Village People

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Village People
Background information
OriginNew York City, New York, U.S.
GenresDisco, soul, funk, R&B
Years active1977–1985, 1987–present
LabelsRCA Victor, Casablanca Records, Mercury Records, Phonogram, Polydor, Ariola, Polygram, Black Scorpio, RCA Ariola, BMG Ariola, BMG Music, Universal Music, Sony Music.
  • Victor Willis
  • Angel Morales
  • James Lee
  • James Kwong
  • Chad Freeman
  • Jeffrey James Lippold'
Past members

Village People is an American disco group best known for their on-stage costumes, catchy tunes, and suggestive lyrics. The group was originally formed by French producers Jacques Morali, Henri Belolo and lead singer Victor Willis following the release of the debut album, Village People, which targeted disco's gay audience. The group's name refers to New York City's Greenwich Village, at the time known for its large gay population.[1] The characters were a symbolic group of American masculinity[2] and macho gay fantasy personas.[3]

The group quickly became popular and moved into the mainstream, scoring several disco and dance hits internationally, including the hit singles "Macho Man", "In the Navy", "Go West" and their biggest hit, "Y.M.C.A.".



Jacques Morali, a French musical composer and producer, and his business partner Henri Belolo, known collectively as Can't Stop Productions, were enjoying a successful string of hits in France and Europe. In 1977, they moved to New York City to get into the American market. Morali had written a few dance tunes when he was given a demo tape recorded by singer/actor Victor Willis. After hiring Willis to sing background vocals on the four tracks, Morali approached him and said, "I had a dream that you sang lead on my album and it went very, very big". Willis agreed to sing on the eponymous debut album, Village People.[4]

Songwriters Phil Hurtt and Peter Whitehead wrote the lyrics for the first album (Willis would subsequently take over writing duties in 1978 for the group's biggest hits). The Village People studio band was called Gypsy Lane, conducted by Horace Ott, who also provided much of the musical arrangements for Morali, who did not play any instruments.[5]

The album became an international hit, and demand for live appearances soon followed. Morali hastily built a group of dancers around Willis to perform in clubs and videos. Morali met the first recruit, Felipe Rose (who dressed as a Native American), on the streets of Greenwich Village. Willis hand-picked Alex Briley (who initially portrayed an athlete but eventually became the group's soldier/sailor). The others were Mark Mussler (construction worker), Dave Forrest (cowboy), Lee Mouton (leatherman), and Peter Whitehead (one of the group's early songwriters), who appeared on American Bandstand and in the video for the group's first hit, "San Francisco (You Got Me)".

With record sales soaring, Morali and Willis saw the need to create a permanent "group."[6] They took out an ad in a theatre trade paper which read: "Macho Types Wanted: Must Dance And Have A Moustache."[4] Glenn Hughes (leatherman), David Hodo (construction worker) and Randy Jones (cowboy) were among the hundreds who answered the ad.[4]

With the "official" lineup in place, the group did a hasty photo-shoot for the cover of the already-recorded Macho Man album. The 1978 hit single "Macho Man" catapulted the group into the mainstream, and their follow-up single "Y.M.C.A." became one of the most popular hits of the 1970s.

In 1979, the United States Navy considered using their single "In the Navy" in a television and radio recruiting campaign. Belolo offered them permission if the Navy would help film a music video for it. The Navy provided them access to the San Diego Navy base, where the USS Reasoner (FF-1063), several aircraft, and the crew of the ship would be used.[7] This song was also performed on the TV series The Love Boat, and in the 1995 Navy comedy movie Down Periscope.

The group's fame peaked in 1979, when they made several appearances on The Merv Griffin Show and traveled 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 their North American tour in 1979 and was replaced by Ray Simpson, the brother of Valerie Simpson (of Ashford & Simpson).[8] The end of 1979 would see the release of Live & Sleazy featuring Victor Willis on lead vocals on heavily edited “Live” portion of the album. Victor Willis has announced plans for the “Live” portion of Live & Sleazy to be remastered and re-released as Village People Live at the Greek Theatre later in 2018, no word has been made mentioned if it will include songs performed on their 1979 tour but left off the original release.


In June 1980 the feature film Can't Stop the Music starring Village People was released. The film was directed by Nancy Walker, written by Allan Carr and Bronte Woodard, music and lyrics by Jacques Morali (except Willis penned the lyrics to "Milkshake" and "Magic Night") and starring Steve Guttenberg, Valerie Perrine, Jean-Claude Billmaer, and Bruce (Caitlyn) Jenner. By the time it was released, however, disco's popularity had waned, and at the March 1981 Golden Raspberry Awards, the movie was named Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay, and was nominated in almost all the other categories. Although the title song became a club play chart success and moderate radio hit, it was nominated for Worst Original Song "Razzie" and did not live up to sales expectations, never obtaining gold status as a single or album.[9] The soundtrack also featured the talents of David London, who under his real name Dennis "Fergie" Frederiksen became the future lead singer of Toto and one of the main contributors to Village People's next album.

