Van Allen Clinton McCoy (January 6, 1940 – July 6, 1979) professionally known as Van McCoy. was an American musician, record producer, arranger, songwriter, singer and orchestra conductor. He is known best for his 1975 internationally successful song "The Hustle". He has approximately 700 song copyrights to his credit, and is also noted for producing songs for such recording artists as Gladys Knight & the Pips, The Stylistics, Aretha Franklin, Brenda & the Tabulations, David Ruffin, Peaches & Herb and Stacy Lattisaw.
McCoy entered Howard University to study psychology during September 1958, but dropped out after two years to relocate to Philadelphia, where he formed his own recording company, Rockin' Records, releasing his first single, "Hey Mr. DJ", during 1959. This single gained the attention of Scepter Records owner Florence Greenberg, who hired McCoy as a staff writer and A&R representative for the label. As a writer there, McCoy composed his first success, "Stop the Music", for the popular female vocal group, the Shirelles during 1962. He was co-owner of Vando Records with Philly D.J, Jocko Henderson. He owned Share label and co-owned the Maxx label during the mid-1960s, supervising such artists as Gladys Knight & The Pips, Chris Bartley and The Ad Libs.
He really came into his own after first working for top producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller as a writer and then signing with the major April-Blackwood music publishing concern, connected with Columbia Records. McCoy went on to write a string of hits as the 1960s progressed. He penned "Giving Up" for Gladys Knight & the Pips (later a hit for Donny Hathaway), "The Sweetest Thing This Side of Heaven" for Chris Bartley, "When You're Young and in Love" for Ruby & the Romantics (later a hit for 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, "Abracadabra" for Erma Franklin, "You're Gonna Make Me Love You" for Sandi Sheldon and "I Get the Sweetest Feeling" for Jackie Wilson. He also put together the hit-making duo of Peaches & Herb, arranging and co-producing their first hit, "Let's Fall in Love", for the Columbia subsidiary, Date in 1966. The same year, McCoy recorded a solo LP for Columbia titled Night Time Is a Lonely Time, and, a year later, started his own short-lived label, Vando, as well as his own production company VMP (Van McCoy Productions).
Van wrote or produced most consistently for 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"). His song "Giving Up" was a 1969 hit for The Ad Libs. In the early 1970s, McCoy began a long, acclaimed collaboration with songwriter/ producer, Charles Kipps, and arranged several hits for the soul group The Stylistics as well as releasing his own solo LP on the Buddha label, Soul Improvisations, in 1972. The album included a minor hit, "Let Me Down Easy", but it was not a success following poor promotion. He formed his own orchestra, Soul City Symphony and, with singers Faith, Hope and Charity, produced several albums and gave many performances.
Van McCoy appeared on the Mike Douglas Show and was a regular guest on The Tonight Show. He wrote and sang the theme song for the 1978 movie Sextette that starred Mae West and Timothy Dalton and made a cameo appearance in it, playing a delegate from Africa. He also contributed some music for A Woman Called Moses. Along with Faith Hope & Charity, Brass Construction and Johnny Dark, he appeared in episode 4.20 of Don Kirshner's Rock Concert.
In 1975, McCoy released to low expectations the mostly instrumental LP Disco Baby for the Avco (later H&L) label. The title song, "Disco Baby", was written by George David Weiss, Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore, and performed by The Stylistics. Unexpectedly, a single called "The Hustle" from the album, written about the dance of the same name and recorded last for the album, went to the top of both the Billboard pop and R&B charts (also #3 in the UK) and won a Grammy Award. The album was also nominated for a Grammy. McCoy, then regarded as a disco hitmaker, never repeated the success of the song, although the singles "Party", "That's the Joint" and "Change with the Times" got significant airplay. The latter reached #6 in the Billboard R&B chart and was a Top 40 hit in the UK. There were no further major sellers in the US, despite a series of follow-up albums, From Disco to Love (the 1975 reissue of Soul Improvisations), The Disco Kid (1975), The Real McCoy (1976), Rhythms of the World (1976), My Favorite Fantasy (1978), Lonely Dancer (1979) and Sweet Rhythm (1979). However, he scored the UK top 5 again during 1977 with the instrumental success "The Shuffle".
McCoy also had success with David Ruffin's comeback album, Who I Am, featuring "Walk Away from Love", a number 1 R&B hit (#9 pop) in the US and a UK Top 5 success. He went on to produce the next two albums for Ruffin, which spawned further successes. McCoy produced Gladys Knight and The Pips' Still Together LP, and for Melba Moore ("This Is It" and "Lean On Me"). He discovered Faith, Hope And Charity, whose major success in 1975, "To Each His Own", was another R&B chart-topper.
McCoy died from a heart attack in Englewood, New Jersey, on July 6, 1979, at the age of 39. He is buried in the McCoy family plot at Lincoln Cemetery, Suitland, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C.
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