|Single by Village People|
|from the album Cruisin'|
|Released||November 13, 1978|
|Recorded||Sigma Sound Studios,
New York City; 1978
|Length||4:48 (album version)
3:30 (single version)
|Writer(s)||Henri Belolo, Jacques Morali, Victor Willis|
|Village People singles chronology|
"Y.M.C.A." is a hit song recorded by American disco group Village People. It was released in 1978 as the only single from the album Cruisin'. The song reached No. 2 on the U.S. charts in early 1979 and reached No. 1 in the UK around the same time, becoming the group's biggest hit. It is one of fewer than forty singles to have sold 10 million (or more) physical copies worldwide. A medley with "Hot Cop" reached number 2 on Billboard's Dance Music/Club Play Singles chart.
The song remains popular and is played at many sporting events in the U.S. and Europe, with crowds using the dance in which the arms are used to spell out the four letters of the song's title as an opportunity to stretch. Moreover, the song also remains particularly popular due to its status as a disco classic and gay anthem, even among listeners who are otherwise uninvolved in disco or gay culture. "Y.M.C.A." appeared as Space Shuttle Wakeup call on mission STS-106, on day 11.
In 2009, "Y.M.C.A." was entered into the Guinness World Book of Records when over 44,000 people danced to the song with Village People singing live at the 2008 Sun Bowl game in El Paso, Texas. "Y.M.C.A." is number 7 on VH1's list of The 100 Greatest Dance Songs of the 20th Century.
Executive producer Henri Belolo claims he saw the YMCA sign while walking down the street with composer Jacques Morali, who seemed to know the institution fairly well: "Henri, let me tell you something. This is a place where a lot of people go when they are in town. And they get good friends and they go out." And Henri got the idea: "Why don't we write a song about it?" However, Victor Willis, lead singer and lyricist, recalls it was actually Morali who, while in the studio, asked him, "What exactly is the YMCA?" After Willis explained it to him, he saw the expression on Morali's face and said, "Don't tell me Jacques, you want to write a song about it?" and they quickly wrote the track for the album Cruisin'.
Upon its release, the YMCA threatened to sue the band over trademark infringement and concerns about the song's double entendres. The organization ultimately dropped the lawsuit when it noticed that membership significantly increased in the wake of the song's popularity.
The song became a number one hit throughout the world (although not in the United States where it was kept out of the top spot by Rod Stewart's "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?"). It has remained popular at parties, sporting events, weddings and functions ever since.
In 2011, Willis filed a notice of copyright termination to the song as lyricist under 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. In a landmark ruling in 2012, the United States District Court for the Southern District of California ruled that Victor Willis can terminate his copyrights granted to the publishers Can't Stop Productions and Scorpio Music because "a joint author who separately transfers his copyright interest may unilaterally terminate the grant." YMCA and other hits written by Willis (for Village People and other Can't Stop acts) began to revert to him on September 13, 2013. At a minimum, Willis will own (recapture) 33% of his songs; this percentage may increase to 50% if the songs are proved to be written solely by Willis and Jacques Morali, with no contribution from Henri Belolo.
Taken at face value, its lyrics extol the virtues of the Young Men's Christian Association. In gay culture from which the group sprang, the song was implicitly understood as celebrating the YMCA's reputation as a popular cruising and hookup spot, particularly for the younger gay men to whom it was addressed. Willis, the group's lead singer and lyricist who is straight, said through his publicist that he did not write YMCA as a gay anthem but as a reflection of young urban black youth fun at the YMCA such as basketball and swimming. That said, he has often acknowledged his fondness for double entendre. Willis says that he wrote the song in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The song, played in the key of G-flat major, begins with a brass riff, backed by the constant pulse that typified disco. Many different instruments are used throughout for an overall orchestral feel, another disco convention, but it is brass that stands out.
