From left: Randy Jones, Glenn Hughes, Felipe Rose, Victor Willis, David Hodo, Alex Briley in 1978
|Origin||New York City, New York, U.S.|
|Labels||Casablanca, Black Scorpio, RCA, Polygram|
|Past members||Victor Willis
G. Jeff Olson
Village People is an American disco group that formed in 1977, well known for their on-stage costumes depicting American cultural stereotypes, as well as their catchy tunes and suggestive lyrics. Originally created by Jacques Morali and Henri Belolo to target disco's gay audience by featuring popular gay fantasy personae, the band's popularity quickly brought them into the mainstream. The group scored a number of disco and dance hits, including their trademark "Macho Man", "Go West", the classic club medley of "San Francisco (You've Got Me) / In Hollywood", "In the Navy", and their biggest hit, "Y.M.C.A.". They have sold upwards of 100 million records world-wide.
The group was the creation of Jacques Morali, a French musical composer. He had written a few dance tunes when he was given a demo tape recorded by singer/actor Victor Willis. Morali approached Willis and told him, "I had a dream that you sang lead on my album and it went very, very big". Willis agreed to sing on the self-titled debut album, Village People.
It was a success, and demand for live appearances soon followed. Morali and his business partner, Henri Belolo (under the collaboration Can't Stop Productions) hastily built a group of dancers around Willis to perform in clubs and on Dick Clark's American Bandstand. The band's name refers to New York City's Greenwich Village, at the time known for its large gay population. So Morali and Belolo decided to create a group of stereotypes based on the gay men of Greenwich Village, who often dressed in fantasy attire. As Village People's popularity grew, Morali, Belolo and Willis saw the need for a permanent "group." They took out an ad in a music trade magazine which read: "Macho Types Wanted: Must Dance And Have A Moustache."
Morali met the first recruit, Felipe Rose (Native American), on the streets of Greenwich Village. Rose was a bartender who wore jingle bells on his boots. He was invited to take part in the sessions for the first album. Alex Briley (who started as an athlete, but eventually took on the soldier persona) was hand-picked by Willis to be in the group. The others, Mark Mussler (original construction worker), Dave Forrest (original cowboy), Lee Mouton (original leatherman) and Peter Whitehead (one of the group's early songwriters) appeared on American Bandstand and in the video for the group's first hit, "San Francisco (You Got Me)". They were later replaced by David Hodo, Randy Jones and Glenn Hughes. Hughes had first been spotted as a toll collector at the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.
Songwriters Phil Hurtt and Peter Whitehead were brought in to write lyrics for the first album. Victor Willis took over writing duties for the group's biggest albums, (Macho Man, Cruisin and Go West) scoring the group's biggest hits, including "Y.M.C.A.", "Macho Man," "Go West" and "In the Navy," and for other Can't Stop Productions acts such as Ritchie Family and Patrick Juvet. Likewise, Gypsy Lane (the Village People band) and their conductor, Horace Ott, provided much of the musical arrangements for Morali, who did not play any instruments.
"Macho Man" brought them mainstream attention, and their 1978 recording "Y.M.C.A." became one of the most popular hits of the 1970s.
In 1979, the United States Navy considered using "In the Navy" in a television and radio recruiting campaign. Belolo offered them permission if the Navy would help film the music video. The Navy provided them access to the San Diego Navy base, where the USS Reasoner, several aircraft, and the crew of the ship would be used.
The group's fame peaked in 1979, when Village People made several appearances on The Merv Griffin Show and travelled with Bob Hope to entertain U.S. troops. They were also featured on the cover of Rolling Stone, Vol. 289, April 19, 1979. Willis left the group at the end of an international tour in 1979, and a decline in popularity followed.
Ray Simpson, brother of Valerie Simpson (of Ashford & Simpson), replaced Willis for the group's highly anticipated 1980 feature film Can't Stop the Music, directed by Nancy Walker, written by Allan Carr and Bronte Woodard, music and lyrics by Jacques Morali (although Willis penned the lyrics to "Milkshake" and "Magic Night") and starring Steve Guttenberg, Valerie Perrine, Jean-Claude Billmaer, Bruce Jenner, and Village People. By the time it was released, however, disco had waned and the movie won the Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay prizes at the 1980 Golden Raspberry Awards in March 1981 and was nominated in almost all the other categories. Despite that, the song "Can't Stop the Music" became a Club Play chart hit and moderate radio hit. However, it too (Can't Stop the Music, the song) was nominated for Worst Original Song by the 1981 Razzies, and did not live up to expectations, never obtaining gold status as a single or album. The soundtrack also featured the talents of "David London", who under his real name Dennis "Fergie" Frederiksen went on to become the future lead singer of Toto and one of the main contributors to the Village People's next album. The movie itself has since become a cult favorite.