The group was among the weekly guest stars on the November 22, 1980, episode of Love Boat (season four, episode seven). At the end of 1980, Jeff Olson joined the group as the cowboy.

In 1981, with new wave music becoming more popular than disco, Village People took off their on-stage costumes, where they put on a new look inspired by the New Romantic movement, and released the album Renaissance. It only attracted minor – mostly negative – attention and produced no hits.

Victor Willis rejoined the group briefly in late 1981 for the album Fox on the Box, which was released in 1982 in Europe and Japan, 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 Renaissance.[citation needed] The title track, when released as a single, was banned by the BBC because of its subject matter: credit-card phone sex.[10] The 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 lineup 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.[11]


Village People receive their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Left to right – front row: David Hodo, Felipe Rose, Jeff Olson / back row: Ray Simpson, Alex Briley, Eric Anzalone – receiving Hollywood Walk of Fame star in 2008
  • September 22, 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 died of complications of AIDS in Paris, France.
  • July 13, 1993: Village People perform a medley of self-parody songs at the MTV Movie Awards – "In the Movies" ("In the Navy"), "Psycho Bitch" ("Macho Man"), and "My MTV" ("Y.M.C.A.").
  • October 24, 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: Former cowboy Randy Jones sang Greg Brady's part on a punk cover of The Brady Bunch classic Time to Change.
  • 1995: Eric Anzalone joins the group 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 appeared as himself on the game show To Tell the Truth.
  • March 4, 2001: Founding member Glenn Hughes (Leatherman) died of lung cancer in New York City.[12]
  • 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: Former cowboy Randy Jones marries Will Grega, his boyfriend of 20 years.[13]
  • 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 appeared 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 performed 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.[14]
  • 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.[15]
  • 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 joins the group as the Cowboy.[16]
  • September 13, 2013: Victor Willis begins to recapture his 33% share of songs he co-wrote.[17]
  • October 2013: Bill Whitefield joins the group as the Construction Worker.[18]
  • New Year's Eve 2014 : Village People bring in the new year by performing at Mobile's Moonpie Drop.
  • March 4, 2015: Victor Willis reclaims ownership of Y.M.C.A. and other songs written with Jacques Morali and the removal of Henri Belolo, previously credited as a third writer.[19]
  • August 2015: Victor Willis releases Solo Man, a solo album he recorded in 1979 featuring the Village People band.
  • December 16, 2015: Village People performed "Y.M.C.A." during halftime of the Chicago Bulls game as part of "70's Night."
  • June 28, 2016: Victor Willis appears as himself on the game show "To Tell The Truth" and performs "Y.M.C.A."
  • August 15, 2016: Village People's LetGo commercial debuts during the Rio Olympics.[20]
  • September 15, 2016: First in a series of TV commercials in the UK for YOPA online estate agents[21]
  • May 30, 2017: After years of legal battles, Victor Willis and Can't Stop Productions settle their differences and Victor Willis rejoins Village People.[22]
  • December 14, 2017: The trademark “Village People” is the subject of litigation, and as of December 14, 2017 there are two groups performing as Village People.[23][24]
  • February 16, 2018: The U.S. District Court denied the Sixuvus' preliminary injunction and ruled that there is only one group entitled to use the Village People trademark and that is the current group featuring original lead singer Victor Willis.[25][26] The Ray Simpson-led incarnation renames itself "The Kings of Disco".[27]
  • March 2018: Village People GI Sonny Earl is let go from the group and replaced by Atlanta native James Lee who filled in for Sonny on more shows than Sonny performed.
  • July 22, 2018: Victor Willis announced via Facebook that the “Live” from the Greek Theatre show the band did in 1979 for “Live & Sleazy” will be remastered and released as “Village People Live At The Greek Theatre.” No word on if it will include songs left off the heavily edited 1979 release of the live album such as “Go West”, “Village People” and “I Wanna Shake Your Hand.”
  • Village People are scheduled to release A Village People Christmas, the group's first Christmas album, on November 16, 2018, featuring "A Very Merry Christmas", a single previewed in 2017.[28]

In popular culture[edit]

Star Wars characters, a Jawa, Greedo, Chewbacca and an Imperial Stormtrooper, assume the roles of the Village People for the "Y.M.C.A." dance at a Disney "Star Wars Weekends" event in 2007.

