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Village People

Village People
From left: Randy Jones, Glenn Hughes, Felipe Rose, Victor Willis, David Hodo, Alex Briley in 1978
Background information
Origin New York City, New York, U.S.
Genres Disco
Years active 1977–1985, 1987-present
Labels Casablanca, Black Scorpio, RCA, Polygram
Website .com.officialvillagepeoplewww
Members Felipe Rose
Alex Briley
Ray Simpson
Eric Anzalone
Bill Whitefield
Jim Newman
Past members Victor Willis
Randy Jones
Glenn Hughes
Ray Stephens
Mark Lee
Miles Jaye
G. Jeff Olson
David Hodo
Alec Timerman

Village People is an American disco group that formed in 1977, well known for their on-stage costumes depicting American masculine 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,[1] the band's popularity quickly brought them into the mainstream. The group scored a number of disco and dance hits, including "Macho Man", "Go West", the classic club medley of "San Francisco (You've Got Me) / In Hollywood", "In the Navy", and their greatest hit, "Y.M.C.A.". They have sold upwards of 100 million records world-wide.[2]


  • History 1
    • 1977–1979 1.1
    • 1980–1985 1.2
    • 1990s–present 1.3
  • Popular culture 2
  • Discography 3
    • Studio albums 3.1
    • Compilations and other albums 3.2
    • Singles 3.3
    • Songs which reached on the Billboard Club Play Singles chart 3.4
  • Lineup 4
    • Original Village People (7 Members) 4.1
    • Temporary "People" 4.2
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7



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.[3]

It became a hit 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.[4] 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."[3]

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.[3]

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.[5] 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.[6]

"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.[7]

The group's fame peaked during 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 during 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 success 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.[8] 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.

During 1981, with the popularity of disco having decreased and new wave music becoming more popular, 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 successes.

Victor Willis returned to the group briefly during late 1981 for the album Fox on the Box, which was released during 1982 in Europe and during 1983 in the United States under the title In the Street. Ray Simpson left the group during 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 during 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 telephone calls.[9] 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 during 1985.

During 1985, the group took a hiatus but reunited during 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.[10]


Village People receive their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame September 12, 2008. L to R (front row: David Hodo, Felipe Rose, Jeff Olson / back row: Ray Simpson, Alex Briley, Eric Anzalone.
  • 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.[11]
  • 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.[12]
  • 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.[13]
  • 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.[14]
  • 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.[15]
  • September 13, 2013: Victor Willis begins to recapture his 33% share of songs he co-wrote.[16]
  • October 2013: Bill Whitefield replaces David Hodo as the Construction Worker.[17]

Popular culture

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 weekend event during 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 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.

The song "In the Navy" was featured in an episode of The Muppet Show and The Simpsons, the latter featuring several members' likenesses dancing in a brief scene as the song is played.

In the movie 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 police officer, 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.

During 1995, a parody of the Village People was seen on the

In the 1997 U2 video for their single "Discotheque," the band members dressed up like the Village People and did a parody of their dance moves at the near-end.[18]

During 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.

During 2006, Village People were featured in an episode of the television series That '70s Show 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.[19]

During 2013, the movie 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 (albeit in their gibberish language) and they all started to party.


Studio albums

Title Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)
US Bill
Village People 54 36 70 29
  • CAN: Platinum[29]
  • US: Gold[30]
Macho Man
  • Released: February 1978
  • Label: Casablanca Records
24 31 21 37
  • CAN: 3x Platinum[29]
  • US: Platinum[30]
  • Released: September 1978
  • Label: Casablanca Records
3 5 1 2 1 6 6 5 3 24
  • CAN: 4x Platinum[29]
  • GER: Gold[31]
  • US: Platinum[30]
Go West
  • Released: March 1979
  • Label: Casablanca Records
8 14 22 2 14 8 28 4 7 14
  • CAN: 3x Platinum[29]
  • UK: Gold[32]
  • US: Platinum[30]
Live and Sleazy
  • Released: September 1979
  • Label: Casablanca Records
32 57 23 13 25
  • CAN: Platinum[29]
  • US: Gold[30]
Can't Stop the Music
  • Released: May 1980
  • Label: Casablanca Records
47 20 4 17 35 9
  • Released: June 1981
  • Label: Casablanca Records
138 34
Fox on the Box/In the Street
  • Released: May 1982
  • Label: Casablanca Records
Sex Over the Phone 47
"—" Denotes single was not released or failed to chart in that territory.

Compilations and other albums

  • 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 Chart Position Certifications Album
1977 "San Francisco" 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 7
  • US: Gold[30]
"Y.M.C.A." 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 1
  • GER: Gold[31]
  • UK: Platinum[32]
  • US: Platinum[30]
1979 "In the Navy" 3 7 1 3 7 1 7 2 3 2
  • UK: Silver[32]
  • US: Gold[30]
Go West
"Go West" 45 12 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"
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
"—" Denotes single was not released or failed to chart in that territory.

