It’s really telling as I searched the wide web of inter that I couldn’t seem to find an image of a Pre-1970’s Van McCoy. Given his parity in age, and his extensive catalog of works he created, it’s a sign that he remained much the constructor behind the scenes, not really becoming of note until he put in more than 15 years worth of work.
He was born Van Allen Clinton McCoy January 6, 1940 in Washington D.C. By the time he hit 18 years old, he would move on to college while songwriting, touring with his first group The Starlighters. By the age of 22, he had ownership of his own record label under his belt, while placing songs with faces as fresh as The Shirelles and as time tested as Ruth Brown and Nat King Cole.
He was in the vanguard of many Brill Building songcrafters, but he was one of the few Black Faces that helped Black Artists within those confines. While Chicago, Detroit and even Los Angeles had more intraracial recording relationships, it was rare for the hit making factories of 1960’s Big Apple to be as familial.
Matched up against writers and producers like Burt Bacharach, Teddy Randazzo, Goffin & King, Mann & Weil among others, he didn’t score as many massive hits, though there’s plenty memorable in his catalog that oft revived the fortunes for sagging chart stars such as Gladys Knight & The Pips and Barbara Lewis. His biggest rewards came in the 1970’s, as we all know “The Hustle” but it wasn’t long after that he broke through to the mainstream that he died at a young 39 years old, 39 years ago this month.
So we look back at 40 of his labors you may have not heard, from the wealth of creativity and connections in the record industry he forged during the 1960’s. Hopefully this shines a light on one of the unsung greats you haven’t heard of.