Due to their easily recognizable characters, the group have frequently been imitated or parodied in movies, 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 mustache, 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. Examples of homages and parody include an episode of the 1990s CGI show ReBoot, a scene in the 1993 movie Wayne's World 2, a 1993 episode of Married... with Children, the 1997 video for U2's single "Discotheque",[29] a 2000 episode of 3rd Rock From the Sun, and the 2013 movie Despicable Me 2.

In 2006, Village People themselves were featured in an episode of the television series That '70s Show titled "We Will Rock You".[30]


Studio albums[edit]

Title Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)
Village People 54 36 70 29
Macho Man
  • Released: February 1978
  • Label: Casablanca
24 31 21 37
  • Released: September 1978
  • Label: Casablanca
3 5 1 2 1 6 6 5 3 24
Go West
  • Released: March 1979
  • Label: Casablanca
8 14 22 2 14 8 28 4 7 14
Live and Sleazy
  • Released: September 1979
  • Label: Casablanca
32 57 23 13 25
Can't Stop the Music
  • Released: May 1980
  • Label: Casablanca
47 20 4 17 35 9
  • Released: June 1981
  • Label: RCA (US)
    Casablanca (Japan)
138 34
Fox on the Box/In the Street
  • Released: May 1982
  • Label: RCA (US)
    Casablanca (Japan)
Sex Over the Phone 47
"—" Denotes album was not released or failed to chart in that territory.

Compilations and other albums[edit]

  • 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)
  • Village People Live At The Greek Theatre (2018)
  • A Village People Christmas (2018)


Year Single Peak chart positions Certifications Album
1977 "San Francisco" 102 15 9 45 Village People
"In Hollywood (Everybody Is a Star)" 27
1978 "I Am What I Am" 32 Macho Man
"Macho Man" 25 3 16 7
"Y.M.C.A." 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 Cruisin'
1979 "In the Navy" 3 7 1 1 3 2 1 7 2 3 2 Go West
"Go West" 45 12 41 15 29 15
"Ready for the 80's" 52 Live and Sleazy
"Sleazy" 9
1980 "Can't Stop the Music" 1 7 10 18 2 15 11 Can't Stop the Music
"Magic Night" 88
1981 "Do You Wanna Spend the Night" 48 Renaissance
"5 O'Clock in the Morning"
1982 "Action Man"
"Jungle City"
1985 "Sex Over the Phone" 40 59 Sex Over the Phone
"New York City"
1989 "Livin' in the Wildlife" Single release only
"Megamix" 14
1993 "Y.M.C.A. '93 Remix" 96 12 46 12 The Best of Village People
1994 "In the Navy '94 Remix" 42 36
"Far Away in America" 44 Single release only
1999 "Y.M.C.A. Remix" 35
2013 "Let's Go Back to the Dance Floor"
"—" denotes single was not released or failed to chart in that territory.

Songs which reached the Billboard Club Play Singles chart[edit]


Original seven members[edit]

1977 to 1979[edit]

1979 to 1980 [edit]

1995 to 2013[edit]

2013 to 2017[edit]

2017 to 2018[edit]

  • Victor Willis (Cop/Admiral)
  • Angel Morales ("Native American")
  • Sonny Earl (GI)
  • J.J. Lippold (Leather Man)
  • James Kwong (Construction Worker)
  • Chad Freeman (Cowboy)

2018 to present[edit]

  • Victor Willis (Cop/Admiral)
  • Angel Morales ("Native American")
  • James Lee (GI)
  • J.J. Lippold (Leather Man)
  • James Kwong (Construction Worker)
  • Chad Freeman (Cowboy)

Temporary members[edit]

  • 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.
  • Richard Montoya, also replaced David Hodo on some 2008 dates.
  • Angel Morales, filled in for Felipe Rose, from 2008 through 2010.
  • Ray Rodriguez, stand-in for Felipe Rose in 2011–2013.
  • Stephen Hewitt, stood in for Felipe Rose for 12 dates of the North American leg of the 2013 tour.
  • A. J. Perrelli, stand-in for Jeff Olson in 2013. Perrelli died on October 16, 2013 caused by head injury.[55]
  • Pacho Andrews, stand-in for Felipe Rose in 2013.
  • James Logan, stand-in for Sonny Earl in 2017-2018


See also[edit]



