Van Allen Clinton McCoy (January 6, 1940 – July 6, 1979) was an accomplished musician, music producer, arranger, songwriter, and orchestra conductor. He is known best for his 1975 internationally successful song "The Hustle", which is still played in dance halls and by radio nowadays more than 30 years since his death. 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 Lattisaw.
Early lifeVan 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 years, 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, during 1956, which gained some interest resulting in a tour with drummer Vi Burnsides. The Starlighters produced three singles for End(?label) during 1959. Marriage and other commitments would eventually cause the group to disband during the mid-1950s. Van also sang with a group called the Marylanders.
During 1961 McCoy met Kendra Spottswood to whom he became engaged. For the next five years they sang and recorded music together professionally. Their relationship ended when McCoy delayed their wedding plans because of a contract with Columbia Records company.
CareerMcCoy entered Howard University to study psychology during September 1958, only to drop out after two years to relocate to Philadelphia, where he formed his own recording company, Rockin' Records, and released his first single, "Hey Mr. DJ", during 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 composed his first success, "Stop the Music", for the female vocal group the Shirelles during 1962. He also managed the band Vando and Share and co-owned the band Maxx during the mid-1960s, 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 the Buddah label, 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.
Television and filmVan McCoy appeared on the Mike Douglas Show and was a regular guest on the Tonight Show. He wrote and sung the theme song for the movie Sextette that starred Mae West and Timothy Dalton and even made a cameo appearance in it, playing a delegate from Africa. He also contributed some music for A Woman Called Moses, the TV classic that starred Cicely Tyson.Along with Faith Hope & Charity, Brass Construction and Johnny Dark, he appears in episode 4.20 of Don Kirshner's Rock Concert.
Mainstream successIn 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 scored the UK top 5 again during 1977 with the instrumental success "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.
DeathMcCoy died from a heart attack in Englewood, New Jersey on July 6, 1979, at the age of 39.
- Never Trust A Friend / Mr DJ - Rock'n Records 101
- It Ain't No Big Thing / Love Can Mess Up Your Mind - Rockway Records R-711 - 1963
- Baby Don't Tease Me / Girls Are Sentimental - Rock'n REcords 1012
- I'll Wait For You / The House That Love Built - Columbia 4-43694 - 1966
- To Make My father Proud (To make My Mother Smile) / Where There’s A Heartache (There Must Be A Heart) Did My Baby Turn Bad - CGC Records 115
- Follow Your Heat / Lonely - Liberty F-55457
- I Started A Joke / Tony's Theme - Epic 10470 - 1969
- Soul Improvisations (Part 1) / Soul Improvisations (Part 2) - Buddah Records BDS 418 - 1974
- Change With The Times / Good Night, Baby - Avco Records AV 4660 - 1975
- Party / The Disco Kid - H&L Records HL-4670 - 1976
- Night Walk / Love Child - H&L Records - HL-4667 - 1975
- The Shuffle / That's The Joint - H&L REcords HL-4677 - 1976
- Soul Cha Cha / Oriental Boogie - H&L Records HL-4682 - 1976
- My Favourite Fantasy / You're So Right For Me - MCA MCA 370 - 1978
- Lonely Dancer / Decisions - MCA Records MCA 40984 - 1978 Van McCoy & The Soul City Symphony
- Killing Me Softly / Love Is The Answer - Avco Records AV-4639 - 1974
- Boogie Down / A Rainy Night In Gerogia - Avco 4648 - 1974
- The Hustle / Get Dancin' - Avco 6105 037 - 1975
- Night Time Is Lonely Time - Columbia CL 2497 - 1966
- Soul Improvisations - Buddah BDS 5103 - 1972
- Love Is The Answer Avco AV-69002-698 - 1974
- Disco Baby - Avco AV-69006-698 - 1975
- The Disco Kid - Avco AV-69009-698 - 1975
- From Disco To Love - Buddah Records BDS 5648 - 1975
- The Real McCoy - H&L Records HL-69012-698 - 1976
- Rhythms Of The World H&L Records HL-69014-698 - 1976
- Van McCoy And His Magnificent Movie Machine - H&L Records HL-69022-698 - 1977
- My Favourite Fantasy - MCA Records MCA 3036 - 1978
- Lonely Dancer - MCA Records MCA 3071 - 1979
- Sweet Rhythm - H&L Records H&L 6467 651 - 1979 (UK)