“Up, Up, and Away” by The 5th Dimension
Of course any reader who is even vaguely familiar with the history of DC Comics would know that the term “up, up and away” was coined by the writers of Superman. And their utilization of the phrase dates back to time immemorial as far as comic books are concerned – more specifically the days when Superman’s adventures were on radio, which would have been during the 1940s.
And it wouldn’t be unreasonable to presume that the title of this song was directly derived from that phrase. In fact the first group who ever dropped a version of “Up, Up and Away” even sampled an audio clip from Superman onto the track.
Moreover, akin to Superman, this song is about the experience of flying through the air, albeit not via superpowers but something a lot more scientific – balloon power. Such is literally revealed in the track’s lyrics.
In fact this piece was inspired by a real-life hot-air balloon owned by a friend of the writer, Jimmy Webb. And whereas we don’t know if Webb himself ever rode in the vehicle, he was still inspired by it nonetheless.
In fact the plan at the time was for the song to serve as part of a larger project, including a documentary, apparently about hot-air balloons. Or as one analyst has described “Up, Up and Away”, “this classic is strongly connected with flying hot air balloons”.
Not Just Hot Air Balloons
But of course you can’t write a pop song simply about balloons, or else it may be interpreted as children’s fare or something. So later in the song, the vocalist inviting the addressee to “ride in (his or her) beautiful balloon” becomes more of a metaphor.
And the idea it points to is said balloon being symbolic of the vocalist’s love. Or put differently, s/he isn’t inviting the addressee to a physical excursion as much as the two of them actually pursuing an edifying destiny or experience together. And remember this was during the 1960s when trippin’ – for lack of a more expedient synonym – was very much in vogue.
So conclusively we can say that this is a love song, even more pointedly than being about ballooning. And whereas it can most easily fit into a romantic context, there is no specific lyrical indication that such is the intended case.
Jimmy Webb and The 5th Dimension
“Up, Up and Away” was written by Jimmy Webb, who by the way was not a member of The 5th Dimension. Rather at that time, being May of 1967, the crew consisted of lead vocalists Billy Davis Jr. and the following:
- Marilyn McCoo
- Florence LaRue
- Lamonete McLemore
- Ronald Townson (1933-2001)
And as of the writing of this post out of that list only Florence LaRue, now at the age of 77, remains active in the group.
The 5th Dimension hails from the City of Angels itself. Their moniker may be a name you have never heard before in a musical capacity. However, during the late-1960s they were really poppin’.
Achievements of “Up, Up and Away”
Chart-wise “Up, Up and Away” wasn’t their biggest hit, but it was amongst their best three. For instance, it broke the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and Cash Box Top 100. Furthermore, it scored number ones in Australia and Canada.
But where its success stands out not only from other 5th Dimension hits but also just about any song ever is in its Grammy success. That is to say that “Up, Up and Away” (the song) won a whopping six Grammy Awards, in 1968 at the 10th annual showing of the event.
In fact it doesn’t seem as if we ever came across an individual song that earned its creators that many Grammy Awards. This perhaps makes this the most-successful single in the ceremony’s history. But oddly enough, there doesn’t seem to be any place online to readily verify that fact.
More about the song’s Grammy Success
- Contemporary Song
- Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals
- Performance by a Vocal Group
- Performance by a Chorus
More specifically in terms of the aforementioned awards, Song of the Year went to Jimmy Webb. Record of the Year went to the producers of the track, Marc Gordon (1935-2010) and Johnny Rivers. And to note, Jimmy Webb is also officially listed as a producer (though he was not a recipient of that particular award).
It was Gordon and Rivers who were also specifically handed the Best Contemporary Single title. The 5th Dimensions themselves received the accolades for Best Contemporary Group Performance (Vocal or Instrumental) and Best Performance by a Vocal Group.
Meanwhile that sixth award, the one for Best Performance by a Chorus, actually went to a different version of “Up, Up and Away”. This was awarded to the Johnny Mann Singers, with Mann (1928-2014) being a music arranger from Maryland.
More Facts about “Up, Up and Away”
With their own version coming out during May of 1967, The 5th Dimension were not the first artists who drop a rendition of “Up, Up and Away”. That distinction rather goes to another crew from L.A. called The Sunshine Company.
And after them Linda Kaye Herring, who was starring on a popular TV show called Petticoat Junction at the time, came out with a cover. In fact a number of acts covered this song in 1967 alone, including:
- Nancy Sinatra
- Liza Minnelli
- Diana Ross & The Supremes.
And even in the 21st century, the tune remains pop media relevant. It has appeared on several popular shows like Bob’s Burgers and Two and a Half Men.