Village People is a Disco band that formed New York City, New York, United States in 1977. The group is well known for their outrageous on-stage costumes (the members dressing up as a police officer, an American Indian chief, a construction worker, a soldier, a leatherman (biker) and a cowboy) as for their catchy tunes and suggestive lyrics.
The band was assembled in 1977 and managed by two French musicians, Jacques Morali and Henri Belolo, specifically to showcase and perform their disco music creations. Much like Frank Farian's Boney M. or Spice Girls, the group was manufactured. Despite the French song writers, the songs were all in English.
The band's name references a well-known gay area of New York City, Greenwich Village. Jacques Morali and Henri Belolo got the inspiration for creating an assembly of American man archetypes based on the gay men of the Village who frequently dressed in various fantasy ways. The police officer character is said to have been inspired by an actual Sacramento County (California) Sheriff's Deputy - David Orth.
The United States Navy considered using the Village People hit "In the Navy" in a recruiting advertising campaign on television and radio. They contacted Belolo, who decided to give the rights for free on the condition that the Navy help them shoot the music video. Less than a month later, Village People arrived at the San Diego Naval base. The Navy provided them with a war ship, several airplanes, and hundreds of Navy men. When the video started showing and the Navy started the planned ad campaign, some newspapers protested using taxpayer money to fund music videos (especially for a group considered by some to be "morally dubious"). The Navy quickly cancelled the campaign. The scandal tremendously boosted the popularity of the song.
Other hits include their trademark "Macho Man", "Go West", and "YMCA". More than twenty years later, a dance that involves forming the latter four letters with the dancer's arms and legs is still popular at summer camps, office functions, wedding receptions, school dances, sporting events and B'nai Mitzvahs. In the middle of the seventh inning of each baseball game at Yankee Stadium, the grounds crew take an on-field break from grooming the infield to dance as "YMCA" is played, typically to enthusiastic cheers from the fans.
An interesting fact about the Village People recordings is that all of the background vocals for their best known recordings where provided by 2 session musicians who went on to front notable bands; Bill Champlin from Chicago, and Richard Page (musician) from Mr. Mister.
The group also appeared in their 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 and starring Steve Guttenberg, Valerie Perrine, Bruce Jenner, and Village People. The movie "won" the Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay prizes at the 1980 Golden Raspberry Awards in March 1981 and was nominated in almost all the other categories.
In 1981, with the popularity of disco waning and New Wave music on the rise, Village People replaced their on-stage costumes with a new look inspired by the New Romantic movement, and released the New Wave album Renaissance; it was not a commercial success.Victor Willis returned to the group briefly in late 1981 for the album Fox on the Box, which was released in 1982 only in Europe but did have limited release in the United States in 1983 under the title In the Street. Miles Jaye had briefly taken over for Ray Simpson as lead singer by 1983 and contributed an extra track to In the Street. 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 their Renaissance album. The title track, when released as a single, was banned by the BBC because of its content - credit card dirty phone calls. 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 in 1985.
In 1985, the group took a hiatus but reunited in 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.
In 1994, the Village People joined the German national soccer team to sing its official World Cup '94 theme, "Far Away in America."
Starting in 2004, Village People performed as the opening act for Cher in her Farewell Tour until it ended in April 2005.
From July 18th to July 20th, 2004, Village People performed in Berlin for three shows as an opening act for the German punk band Die Ärzte.
On 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.
In April 2013, Village People recorded "Let's Go Back To The Dance Floor" -- a song written by Harry Wayne Casey (KC & The Sunshine Band) and produced by DJ Julian Marsh.