The group was one of the featured guests on a November 22, 1980 episode of Love Boat, (7th episode of season 4), entitled "Secretary to the Stars/Julie's Decision/The Horse Lover/Gopher and Isaac Buy a Horse". At the end of 1980, cowboy Randy Jones left the group and was replaced by Jeff Olson.
In 1981, with the popularity of disco having faded and new wave music on the rise, Village People replaced its on-stage costumes with a new look inspired by the New Romantic movement, and released the new wave album Renaissance. It only attracted minor, mostly negative attention and produced no hits.
Victor Willis returned to the group briefly in late 1981 for the album Fox on the Box, which was released in 1982 in Europe and in 1983 in the United States under the title In the Street. Ray Simpson left the group in 1983 and was replaced by Miles Jaye. Jaye contributed an extra track to In the Street and performed numerous live shows and television appearances. Mark Lee replaced David Hodo in 1982.
Their last album containing new material, the 1985 dance/Hi-NRG release Sex Over the Phone, was not a huge commercial success, but it fared better in sales and club play than their Renaissance album. The title track, when released as a single, was banned by the BBC because of its content - credit card dirty phone calls. The Sex album featured yet another new lead singer, Ray Stephens (of The Great Space Coaster fame). Py Douglas came in to sub for Stephens for some of the group's live appearances in 1985.
In 1985, the group took a hiatus but reunited in 1987 with the line-up of Randy Jones, David Hodo, Felipe Rose, Glenn Hughes, Alex Briley and Ray Simpson.
Since 1988, the group has managed itself under the name Sixuvus Ltd.
- September 15, 1991: Village People perform in front of 41,815 in Sydney, Australia, as part of the pre-game entertainment for the New South Wales Rugby League Grand Final held at the Sydney Football Stadium, singing their hit "Y.M.C.A".
- November 15, 1991: Village People founder Jacques Morali dies from complications of AIDS in Paris, France.
- 1993: the group makes a guest appearance on the hit show Married... with Children in the episode "Take My Wife, Please".
- 1994: Village People join the German national football team to sing its official World Cup '94 theme Far Away in America.
- 1994: Cowboy Randy Jones sings Greg Brady's part on a punk cover of The Brady Bunch classic Time to Change.
- 1995: Eric Anzalone replaces Glenn Hughes as the Leatherman/Biker.
- 1996: Village People appears with Kelsey Grammer, Rob Schneider, and other cast members during the end-credits sequence of the film Down Periscope.
- 2000: The group releases new material under the name Amazing Veepers.
- 2001: Felipe Rose appears as himself on the game show To Tell the Truth.
- March 4, 2001: original member Glenn Hughes (Leatherman) dies from lung cancer in New York City.
- 2004: Village People perform as the opening act for Cher on her Farewell Tour until it ends in April 2005. It was a highly successful tour for both artists.
- May 7, 2004: Original Cowboy Randy Jones marries Will Grega, his boyfriend of 20 years.
- mid-2004: Village People perform at Lincoln Center Out of Doors.
- September 4, 2006: Village People perform on Jerry Lewis's MDA Telethon.
- August 31, 2007: Victor Willis gives his first live concert in 28 years in Las Vegas.
- October 23, 2007: Village People perform on the NBC game show The Singing Bee.
- November 17, 2007: Victor Willis weds long-time love, Karen, a lawyer and executive.
- July 15, 2008: At the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at the first Yankee Stadium, Village People perform "Y.M.C.A." with the Yankees grounds crew during the 7th inning stretch.
- September 12, 2008: Village People receive star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
- September 3, 2010: Village People perform at the American Music Festival in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
- May 8, 2012: Victor Willis wins a landmark ruling in the first case heard regarding the Copyright Act of 1976 which allows recording artists and writers to reclaim their master recordings and publishing rights initially granted to record companies and publishers after 35 years. Willis recaptured copyrights include "Y.M.C.A." "Go West", "Magic Night", "Milkshake", and "In the Navy", to name a few.
- February 20, 2013: Victor Willis and David Hodo appear on the TV One series Unsung in a two-hour special retrospective on the disco era.
- August 1, 2013: Village People released new song "Let's Go Back to the Dance Floor" written by Harry W. Casey of K.C. and the Sunshine Band. Jim Newman replaces Jeff Olson as the Cowboy.
- September 13, 2013: Victor Willis begins to recapture his 33% share of songs he co-wrote.
- October 2013: Bill Whitefield replaces David Hodo as the Construction Worker.
