|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)||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.
Victor Willis, lead singer and lyricist, recalls that while in the studio, Morali 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'.
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. In a landmark ruling in 2012, the United States District Court for the Southern District of California ruled that 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. On March 4, 2015, it was determined that the sole writers of the song are Morali and Willis and the name Belolo has been removed. Willis now owns 50% of the song previously credited to Belolo.
Taken at face value, the song's 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, said through his publicist that he did not write "Y.M.C.A." 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." In a 2008 retrospective article for Spin, Randy Jones has opined that the dance may have originated as a misunderstanding: The group's original choreographed dance had the group clapping above their heads during the chorus and he believes that the audience, believing them to be making the letter "Y", began following suit.
Following the fifth inning of New York Yankees baseball games 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
- Billy Connolly's 1979 recording "In the Brownies" is a spoof of both this song and the Village People's "In the Navy".
- In 1994, the duo of 2 Live Jews did a parody of the song as "What did you say?", which was about a young man, who could not hear what was being said from the older man. It came from the album "Disco Jews" (1994).
- 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 makes fun of irresponsible financial management of the largest bank in Slovenia Nova Ljubljanska banka (NLB), causing a severe long lasting financial and economic crisis of Slovenia.
- On March 2, 2013, during the opening monologue on Saturday Night Live, Jay Pharoah 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.
- On the children's show Sesame Street, Oscar the Grouch sings the song "Stretch, Wiggle, Yay!" at his trash can, while his worm, Slimey and his worm friends do their daily workout. "Stretch, Wiggle, Yay!" spoofs "Y.M.C.A.".
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- "Nederlandse Top 40 – Village People search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
- "Dutchcharts.nl – Village People – Y.M.C.A." (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
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- John Samson. "Y.M.C.A. in South African Chart". Retrieved 3 June 2013.
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- http://www.sloninsadez.com/ Official Slon in Sadež website. Retrieved 2014-01-19.
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- "‘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.
- Stretch, Wiggle, Way!
|Original 1978 music video|
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|Australian Kent Music Report number one single (Village People version)
December 25, 1978 – January 22, 1979
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|UK number one single (Village People version)
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January 27 – February 3, 1979
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