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Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In by The 5th Dimension

Album: The Age Of AquariusReleased: 1969Charted:
1
11
  • This was written for the rock opera Hair, where it became an anthem for young people who grew their hair out and protested the US government. In the book By the Time We Got to Woodstock: The Great Rock 'n' Roll Revolution of 1969, Bruce Pollock writes:

    Among the many people calling the publisher in 1968 for a lock of Hair's mystique was the L.A. producer Bones Howe, who'd been working with the 5th Dimension since engineering "Up-Up and Away" for their first album in 1967. He'd produced hits for the Turtles ("It Ain't Me Babe") and the Association ("Windy"); he'd been a personal guest of Lou Adler at the Monterey Pop Festival where he was perhaps the only West Coast guy in attendance to appreciate Laura Nyro's gruesome performance. Later he delivered Laura's "Stoned Soul Picnic" to the 5th Dimension, for which it was their biggest R&B hit. He was shuttling back and forth between his home in L.A. and the studio in New York working on the vocals for the Stoned Soul Picnic album when the group told him they wanted to do "Aquarius."

    "The thing that bothered me about it was that there'd been other releases of 'Aquarius,'" said Bones, "and none had done anything, so I was concerned about what we would do that would be any different. I went to see the show and there's a place where they do "The Flesh Failures" and at the end of the song is just a three bar repeated thing of 'Let the sunshine in' where Ragni was swinging across the stage on a chandelier and there was all kinds of craziness going on. That really stayed with me and I came out of the theater saying, I wonder if I could stick that on the end of 'Aquarius' and make that the ending. So I went back to the hotel and I called the publisher. I mean you don't mess with the music from a Broadway show. I started my professional career in 1956 and I knew a lot about what you can and what you can't do with songs. I said, look the 5th Dimension would like to record 'Aquarius,' but I'd like to make it a medley and I'd like to use the last three bars of 'The Flesh Failures' and I don't want to do it without permission. So he said okay, you can go ahead and do it."

    The next problem was to go ahead and do it. "The record was plotted in the fall of '68 and more or less finished in January of '69," Bones said. "I had to do a lot of work with my vocal arranger, Bob Alsivar. Because they couldn't sing both songs in the same key, we had to do a modulation; we figured out how I was going to do the instrumental arrangement so we could change keys. The record itself is the result of a conglomeration of things. I began as a jazz musician and I know the standard repertoire pretty well. I kept thinking about a song called 'Lost in the Stars' and trying to find something to give you that kind of impression. I described it to Bill Holman and he wrote that beautiful woodwinds and strings part that's in the intro. We did the track in L.A. and the vocals in Las Vegas where the 5th Dimension were opening for Frank Sinatra. We were working in that studio in Las Vegas where you used to have to stop when the train went by. Once when we were doing practice runs while the train passed Billy started that riff at the end 'oh let the sunshine…' so I said, wait, let me put that on a separate track at the end. There were a lot of happy accidents making the record."

    That the Age of Aquarius (harmony, understanding, sympathy, trust, mystic crystals, revelations) announced to mainstream America by the song had already irrevocably given way to Richard Nixon's vision of law and order troubled Bones Howe not in the least. "I was in my thirties then; I was never part of that culture," he said. "But I made records they liked. I spent my life in the studio. Sometimes I went to the Trip and the Crescendo and all of those places on Sunset Strip because I worked with so many of those people. I was the engineer on 'Eve of Destruction' when the Mamas and Papas came to sing backup vocals. I was there the first night they were there and did their first three albums."
  • The 5th Dimension was a highly popular ensemble group during the late '60s and early '70s. It originally consisted of Billy Davis, Jr., Marilyn McCoo, Lamonte McLemore, and Ron Townson, who were quickly joined by Florence LaRue. They at first called themselves the Versatiles, and owed their rise to Motown Records and Johnny Rivers, who had just started his own record company. This song turned out to be their biggest hit, staying at #1 for six weeks. The 5th Dimension performed several more hits over the years until 1975, when Davis and McCoo got married and left the group. The original group reunited in 1990 for a tour, capitalizing on the growing nostalgia for the music of its era. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Mike - Santa Barbara, CA
  • The Age of Aquarius is when the sun is in the constellation Aquarius during the springtime. The next time that this will happen is 2448. We are currently in the age of Pisces. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Derick - West Hartford, CT
  • This song won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1970. It was the second time the group won the Record of the Year, two years previously they won the award for "Up-Up and Away."
  • This appeared in the movie Forrest Gump, and has a big part in the movie The 40 Year Old Virgin, where at the end of the movie the cast performs the song in Hippie costumes to celebrate the de-flowering of the virgin. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Dawson - Draper, UT
  • In the movie Apollo 13, there are some scenes where the astronauts are filming live feeds from space from inside the spaceship for viewing on television (the live feeds were commonly featured on network TV in the early days of space flight). In the movie, the astronauts play Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit In The Sky" as the background music and theme song for the TV appearances. Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell has since stated that the real song used as the "Theme Song" was "Aquarius," as Aquarius was the name of the Lunar Landing Module that ultimately served as the crew's lifeboat when the mission went awry. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Justin - Canton, IL
  • Ex-Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty used the "Let the sunshine in" refrain as the chorus for "Fort Hood," a song from his 2008 album Golden Delicious. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Joshua - La Crosse, WI
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Comments: 29