In popular culture
Due to their easily recognizable characters, the group have frequently been imitated or parodied in films, television series, video games and music. Numerous covers and homages of their songs have been recorded. The stereotypical masculine characters, particularly the leather-clad biker character with a horseshoe moustache, have also become a widespread pop culture icons associated with male gay culture and Y.M.C.A. has become something of an anthem of the LGBT community.
In the film Wayne's World 2, Wayne and his friends disguise themselves in order to spy on Wayne's girlfriend; Wayne dresses as a construction worker, Garth as a cop, Neil as a leather-clad biker and Terry as a sailor. They are then chased and end up on the stage of a men's club where their coincidental resemblance to the Village People becomes apparent to the DJ, who immediately puts on Y.M.C.A..
A 1993 episode of Married... with Children had Peg disguising herself as the Indian, along with Kelly as the sailor, Bud as the construction worker and Jefferson as the biker in order to appease angry Hallowe'en party guests of Marcy's, and a joke being they could only lip synch to one song, Y.M.C.A., as that was the sole Village People album Marcy owned. When the real Village People appear at the party, they start their concert with Y.M.C.A., causing the enraged women who were sick of the song to pelt them with toilet paper. In another episode, Al is constantly put in comical situations where he has to prove he is not gay, and is puzzled over the fact that he never realized "Macho Man", a song he has always liked, is a gay anthem.
In 1995, a parody of the Village People was seen on the CGI show ReBoot with the group the Small Town Binomes singing "BSnP", a parody of Y.M.C.A. They were seen in the ReBoot episode "Talent Night" and each individual was modeled after a singer from the Village People using the show's common Binome characters. Their song "BSnP" was a jab at ABC network's Broadcast Standards and Practices organization, which frequently edited content from the show which they deemed not suitable for its younger viewers (lyrics included "Oh, it's fun to play in a non-violent way").
In 2000, in the 19th episode/5th season of 3rd Rock From the Sun three series characters try to rob a bank dressed up as band members while the fourth accidentally enters a gay club. In the final scene, the four main characters are joined by a policeman.
In 2006, Village People were featured in That '70s Show episode titled "We Will Rock You." When Jackie and Fez declared their love of the group, Steven Hyde was going to burn all the disco music records they had at a "Disco Sucks" party.
In 2013, the film Despicable Me 2 featured a parody of the song Y.M.C.A. in one of its final scenes. When Gru and Lucy were getting married, the minions sang this song and they all started to party.
|Year||Album Title||Peak chart positions||Certifications
|Live and Sleazy||32||57||-|
|1980||Can't Stop the Music||47||-||9|
|1982/1983||Fox on the Box/In the Street||-||-|
|1985||Sex Over the Phone||-||-||-|
Compilations and other albums
- The Village People EP (1977)
- Macho Man EP (1978)
- Live: Seoul Song Festival (1984)
- Greatest Hits (1988)
- Greatest Hits '89 Remixes (1989)
- The Best of Village People (1994)
- The Very Best Of (1998)
- 20th Century Masters, The Millennium Collection ... The Best of Village People (2001)
- Universal Music Icon Series: Village People (2014)
|Year||Single||Peak chart positions||Album|
|1977||"San Francisco"||102||—||15||—||45||Village People|
|1978||"I Am What I Am"||—||—||—||—||—||Macho Man|
|1979||"In the Navy"||3||14||7||1||2||Go West|
|"Ready for the 80's"||52||26||—||—||—||Live and Sleazy|
|1980||"Can't Stop the Music"||—||27||1||—||11||Can't Stop the Music|
|1981||"Do You Wanna Spend the Night"||—||—||48||—||—||Renaissance|
|"5 O'Clock in the Morning"||—||—||—||—||—|
|1985||"Sex Over the Phone"||—||—||—||—||59||Sex Over the Phone|
|"New York City"||—||—||—||—||97|
|1989||"Livin' in the Wildlife"||—||—||—||—||—||Singles only|
|1994||"Far Away in America"||—||—||—||—||—|
|2013||"Let's Go Back to the Dance Floor"||—||—||—||—||—|
|Year||Cop||Native American||G.I. / Sailor||Construction Worker||Cowboy||Biker|
|1977||Victor Willis||Felipe Rose||Alex Briley||Mark Mussler||Dave Forrest||Lee Mouton|
|1978–1980||David Hodo||Randy Jones||Glenn Hughes|
|1980–1982||Ray Simpson||G. Jeff Olson|
|1982–1983||Ray Simpson; Victor Willis||Mark Lee|
|1987–1991||Ray Simpson||Felipe Rose||Alex Briley||David Hodo||Randy Jones||Glenn Hughes|
|1991–1995||G. Jeff Olson|
Original Village People (7 Members)
- Victor Willis (Cop)
- Felipe (Native American)
- Alex Briley (GI)
- Lee Mouton (Leather man)
- Mark Mussler (Construction worker)
- David Forrest (Cowboy)
- Peter Whitehead (nondescript)
- Peter Whitehead, who co-wrote the songs on the group's first record, was an original member of the group in 1977.