  1. ^ Review: Gay Sex in the 70s: [1], 2000
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Spin Magazine Online: Y.M.C.A. (An Oral History) ''". May 27, 2008. Retrieved August 19, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c Village People, Rolling Stone Magazine Vol. 289, April 19, 1979
  5. ^ Straight, No Chaser by Victor Willis, 1990
  6. ^
  7. ^ Vulliamy, Ed (November 12, 2006). "Everyday people". The Guardian. London. Retrieved May 27, 2010.
  8. ^ Village People Bio, Rolling Stone, 2001
  9. ^ IMBD
  10. ^ Juke Magazine February 13, 1985.
  11. ^ Obituary, Glen Hughes, The Guardian, 30 March 2001
  12. ^ Village People's Hughes Dead Rolling Stone; March 13, 2001
  13. ^ Rashbaum, Alyssa (May 11, 2004). "Village People's Cowboy Ropes Himself A Husband – Music, Celebrity, Artist News". MTV. Retrieved August 19, 2011.
  14. ^ Rohter, Larry (May 8, 2012). "Village People Singer Wins a Legal Battle in Fight to Reclaim Song Rights". The New York Times.
  15. ^ "Disco greats team up for TV documentary – MSN TV News". Retrieved February 1, 2014.
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 20, 2003. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
  17. ^ Rohter, Larry (September 10, 2013). "A Copyright Victory, 35 Years Later". The New York Times.
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 20, 2003. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
  19. ^ Eriq Gardner (March 5, 2015). "Jury Decides Village People 'Y.M.C.A.' Songwriter Has 50 Percent Song Share". The Hollywood Reporter.
  20. ^ "Ad of the Day: A Dangerous Disco Ball Ends Up With the Perfect People, Thanks to Letgo". Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  21. ^ "Are They The Real Village People? Behind The Scenes With YOPA – YOPA". October 14, 2016.
  22. ^ Varga, George. "Fresh from out-of-court settlement, Victor Willis set to rejoin Village People".
  23. ^ Can't Stop Productions, Inc. vs. Sixuvus, Ltd., et al, 7:17-cv-06513-CS, Doc. 52 (U.S. District Court Southern District N.Y. 2017).
  24. ^ "Village People Trademark Under Question Amidst Current Aussie Tour". December 16, 2017.
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  29. ^ "U2 – Discotheque (Official Video)". YouTube. September 6, 2012. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  30. ^ ""That '70s Show" We Will Rock You (TV Episode 2006)". IMDb.
  31. ^ a b "Village People in US charts". Billboard. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  32. ^ "Austrian Charts:Village People (albums)". Hung Medien. Retrieved September 7, 2014.
  33. ^ "RPM: Village People (albums)". RPM Magazine. Archived from the original on October 14, 2017. Retrieved September 7, 2014.
  34. ^ " People Albums" (in German). Media Control. Retrieved September 7, 2014.
  35. ^ "GfK Dtch Charts:Village People (albums)". GfK Dutch Charts Hung Medien. Retrieved September 7, 2014.
  36. ^ "New Zealand Charts: Albums – Village People". Hung Medien. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
  37. ^ "Village People in Norwegian charts". Hung Medien. Retrieved September 7, 2014.
  38. ^ "Village People in Swedish charts". Hung Medien. Retrieved September 7, 2014.
  39. ^ a b "UK Official Charts Company Village People". Official Charts Company. Retrieved September 7, 2014.
  40. ^ a b c d e "Certified Awards Search Archived 1 October 2012 at WebCite". 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.
  41. ^ a b c d e f g h " Certifications". Recording Industry Association of America. Archived from the original on September 5, 2013.
  42. ^ a b "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Village People)" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved September 6, 2014.
  43. ^ a b c "Certified Awards Search Archived 17 January 2010 at WebCite". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved on September 6, 2014. 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.
  44. ^ "US Charts". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  45. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  46. ^ Hung, Steffen. "Belgian Charts". Belgium Charts Portal. Hung Medien (Steffen Hung). Retrieved September 6, 2014.
  47. ^ "Canadian Charts". RPM magazine. Retrieved January 6, 2016.
  48. ^ "German Charts" (in German). Media Control. Retrieved September 6, 2014.
  49. ^ "Irish Charts". Irish Charts. Archived from the original on June 3, 2009. Retrieved September 6, 2014.
  50. ^ "Dutch Chart". Dutch Top 100. Retrieved September 6, 2014.
  51. ^ "New Zealand Charts: Song – Village People". Hung Medien. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
  52. ^ "Norwegian Chart". Norwegian-Charts. Retrieved September 6, 2014.
  53. ^ "Swedish Charts". Media Control. Retrieved September 6, 2014.
  54. ^ "The Village People (Hot Dance Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  55. ^ "Village People Sub And Astoria Native, Perrelli, Celebrated Life". Queens Gazette. October 23, 2013. Retrieved July 12, 2014.

External links[edit]