmering pop to “Up Up and Away,” written by Jimmy Webb. The group also covered another Webb classic, “MacArthur’s Park.” The arrangement was soft and elegant, showcasing the group’s dramatic vocal blending.
Then it was back to a 5th Dimension chart topping ballad from the ‘70s, “Last Night ( I didn’t Get to Sleep at All). They covered the Association’s “Never My Love,” with sweet harmony and also the Brooklyn Bridge’s “Worst That Could Happen.”
There was audience participation as the LaRue went out in the crowd to pick some dancers for the stage. One was Villager David Bills. He went up there and showed some slick moves along with LaRue, who wouldn’t let a new hip stop her from dancing.
“When I got up there, I told her to take it easy on me,” Bills said. “It was a lot of fun. I’ve always enjoyed the music of the 5th Dimension.”
One of the musical highlights was a medley of “rain” songs. LaRue and Patrice Morris brought a funky disco beat to a cover of the Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men.”
LaRue displayed her vocal range with a slow, stirring and bluesy version of “Stormy Weather.”