- Py Douglas briefly replaced Ray Stephens in some television appearances during the group's 1985 European tour.
- Alec Timerman stood in for Alex Briley on occasion between 2001 and 2003.
- Bill Whitefield stand-in for David Hodo at some concerts in 2002–2012. Became permanent member in 2013.
- Richard Montoya also replaced Hodo on some 2008 dates.
- Angel Morales filled in for Felipe Rose, from 2008 through 2009.
- Ray Rodriguez stand-in for Felipe Rose in 2011–2013.
- A.J. Perrelli stand-in for Jeff Olson in 2013. Perrelli died in October 17, 2013 in a coma caused by head injury.
- Pacho Andrews stand-in for Felipe Rose in 2013.
- List of number-one dance hits (United States)
- List of artists who reached number one on the US Dance chart
- List of artists who reached number one in Ireland
- "Spin Magazine Online: Y.M.C.A. (An Oral History) ''". Spin.com. May 27, 2008. Retrieved August 19, 2011.
- "Village People - The Official Site". Officialvillagepeople.com. Retrieved August 19, 2011.
- Village People, Rolling Stone Magazine Vol. 289, April 19, 1979
- Review: Gay Sex in the 70s: , 2000
- Village People Official Tour Program, 1979, Can't Stop Productions
- Straight, No Chaser by Victor Willis, 1990
- Vulliamy, Ed (November 12, 2006). "Everyday people". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 27, 2010.
- IMBD http://www.imdb.com/event/ev0000558/1981
- Juke Magazine February 13, 1985.
- Obituary, Glen Hughes,The Guardian, Friday 30 March 2001
- Village People's Hughes Dead Rolling Stone; March 13, 2001
- Rashbaum, Alyssa (May 11, 2004). "Village People's Cowboy Ropes Himself A Husband - Music, Celebrity, Artist News". MTV. Retrieved August 19, 2011.
- Rohter, Larry (May 8, 2012). "Village People Singer Wins a Legal Battle in Fight to Reclaim Song Rights". The New York Times.
- "Disco greats team up for TV documentary - MSN TV News". Tv.msn.com. Retrieved February 1, 2014.
- Rohter, Larry (September 10, 2013). "A Copyright Victory, 35 Years Later". The New York Times.
- "U2 - Discotheque (Official Video)". YouTube. 2012-09-06. Retrieved 2014-04-01.
- "That '70s Show" We Will Rock You (TV episode 2006) - IMDb
- "Chart Stats - The Village People". chartstats.com. Retrieved January 15, 2012.
- "Chart Stats - The Village People". theofficialcharts.com. Retrieved January 15, 2012.
- "Searchable Database". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved January 15, 2012. Note: User must define 'Artist' search parameter as "Village People".
- "Certified Awards Search". Music Canada. Retrieved on January 15, 2012. Note: User needs to enter "Village People" in the "Search" field, "Artist" in the "Search by" field and click the "Go" button. Select "More info" next to the relevant entry to see full certification history.
- "Certified Awards Search". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved on January 15, 2012. Note: User needs to enter "Village People" in the "Search" field, "Artist" in the "Search by" field and click the "Go" button. Select "More info" next to the relevant entry to see full certification history.
- "Village People Album & Song Chart History - Hot 100". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved December 11, 2010.
- Allmusic Peak Positions
- Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
- "Results - RPM - Library and Archives Canada - Top Singles". RPM. Retrieved December 11, 2010.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 587. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- "Queens, NY " Queens Our City Radio Sends Thoughts & Prayers To Village People's AJ Perrelli From Astoria". Queens.ourcityradio.com. July 24, 2013. Retrieved February 1, 2014.[dead link]
- "Queens, NY " Queens Our City Radio Sends Our Condolences Out to the Family & Friends of Village People's AJ Perelli". Queens.ourcityradio.com. October 18, 2013. Retrieved February 1, 2014.[dead link]
- "Village People Sub And Astoria Native, Perrelli, Celebrated Life". Queens Gazette. 2013-10-23. Retrieved 2014-07-12.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Village People.|
- Official website of the Village People
- Village People at Rolling Stone
- Official website of original lead singer Victor Willis