On April 29th, 1968, the original Broadway production of the musical 'Hair' premiered at the Biltmore Theater in New York City...
Between 1968 and 1979 six covered versions of songs from the play have made Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart:
"Where Do I Go" by Carla Thomas {#86 in 1968}
"I Got Life" by Nina Simone {#94 in 1969}
"Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In" by The 5th Dimension {#1 for 6 weeks in 1969}
"Hair" by The Cowsills {#2 for 2 weeks in 1969}
"Good Morning Sunshine" by Oliver {#3 in 1969} and by the Strawberry Alarm Clock {#87 in 1969}
"Easy To Be Hard" by Three Door Night {#4 in 1969} and by Cheryl Barnes {#64 in 1979}
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
'Lips Unsealed: A Memoir by Belinda Carlisle': "I didn't have enough money to buy more albums until high school. But every so often I scraped together enough change for a 45. My favorite was the 5th Dimension's version of “Aquarius.” It was the first single I bought, and I like it today as much as I did back then."Deethewriter - Saint Petersburg, Russia Federation
The Fifth Dimension. Now there was a group. So many of their hits are still some of my favorite of all time songs. None of these oldies but goodies get enough airplay on the radio these days. This group really rocked. Marilyn McCoo, what a voice and beauty, Billy Davis Jr., what a hunk, and the rest of the vocal group, their sound was rock, r& b, spiritual, jazz, pop, all rolled in to one incredible, strong, clear, unique sound that stands the test of time. It wasn't till I began putting music on my newly acquired iPod several years ago that I revisited this group and realized how much of their music I really truly loved, and still do. I love that line "I want you to SIIIING along with the 5th Dimension; HEY, AND OPEN UP YOUR HEART.....AAAUUUUHHHH!" Damn, that is really good stuff!Camille - Toronto, Oh
Given the current state of our earth's affairs and what is to come...this song has huge relevance!Bob Minelli - Milwaukee, Wi
To AJ from Cleveland, Gorgia and anyone else interested. The Aquarius thing is a response to the constant need for humans to stage a war with other humans year after bloody year since recorded history. The actual number of years of war-free years within the thousands of years of existance is about 5%. So a propossal of harmony, trust and understanding is extremely foreign to war loving countries throughout the earth. Making money is done most efficently during times of killing, maiming and violating our fellow mankind. Its a bad habit that has to be replaced by a good habit. Eliminate money and establish a better economic system. The need to accumulate wealth is replaced with the desire to better oneself and all others. Anyone and anything can always be better. Lets reach for the best in ourselves and others.Phil - Winnipeg, Mb
"Let the Sunshine" was actually the last verse of the song it was taken from called "The Flesh Failures." It was an anti-war song, as the whole musical "Hair" was. To me it's strange that it was added to "The Age of Aquarius" by the Fifth Dimension because it's such apocalyptic song.Karen - Silver Spring, Md
THE AGE OF AQUARIAS IS FROM c. 1903 to 2193,