Songs which reached on the Billboard Club Play Singles chart


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
1983–1984 Miles Jaye
1985 Ray Stephens
1986 Group disbanded
1987–1991 Ray Simpson Felipe Rose Alex Briley David Hodo Randy Jones Glenn Hughes
1991–1995 G. Jeff Olson
1995–2013 Eric Anzalone
2013 Jim Newman
2013–present Bill Whitefield

Original Village People (7 Members)

Temporary "People"

  • 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.[17]
  • 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.[43][44][45]
  • Pacho Andrews stand-in for Felipe Rose during 2013.

See also


  1. ^ "Spin Magazine Online: Y.M.C.A. (An Oral History) ''". May 27, 2008. Retrieved August 19, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Village People - The Official Site". Retrieved August 19, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c Village People, Rolling Stone Magazine Vol. 289, April 19, 1979
  4. ^ Review: Gay Sex in the 70s: [1], 2000
  5. ^ Village People Official Tour Program, 1979, Can't Stop Productions
  6. ^ Straight, No Chaser by Victor Willis, 1990
  7. ^ Vulliamy, Ed (November 12, 2006). "Everyday people". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 27, 2010. 
  8. ^ IMBD
  9. ^ Juke Magazine February 13, 1985.
  10. ^ Obituary, Glen Hughes,The Guardian, Friday 30 March 2001
  11. ^ Village People's Hughes Dead Rolling Stone; March 13, 2001
  12. ^ Rashbaum, Alyssa (May 11, 2004). "Village People's Cowboy Ropes Himself A Husband - Music, Celebrity, Artist News". MTV. Retrieved August 19, 2011. 
  13. ^ Rohter, Larry (May 8, 2012). "Village People Singer Wins a Legal Battle in Fight to Reclaim Song Rights". The New York Times. 
  14. ^ "Disco greats team up for TV documentary - MSN TV News". Retrieved February 1, 2014. 
  15. ^ [2]
  16. ^ Rohter, Larry (September 10, 2013). "A Copyright Victory, 35 Years Later". The New York Times. 
  17. ^ a b [3]
  18. ^ "U2 - Discotheque (Official Video)". YouTube. 2012-09-06. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  19. ^ "That '70s Show" We Will Rock You (TV episode 2006) - IMDb
  20. ^ a b "Village People in US charts". Retrieved 2014-08-25. 
  21. ^ "Austrian Charts:Village People (albums)". Hung Medien. Retrieved 2014-09-07. 
  22. ^ "RPM: Village People (albums)". RPM Magazine. Retrieved 2014-09-07. 
  23. ^ " People Albums" (in German).  
  24. ^ "GfK Dtch Charts:Village People (albums)". GfK Dutch Charts Hung Medien. Retrieved 2014-09-07. 
  25. ^ " Village People". Hung Medien. Retrieved 2014-09-07. 
  26. ^ "Village People in Norwegian charts". Hung Medien. Retrieved 2014-09-07. 
  27. ^ "Village People in Swedish charts". Hung Medien. Retrieved 2014-09-07. 
  28. ^ a b "UK Official Charts Company Village People". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2014-09-07. 
  29. ^ a b c d e "Certified Awards Search". Music Canada. Retrieved on 2012-01-15. 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.
  30. ^ a b c d e f g h " Certifications".  
  31. ^ a b "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Village People)" (in German).  
  32. ^ a b c "Certified Awards Search". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved on 06 September 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.
  33. ^ "US Charts".  
  34. ^ Kent, David (1993).  
  35. ^ Hung, Steffen. "Belian Charts". Belgium Charts Portal. Hung Medien (Steffen Hung). Retrieved 2014-09-06. 
  36. ^ "German Charts" (in German).  
  37. ^ "Irish Charts". Irish Charts. Retrieved 2014-09-06. 
  38. ^ "Dutch Chart". Dutch Top 100. Retrieved 2014-09-06. 
  39. ^ [village "New Zealand Chart"] . Retrieved 2014-09-06. 
  40. ^ "Norwegian Chart". Norwegian-Charts. Retrieved 2014-09-06. 
  41. ^ "Swedish Charts".  
  42. ^ "The Village People awards".  
  43. ^ "Queens, NY " Queens Our City Radio Sends Thoughts & Prayers To Village People's AJ Perrelli From Astoria". July 24, 2013. Retrieved February 1, 2014. 
  44. ^ "Queens, NY " Queens Our City Radio Sends Our Condolences Out to the Family & Friends of Village People's AJ Perelli". October 18, 2013. Retrieved February 1, 2014. 
  45. ^ "Village People Sub And Astoria Native, Perrelli, Celebrated Life". Queens Gazette. 2013-10-23. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 

External links

  • Official website of the Village People
  • Village People at Rolling Stone
  • Official website of original lead singer Victor Willis
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