A meme popped up last fall pointing out, in February “…a whopping seven planets (the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn, plus asteroid Pallas) will all be clustered together in the sign of Aquarius, creating what’s known as a stellium in astrology. This intense influx of Aquarius’ fixed air sign energy in February will shift our focus to humanitarian issues, technological advancements, and unconventional innovations. And these themes will guide the framework of our society throughout all of 2021 and the years ahead.” But didn’t we hear this already – in 1967 – the dawning of the Age of Aquarius?
So I knew at some point this month I would have to do engage in a week on the definitive group for this, sealed when last week there was a press release that scientists have found a probable pathway into… wait for it… The Fifth Dimension. And still being Black History month, this was a clear alignment when you add they are one of my favorite all-time groups, and one of the best groups for the topic that I wanted to leverage – Harmony.
Music by definition is full of Harmony – defined as “the combination of simultaneously sounded musical notes to produce chords and chord progressions having a pleasing effect.” In singing, there are typically 4 parts – Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass, and often a mid-range voice, Baritone. Each singer will have a part to stay with – normally divided from the “lead” by an interval – like 2 notes up is a “third”, or 2 more, a “fifth”. Composers write this out as chords in the music, and your job singing is to find your note, and stick with it.
In leadership situations, Harmony can be elusive… unless leaders work to not only find their voices (something that many books are written about), but more importantly, how to blend it with others. And it often requires another thing you will see in great vocal groups – stepping up to the mic for your part, but also, stepping back and singing quieter for other portions. The early Bluegrass groups worked around a single mic, and the intricate dance of moving in and around it to get the right blend was some of the earliest choreography. So how you engage as a leader will help contribute to, or start to remove, Harmony.
We will meet each of the 5 members of the core Fifth Dimension during the week, but for today, they had formed and were auditioning for the LA-based Motown agent. He rejected them but referred them to another star who was just opening his own label – Johnny Rivers’ Soul City Records. And also as we go through the week, we will meet songwriters who were behind some of these amazing hits. Today’s was actually written and recorded as the first single by The Mama’s and Papa’s… but failed to do well. The Fifth Dimension recorded it again, a note for note remake, but the rhythm, Harmony, and style seemed to work better, and they were on their way with a Top 20 hit on both Soul and Pop stations.
As we engage in a week about Harmony, consider your own approach to style. Do you have to be the lead singer, soloing in every situation, or can you blend into what others are doing? Many are not used to that having worked hard to be accountable, sometimes hyper accountability. Listen as the voices here blend, change, with the lead going between different singers, while they sing lyrics that are too often modeled in teams I have been on – Go Where You Want to Go.