As with other Village People hits, the lead vocals are handled by Willis and the background vocals are supplied by Willis and professional background singers. The distinctive vocal line features the repeated "Young man!" ecphonesis followed by Willis singing the verse lines. The background vocals join in throughout the song.
Origin of hand movement and dance
YMCA is also the name of a group dance with cheerleader Y-M-C-A choreography invented to fit the song. One of the phases involves moving arms to form the letters Y-M-C-A as they are sung in the chorus:
- Y —arms outstretched and raised upwards
- M —made by bending the elbows from the 'Y' pose so the fingertips meet over the chest
- C —arms extended to the left
- A —hands held together above head
The dance originated on Dick Clark's American Bandstand. During the January 6, 1979 episode, which featured the Village People as guests throughout the hour, the dance was performed by audience members while the group performed "YMCA." Clark then said to Willis that he would like to show him something. Clark again played the song with the audience doing the YMCA hand gestures. Willis immediately picked up on the dance and mimicked the hand movements back at the audience as other Village People members stared at him with puzzled looks. Clark then turned to Willis and said, "Victor, think you can work this dance into your routine?" Willis responded, "I think we're gonna have to."
During the 7th inning stretch at Yankee Stadium, the grounds crew traditionally grooms the infield while leading the crowd in the dance. In July 2008, Village People performed "Y.M.C.A." with the Yankees grounds crew at the last MLB All-Star Game held at the old Yankee Stadium. Similarly at the Sapporo Dome, during Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters baseball games, "Y.M.C.A." is enthusiastically enjoyed by the crowd and ground staff during the fifth inning stretch.
Charts and certifications
Sales and certifications
Covers and parodies
- On July 2, 2004, Colin Powell, then the U.S. Secretary of State, performed a modified version of "YMCA" for his fellow foreign government officials at the ASEAN security meeting in Jakarta. His lyrics includes the lines:
- In September 2012 a Slovenian musical group and stand-up comedians Slon in Sadež released a slovene parody of the YMCA-song with the title "NNLB". It is making fun out of irresponsible financial management of the largest bank in Slovenia Nova Ljubljanska banka (NLB), causing a severe long lasting financial and economic crisis of the Slovenia.
- On March 2, 2013, during the opening monologue on Saturday Night Live, Jay Pharaoh parodied President Barack Obama giving a press conference about the recent budget cuts in Congress, saying that there were going to be cuts on the military, social service workers, federal construction projects, and Native American funding. The representatives of each (four Village People characters) did the arm dance in order after Pharaoh recited the verse of the song.
- The song was covered in the 2013 animated film Despicable Me 2 by Gru's minions. This version was included on the film's soundtrack.
- In November 2013, Chris Pennington released a parody of the song directed at Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien, entitled "Why not P.K.?", expressing sentiment that Therrien was not giving star Canadiens defenceman P. K. Subban enough ice time.
- "The Village People Awards". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-10-31.
- "Audio Wakeup Call Index". Spaceflight.nasa.gov. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- Peterson, Jan (2011-02-02). "Dancing Without the Stars: "YMCA" and Other Record-Breaking Dance Events - Yahoo TV". Tv.yahoo.com. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
- "the VH1's 100 Greatest Dance Songs @". Disco-disco.com. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
- Victor Willis Interview, SiriusXM Radio, Studio 54 Channel, Marc and Myra Show, September 24, 2013
- "Today in Oldies Music History: January 13". Oldies.about.com. 2014-03-07. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
- "Village People Songwriter Victor Willis Wins Case Over Termination of 'Y.M.C.A.' Rights". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
- Larry Rohter. "Copyright Victory, 35 Years Later". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
- Pettersson, Edvard (2012-05-08). "Village People Motorcycle Cop Wins ‘YMCA’ Copyright Case". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
- Neumann, Caryn E. glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture YMCA
- "Village People Cop: Y.M.C.A. Not about Gay Crusing". 2007-08-03. Retrieved 2013-06-2013.
