Village People is one of the most iconic music groups in the world. For 40 years, the music of Village People has put a smile on the faces of fans all around the world. Their hits have become part of the international songbook and heard across the globe in commercials from Pepsi to Wonderful Pistachios. In fact, Y.M.C.A (along with its dance) is featured at almost every party, wedding, bar mitzvah, and sporting event.
It began in 1977 when producer/composer Jacques Morali, along with business partner Henri Belolo, were recording a new album for their group, Ritchie Family, called African Queens. One of the background singers recruited for the album by arranger and conductor Horace Ott was Victor Willis who was performing in the Broadway musical The Wiz. After completing the album, MoraIi approached Willis – this time about another musical project they were planning.
“I had a dream that you sang lead vocals on an album I produced, and it went very, very big,” MoraIi told Willis. “I have four tracks. I can’t pay you much right now but if you agree, I’ll make you a star.” Willis agreed.
Those four tracks, San Francisco (You’ve Got’Me}, In Hollywood (Everyone’s a Star), Fire Island, and Village People were recorded by Willis with professional background singers and released on the debut album Village People in 1977. Initially Village People was simply Victor Willis. The album quickly rose to the top of the dance charts.
Demand for the “Village People” to appear in concert and on television shows like American Bandstand and Merv Griffin was great. The only problem … “Village People” was Victor Willis! This forced Morali, Belolo and Willis to put together an actual group … and quick. One Halloween day, Morali and Belolo had met a guy dressed as a Native American. They eventually recruited him. Willis brought in an actor he’d worked with in a play. They then placed an ad in a trade paper which read: Macho Types Wanted — Must Dance and Have a Moustache. A cowboy, leatherman and construction worker answered the call, and the “all-star” lineup was in place.
Village People become an international phenomenon with the release of their second album, Macho Man. They quickly followed with their third album, the double platinum Cruisin, and embarked on a blockbuster worldwide tour.
With hits like San Francisco/In Hollywood, Macho Man, YMCA, In the Navy and Go West, the group sold more than 100 million records worldwide and earned many awards including the American Music Award-Favorite Musical Group 1979. Village People were featured on the cover of Rolling Stone. After Willis left, the group starred in the 1980 movie Can’t Stop the Music. Willis wrote the lyrics to some of its most memorable tunes, Magic Night and Milk Shake.
Village People hits are featured in dozens of major motion pictures, including Despicable Me 2.
The Broadway hit Priscilla: Queen of the Desert features the Village People tune Go West. Their hits are also heard in casinos around the world in “Village People Party” slot machines. In September 2008, the group received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Over the years, various renditions of Village People have consistently toured the world with replacement lead singers Py Douglas, Miles Jaye, Ray Stephens, and Ray Simpson who performed the longest. Other former members include Glenn Hughes (leatherman), Felipe Rose (Native American), Randy Jones (cowboy), David Hodo (construction worker), Alexander Briley (G.1.), and Jeff Olson (Cowboy).
On the 40th anniversary of the group, the soulful voice of original lead singer Victor Willis will once again thrill concert-goers. With Victor back at the helm, fans can count on a live band and world-class Village People performance.
Village People is: Victor Willis (Cop/Admiral), Angel Morales (Native American), James Kwong (Construction Worker), Chad Freeman (Cowboy), Sonny Earl (G.1.), and Josh Cartier (Leatherman).