Part clever concept, part exaggerated camp act, the Village People were worldwide sensations during disco‘s heyday and seemed to keep reviving like the phoenix.
French disco producer Jacques Morali assembled the group in April 1977 designed to attract gay audiences while parodying – some would say exploiting – gay stereotypes. He landed the record deal with Casablanca first and then set about carefully recruiting an appropriate cast.
These included go-go dancer Felipe Rose, who was dressed in American Indian headdress when first spotted, Alex Briley, Randy Jones, David Hodo, Glenn Hughes and Victor Willis (the one group member with some genuine vocal skills).
Songwriters Phil Hurtt and Peter Whitehead were engaged to compose songs with gay underpinnings, and other roles and costumes were carefully selected; among them a cowboy, a leatherman biker, a soldier, a policeman and a construction worker complete with hard hat.
The self-titled debut album was released in July 1977. The songs hit in the gay discos but couldn’t break out of them.
The group clicked first in England with the single San Francisco (You Got Me) in 1977, then repeated stateside honours with Macho Man in 1978.
YMCA and In The Navy were worldwide smashes, both peaking at #2 on the US charts. The US Navy even considered using In The Navy as a recruitment song until its full implications were pointed out.
Their third album, Cruisin’ (1979), went double platinum (2 million LPs sold in the US) and yanked the year-old Macho Man back to best-selling life again.
Although Village People were very much a disco band, their ranks included at one time or another, three solid R&B singers in original lead vocalist Willis, his replacement Ray Simpson and, later, Miles Jaye.
After two more successful singles, Go West and Can’t Stop The Music, the group’s fortunes plummeted, in some part due to their participation in the ill-fated movie also titled Can’t Stop The Music (1980) – a fictional account of the band’s rise to fame.
They tried a comeback with updated dance-rock material and an 80s New Romantic image but flopped.
Occasional Village People retro gigs still occur from time to time around the world.
Jacques Morali died of an AIDS-related illness in 1991.
Vocals (Cop 1)
Vocals (American Indian)
Vocals (Leatherman biker 2)
Vocals (Construction Worker 2)
Vocals (Cowboy 2)
Vocals (Cop 2)
Vocals (Cop 3)
Vocals (Construction Worker 1)
Vocals (Cowboy 1)
Vocals (Leatherman biker 1)