b. Van Allen Clinton McCoy, 6th January 1940, Washington, D.C., U.S.A
d. 6th July 1979, Englewood General Hospital, Englewood, New Jersey, U.S.A.
Van McCoy is the second child of Norman S. McCoy, Sr. and Lillian Ray.
Van learned to play piano as a child and sang with the Metropolitan Baptist Church choir as a youngster.
By the time he was 12 years old, he had begun performing in local amateur shows alongside his older brother, Norman Jr. He had also began writing his own material.
Van and Norman formed a doo-wop combo named the Starlighters with two friends, Freddy Smith and Paul Comedy, whilst attending high school.
They recorded a song called 'The Birdland' b/w 'It's Twelve O'Clock' in 1956, for the End imprint, which led to the group touring with the drummer Vi Burnsides.
The group recorded three further singles up until 1959.
The Starlighters later disbanded, due to some members marrying and others being drafted.
Van also sang with a group called the Marylanders, around this time, for the Jubilee imprint, including the song 'Good Old 99' b/w 'Fried Chicken'.
He then attended Howard University to study psychology in September 1958.
mr dj 1961
Van left there after two years and relocated to Philadelphia, where he formed his own label, Rock'n Records, and released his, self penned, first single, 'Mr. DJ', in 1961.
This single came to the attention of Scepter Records owner Florence Greenberg, who hired McCoy as a staff writer and A&R Representative.
Following a collaboration with the producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, as a writer for their Tiger and Daisy labels, he signed with the April-Blackwood music publishing company, which was a subsidiary of Columbia Records.
Further success followed, with Van penning 'Giving Up' for Gladys Knight & The Pips, (later a hit for the late Donny Hathaway), 'The Sweetest Thing This Side of Heaven' for Chris Bartley, 'When You're Young and in Love' for Ruby and the Romantics (and a version by the Marvelettes), '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 wrote anonymous songs with his girlfriend at the time, Kendra Spottswood.
These included the Pacettes' 'You Don't Know Baby', Jack & Jill's 'Two of a Kind', and the Fantastic Vantastics' 'Gee What a Boy.'
Kendra, under the name Sandi Sheldon Spottswood, also recorded the Van McCoy-penned dancer 'You're Gonna Make Me Love You', popular on the Northern Soul Scene.
Van was also responsible for beginning the careers of Peaches & Herb, arranging and co-producing their first hit, 'Let's Fall In Love', for the Columbia subsidiary Date, in 1966.
Nighttime Is Lonely Time / Let's Fall In Love
Also in 1966, he recorded a Mitch Miller produced solo LP for Columbia entitled 'Nighttime Is Lonely Time', and, a year later, started his own short-lived label, Vando, as well as his own production company VMP (Van McCoy Productions).
He went on to write extensively for many artists including 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') during the Sixties and Seventies.
In 1968, he released the song 'If I Could Make You Mine' for the Share imprint, co-penned with Chuck Jackson, under the group ensemble name 'The Van McCoy Strings.
In the early 1970s, Van began a long time collaboration with songwriter/producer, Charles Kipps, arranging several hits for the soul group The Stylistics, as well as releasing his own solo LP on Buddah, 'Soul Improvisations', in 1972.
Soul Improvisations / Disco Baby
The album included a minor hit, 'Let Me Down Easy', and went on to form his own orchestra, the Soul City Symphony and, with singers Faith, Hope and Charity, produced several albums and also performed.
In 1975, McCoy released the album 'Disco Baby' for the Avco (later H&L) label.
A single called 'The Hustle' from the album went to the very top of both the Billboard pop and R&B charts and won a Grammy, followed by a nomination for the parent album.
The song was the last track penned for the album and took around an hour to write.
Van went on to release the singles 'Party', 'That's the Joint', and 'Change with the Times'.
Further albums followed, including 'From Disco to Love' (a 1975 reissue of 'Soul Improvisations'), 'The Disco Kid' (1975), 'The Real McCoy' (1976), 'Rhythms of the World' (1976), 'My Favourite Fantasy' (1978), 'Lonely Dancer' (1979), and 'Sweet Rhythm' (1979).
Van made the charts again in 1977 with the instrumental hit 'The Shuffle'.
He also worked with songs for Aretha Franklin, recording 'Walk Softly', 'You Brought Me Back To Life', 'The Feeling', as well as producing tarcks for the album 'La Diva', and Linda Clifford and Stacy Lattisaw.
Other projects involved Melba Moore ('This Is It' and 'Lean on Me').
Van died from a heart attack, which struck at his home in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, and he passed away at the Englewood General Hospital, Englewood, New Jersey on the 6th of July 1979, six months exactly before his 40th birthday.
In 2010, Van McCoy has approximately 700 song copyrights credited to his name.
Soul Improvisations (1972)
From Disco To Love (Buddah 1972)
Disco Baby (Avco 1975)
The Disco Kid (Avco 1975)
The Real McCoy (H & L 1976)
The Hustle (H & L 1976)
Rhythms Of The World (1976)
My Favourite Fantasy (MCA 1978)
Van McCoy And His Magnificent Movie Machine (1978)
Sweet Rhythm (H & L 1979)
Lonely Dancer (MCA 1979)