Sorry, Ivan from Louisville, Ky.
Mark - El Paso, Tx
Great, very evocative song of the time. Nice balance between the yearning idealism of the first 2/3 of the song and the almost fatalistic coda shifting between minor and relative major and back again. SorryRet - Bristol, United Kingdom
The song sounds totally different when they start sing the let the sunshine in part.Lucy - Rhinebeck, Ny
This was the only 5th Dimension song to have a prominent vocal solo by a male group member. Billy Davis, Jr - Marilyn McCoo's future husband - did the soulful part during the "let the sunshine in" part.Ken - Louisville, Ky
The USS Johnston, the destroyer I went to the Mediterranean on in 1970 used this as our "breakaway" song....when we had completed refueling/replenishing from another ship while underway, it was customary to pipe the breakaway song throughout the ship, as well as over the "outside" speakers so the deckhands on both ships could hear it as we "broke away" from the side by side formation, usually throwing a good sized rooster tail up from the stern as the propellers tried to dig in. May sound odd to someone who's never experienced it on a calm, moonlit night far from home...but if you have, it's something you know you'll always remember...Tim - Morristown , Tn
Great song. To this day, it still gives me the chills, especially the "let the sunshine" jamming. Great drums and bass line. Excellent headphone fodder.Richard - Talladega, Al
Way cool song. Love the complete shift into Let the Sunshine In. Great brass. Beautiful singing by 5th Dimension. Love the Gospel effect...'Whoa let it shine...Open up your heart' etc. Great dance tune. Another classic from the decade with the music.Guy - Wellington, New Zealand
The 5th Dimension saw a production of "Hair" together. After the performance, all the members agreed that they should record the song, Aquarius, as it was a perfect song for a group. They were right. I tihnk the song was originally performed by Ronnie Dyson in the "Hair" production.Susan - Chantilly, Va
Perhaps the worst way to end the 60's.Sebestian - Oakridge, Or
Anyone know what That trippy instrument is in the beginning?Mike - Germantown, Md
Did anyone see this in "The 40 Year Old Virgin"?
Freakin Hilarious
Cody - Clarendon Hills, Il
May I second Ivan's assertion that we are currently in the Age of Pices, and NOT in the Age of Taurus, as declared by the first "songfact" on this page !Joseph Gatt - Pieta, Malta, Ar
One of the best songs of the 60's, a decade of great songs.Steve - Fenton, Mo
This was The Fifth Dimension's biggest hit single. It's best known for the line "I want you to sing along with The Fifth Dimension."Howard - St. Louis Park, Mn
Produced by Bones Howe, the structure of "Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In" is very similar to The Beatles' "Hey Jude". Both songs were #1 hits for multiple weeks (Hey Jude 9 and Aquarius 6), both were over-average in length (Hey Jude clocked 7:11 and Aquarius' single edit 4:45), and their second halves are loops, recurring in crescendo about 18 times in Hey Jude and 11 in Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In.Rick - San Juan, United States
This song is used in a big Bollywood musical scene in the movie "The 40 Year Old Virgin". The movie features lots of great songs including Asia's "Heat of the Moment" and more.Travis - Maryville, Mo
I really don't understand the whole "Aquarius" thing, but a good song nonethelessAj - Cleveland, Ga
The other member of the wrecking crew on this one was studio wizard Mike Deasy Sr playing guitar.Mike - Seattle, Wa
my dad was in the movie "hair" .. he was the drummer in the central park sceneNicoletta - Bronx, Ny
We are currently in the Age of Pices. This is determined which constellation is on the horizon on the morning of the spring equinox.Ivan - Louisville, Ky
Three other songs from 'Hair' made the Top Forty in 1969. They were 'Good Morning Starshine' recorded by Oliver, 'Easy To Be Hard' by Three Dog Night and of course 'Hair' by The Cowsells (forerunner of The Partridge family)Charles - Charlotte, Nc
The backup band was the "Wrecking Crew" with Hal Blaine on drumsand Joe Osborne on bass.Steve - San Jose, Ca
'Let The Sunshine In' was sampled on the track 'The Sunshine Song' by Australian DJ Groove Terminator.Kirri - Newcastle, Australia
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