I Am What I Am (Village People song)

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"I Am What I Am"
Cover to German 7" single release
Single by Village People
from the album Macho Man
B-side"Key West"
Format7", 12"
RecordedSigma Sound Studios, New York City
Length3:53 (45")
5:37 (12"/LP)
LabelCasablanca Records
Songwriter(s)Jacques Morali, Henri Belolo, Victor Willis and Peter Whitehead
Producer(s)Jacques Morali
Village People singles chronology
"Village People"
"I Am What I Am"
"Macho Man"

"I Am What I Am" is a song written by Victor Willis, Henri Belolo, Peter Whitehead and Jacques Morali that was first released by the Village People on their 1978 album Macho Man. It was also released as a single with "Key West," also from Macho man, as the b-side in some countries including Germany and the UK. It did not chart in those countries, but it reached #4 on the Billboard Dance Chart in a medley with "Key West" and "Macho Man."[1] It has since been released on several Village People greatest hits compilation albums.[2] It was also included on the soundtrack for the 1978 film Thank God It's Friday.[3][4]

Rolling Stone critic Mitchell Schneider described "I Am What I Am" as a "human-rights anthem."[5] Village People singer Randy Jones describes the song as "a gay liberation statement, aimed directly at gays and lesbians who were standing up without apology for their lifestyle" and as the group's "first gay liberation song."[6] He says that the theme of the song is the virtue of being yourself, and not just if you're gay or transgender but even just if you want to dress in an unusual manner, as long as you don't hurt anyone else.[6] Author Michael DeAngelis describes the theme as being "pride and faithfulness to the individual and authentic self."[7] DeAngelis notes that this theme had particular resonance at the time, when the gay community was in the process of "coming out" and a general cultural obsession was finding healthy ways to feel good about oneself.[7] Author Frédéric Martel identifies "I Am What I Am" as one of five Village People songs that were touchstones to the gay movement in France when they came out ("San Francisco (You've Got Me)," "Macho Man," "Y.M.C.A." and "In the Navy" being the others).[8]

Author Judith A. Peraino described "I Am What I Am" as a "hit single" while Boze Hadleigh described it as a "pre-hit."[9][10] Author Sharon Davis claimed that lyrics are "so camp they have to held down with tent pegs."[11] But Billboard described it as "provocative," describing it as a "gay pride anthem with its activist lyrics and basic theme."[12] Billboard also praised the rhythm and percussion and horn arrangements.[12] Allmusic critic Amy Hanson described it as "a well-constructed slab of groove," despite lacking subtlety.[13] Rolling Stone critic Mitchell Schneider regarded "I Am What I Am" as the best song on Macho Man stating that Willis' voice is "full of anger and delight" on the song and concluding that "because the song seems so committed, it makes the rest of the material sound downright pointless."[5]

The song's title was later reused by Jerry Herman for a 1983 hit song performed by Gloria Gaynor, which also had gay pride as a theme.[14] Reebok later used the title phrase for a successful sneaker advertising campaign.[14]

"Key West"[edit]

The b-side of the "I Am What I Am" single was "Key West." Like "I Am What I Am," "Key West" was part of the medley that reached #4 on the Billboard Dance Chart and Peraino also described "Key West" as a "hit single".[1][9] Jones described "Key West" as "a salute to the Florida town that Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams, along with gay men and women, had made a vacation destination."[6] He noted that it is a "gay friendly resort" that is so "different-thinking" that it remained in the Union despite Florida seceding in the Civil War.[6] Author Chuck Eddy describes "Key West" as one of the Village People's "small hits" and one of several of their songs to "stump for substitute utopias...where there's plenty of 'unity,' 'happiness,' 'liberation' and 'togetherness.'[15] "Key West" has been included on several Village People greatest hits compilation albums.[16]


  1. ^ a b "Village People awards". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-09-01.
  2. ^ "I Am What I Am". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-09-01.
  3. ^ Warner, J. (1992). The Da Capo Book of American Singing Groups: A History, 1940-1990. Da Capo. p. 515. ISBN 9780306809231.
  4. ^ "Thank God It's Friday soundtrack". IMDB. Retrieved 2014-09-01.
  5. ^ a b Schneider, Mitchell. "The Village People – Macho Man (Rolling Stone review)". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on October 2, 2007. Retrieved 2016-09-26.
  6. ^ a b c d Jones, R. & Bego, M. (2009). Macho Man: The Disco Era and Gay America's "Coming Out". ABC-CLIO. pp. 84. 183. ISBN 9780275999629.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ a b DeAngelis, M. (2001). Gay Fandom and Crossover Stardom: James Dean, Mel Gibson, and Keanu Reeves. Duke University Press. p. 137. ISBN 9780822327387.
  8. ^ Martel, F. (1999). The Pink and the Black: Homosexuals in France Since 1968. Stanford University Press. p. 366. ISBN 9780804732741.
  9. ^ a b Peraino, J.A. (2005). Listening to the Sirens: Musical Technologies of Queer Identity from Homer to Hedwig. University of California Press. p. 182. ISBN 9780520921740.
  10. ^ Hadleigh, B. (1991). Sing Out!: Gays and Lesbians in the Music World. Barricade Books. p. 32. ISBN 9781569801161.
  11. ^ Davis, S. (2012). Every Chart Topper Tells a Story: The Seventies. Random House. ISBN 9781780574103.
  12. ^ a b "Disco". Billboard Magazine. March 25, 1978. p. 150. Retrieved 2014-09-01.
  13. ^ Hanson, A. "Macho Man". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-09-01.
  14. ^ a b Magill, R.J. (2012). Sincerity: How a Moral Ideal Born Five Hundred Years Ago Inspired Religious Wars, Modern Art, Hipster Chic, and the Curious Notion that We All Have Something to Say (no Matter how Dull). W.W. Norton. pp. 219–220. ISBN 9780393080988.
  15. ^ Eddy, C. (2011). Rock and Roll Always Forgets: A Quarter Century of Music Criticism. Duke University Press. p. 250. ISBN 9780822350101.
  16. ^ "Key West". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-09-01.

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