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McCoy, Van (6th January 1940-6th July 1979)

He was a musician, conductor, producer and songwriter born Van Allen Clinton McCoy in Washington D.C.  When he was growing up he sang in the choir at the Metropolitan Baptist Church and before he was a teenager he was appearing in amateur shows with his brother, Norman Jr., and also venturing in to songwriting.

When he was attending high school he formed the trio The Starlighters who sang doo-wop and in 1956 they released the novelty song “The Birdland” which won them a stint on tour with the drummer Vi Burnsides.  They released three singles and he would also be heard as a singer with The Marylanders.  Although attending Howard University in Philadelphia, he left education there after two years to pursue a career in music.

He established Rockin’ Records and his first solo single “Hey Mr. DJ” was released in 1959 which led to him becoming the A&R man and a staff writer for Scepter Records.  His first chart hit was his “Stop the Music” which was recorded by The Shirelles and at the same time he was the owner of Maxx and looked after artists that included The Ad-Libs and Gladys Knight & The Pips.

After teaming up with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller his songwriting really took off and his numerous hits include “I Get the Sweetest Feeling” by Jackie Wilson, “When You’re Young and in Love” by Ruby & The Romantics, “Giving Up” by Gladys Knight & The Pips, and he produced and wrote for artists including David Ruffin, Tom Jones, Vikki Carr, Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, Melba Moore, Stacy Lattisaw, Peaches & Herb, The Stylistics, Faith, Hope & Charity, The Choice Four and The Presidents among many others.

In his solo career he released his first solo album, Nighttime Is a Lonely Time and started his own production company, VMP.  In the early 1970s he went into partnership with Charles Kipps as Kipps-McCoy Productions and established Soul City Symphony, and with this orchestra and the group Faith, Hope & Charity he regularly appeared in concerts and produced albums.

His Grammy Award winning album Disco Baby was released in 1975 and it was from this that he saw massive success with his chart-topping instrumental “The Hustle” which is still heard regularly today.  He released seven albums and several other singles after this including “Change With the Times” and “That’s the Joint”, but none would repeat this previous global success so he went back to work as a songwriter and producer.

Writing music for television and film his work has been heard on the series Woman Called Moses, the films The Bridges of Madison, High Fidelity, Stuck on You and after being asked by Mae West he composed for her Sextette.

Tragically he had a fatal heart attack in Englewood, New Jersey, in 1979 when he was still only 39 years old and left us with his legacy of over 700 songs.

Van McCoy recordings
Change With the Times (Van McCoy)
Good Night, Baby (Hugo & Luigi/George David Weiss)
Love Child (Hugo & Luigi/George David Weiss)
Spanish Boogie (Van McCoy)

Van McCoy & The Soul City Symphony recordings
Hey Girl, Come and Get It (Hugo & Luigi/George David Weiss)
The Hustle (Van McCoy)