5th Dimension's Ron Townson Dies

Singer, who toured with group into the 1990s, battled kidney disease for four years.

Ron Townson, an original member of 5th Dimension, died Thursday of renal failure at his home in Las Vegas. The singer had battled kidney disease for four years, according to the Associated Press.

Originally called the Versatiles, the 5th Dimension stood apart from other black vocal groups of the late 1960s and early '70s, embracing sunny pop such as the Grammy-winning "Up, Up and Away" (1967) and "Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In," which hit #1 in 1969. Their hits included songs by such premier composers of the era as Jimmy Webb ("Up, Up and Away") and Laura Nyro ("Stoned Soul Picnic," "Wedding Bell Blues").

The group's last big hit was 1972's "If I Could Reach You," which went to #10.

After founding members Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. left to record as a duo in 1975, Townson and the group continued to tour with replacement members into the 1990s.

Townson, a St. Louis native whom the news services said was 68 but other sources indicate was 60, retired from performing in 1997.