For 40 years, the music of Village People has been putting smiles on the faces of fans all around the world. Their hits have become part of the international songbook – and heard in commercials from Pepsi to Wonderful Pistachios. In fact, the iconic 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, 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, Morali and Belolo again 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,” Morali 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. Essentially, Village People initially was simply Victor Willis. The album quickly rose to the top of the dance charts.