- "'Macho Man,' 'Y.M.C.A.' about straight fun: publicist - CTV News". Ctv.ca. 2007-08-02. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- "Official Village People website, July 4, 2004". Officialvillagepeople.com. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- American Bandstand 1978
- "Australia n°1 Hits - 70's". Worldcharts.co.uk. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
- "Village People – Y.M.C.A. – Austriancharts.at" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
- "Ultratop.be – Village People – Y.M.C.A." (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
- "Y.M.C.A. in Canadian Adult Contemporary Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- "Y.M.C.A. in Canadian Disco Singles Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- "Y.M.C.A. in Canadian Top 15 12inch Chart (with Macho man)". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- "Y.M.C.A. in Canadian Top Singles Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- "Toutes les Chansons N° 1 des Années 70" (in French). Infodisc.fr. 3 June 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- "Village People - Y.M.C.A.". Charts.de. Media Control.
- "Y.M.C.A. and Y.M.C.A. '93 in Irish Chart". IRMA. Retrieved 3 June 2013. Only results when searching "Y.M.C.A."
- "Nederlandse Top 40 – Village People search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
- "Dutchcharts.nl – Village People – Y.M.C.A." (in Dutch). Mega Single Top 100.
- "Charts.org.nz – Village People – Y.M.C.A.". Top 40 Singles.
- "Norwegiancharts.com – Village People – Y.M.C.A.". VG-lista.
- John Samson. "Y.M.C.A. in South African Chart". Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- "Swedishcharts.com – Village People – Y.M.C.A.". Singles Top 60.
- "Village People – Y.M.C.A. – swisscharts.com". Swiss Singles Chart.
- "Village People". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- "Cruisin' awards on Allmusic". Allmusic. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- "Y.M.C.A. '93 in New Zealand Chart". IRMA. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
- "Indice per Interprete: V". HitParadeItalia (it). Retrieved 6 July 2013.
- "Canadian certifications – Village People – YMCA". Music Canada. Retrieved 29 March 2012.
- "French certifications – Village People – Y.M.C.A." (in French). InfoDisc. Select VILLAGE PEOPLE and click OK
- "Les Singles en Or :" (in French). Infodisc.fr. Retrieved 29 March 2012.
- "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Village People; 'Y.M.C.A.')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved 29 March 2012.
- "List of best-selling international singles in Japan". JP&KIYO. 2002.
- "British certifications – Village People – Y.M.C.A.". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 29 March 2012. Enter Y.M.C.A. in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Click Go
- Ami Sedghi (4 November 2012). "UK's million-selling singles: the full list". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 November 2012.
- "American certifications – Village People – Y.M.C.A.". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 29 March 2012.
- "Asia-Pacific | Powell goes disco for Asean forum". BBC News. 2004-07-02. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- http://www.sloninsadez.com/ Official Slon in Sadež website. Retrieved 2014-01-19.
- David Badash (2013-03-04). "Funny Or Not Funny? SNL’s Obama Explains Sequester Using ‘Village People’". The New Civil Rights Movement. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
- "‘Despicable Me 2′ Soundtrack Announced". Film Music Reporter. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
- "P.K. Subban Anthem Implores More Ice Time for Defenseman, Catchy Song Inspired by Village People (Audio)". NESN. 2013-11-18. Retrieved 2013-11-22.
|Original 1978 music video|
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|Australian Kent Music Report number one single (Village People version)
December 25, 1978 - January 22, 1979
"Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" by Rod Stewart
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|UK number one single (Village People version)
6 January 1979 - 20 January 1979
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|German Media Control Charts number-one single
December 8, 1978 - December 29, 1978
January 12, 1979 - February 23, 1979
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"Heart of Glass" by Blondie
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|Canadian RPM number one single (Village People version)
January 27 - February 3, 1979
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|Japan Oricon Weekly Singles Chart number one single (Hideki Saijo version)
March 12, 1979 - April 9, 1979 (5 weeks)
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