Where are The Village People now? A look at iconic disco group as ‘Macho Man’ and ‘YMCA’ plays at Trump rallies
The world might have forgotten about the legendary squad but they recently made headlines after their hit single ‘Macho Man’ was played at one of Donald Trump's rallies
We are sure you must have sung the catchy hook tunes of the songs ‘YMCA’ and ‘Macho Man’ several times in your life, but are you aware of the iconic group behind these mega-hits? Well, the American disco troupe Village People is the one which created these iconic songs along with other hits like ‘In the Navy,’ ‘San Francisco,’ and ‘Can’t Stop the Music’ among others. The group which also got famous or their on-stage costumes and groovy tunes have been on the music scene for more than four decades now, during which The Village People witnessed several changes in their line-up as well.
While the legendary squad has receded from the limelight, they recently made headlines after their hit single ‘Macho Man’ was played in the background of the President Donald Trump's rallies and Victor Willis, the only original member still with the group, reacted on the same. ‘Macho Man’ has been played at a lot of POTUS’ events since 2018. The song was released in 1978 and became popular as the gay anthem back in the day.
Since The Village People are in the news again, we take a look at what the band is up to these days. The group has been putting out new music as recently as December 2019, when they dropped the group’s first Christmas single, titled ‘Happiest Time of the Year’ which even made it to number 20 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts, making it the band’s first Top 20 hit in 40 years. Victor Willis, as mentioned earlier, is the only original member with the group currently. He was the very first member of The Village People when he was hired by a French composer/producer named Jacques Morali to sing on an album he'd created. Willis was also known as The Policeman in the band. Currently, Willis is the one, who is steering the group in a new direction.
The original line-up of The Village People consisted of Victor Willis, James Kwong, Chad Freeman, Jeffrey James Lippold, and James Lee.
However, the line-up kept changing throughout the years with many members joining the band and then eventually leaving. Mark Mussler, Dave Forrest, Lee Mouton, Peter Whitehead, Miles Jaye, Ray Stephens, Mark Lee, Randy Jones, Glenn Hughes, G. Jeff Olson, David Hodo, Felipe Rose, Alex Briley, Ray Simpson, Eric Anzalone, Bill Whitefield, Jim Newman, Sonny Earl and Angel Morales have all been part of the band at some point in time.
The band was very much active in the '90s but faded as 2000 arrived. However, The Village People continued to make appearances worldwide and also released a few singles like ‘Gunbalanya’ in 2000 and ‘Loveship 2001’ in 2001 under the name Amazing Veepers.
The Village People witnessed a lot of ups and downs like Willis’s arrest in drug-related charges, line-up changes and fights over royalties and copyrights. According to Chicago Tribune, in 2017, Willis prevailed in his long-running federal lawsuit. He was awarded a share of the group’s lucrative song-writing copyrights and eventually, his claim to The Village People name. In the same year, Willis then came back as a leader of the band with a new group of background singers.
The Village People’s other member Felipe Rose also known as the Native American in the band went for his solo career and released the single ‘Going Back To My Roots’ which was a cover of the 1977 Odyssey’s band dance hit and it even won the Best Dance Record Award at the 2018 Native American Music Awards. Glenn Hughes (leatherman), David Hodo (construction worker) and Randy Jones (cowboy) joined the band in 1978. In October 2013 Bill Whitefield joined as the Construction Worker, a role he had filled in for the group over the years for Hodo who retired.
Leatherman Josh Cartier was replaced by JJ Lippold and GI/Sailor Sonny Earl was replaced by James Lee before the group made their appearance at the Streamys Awards. The Village People then dropped their first studio album in 33 years called ‘A Village People Christmas.’ Unfortunately, The Village People co-creator Henri Belolo died at the age of 82 in August 2019.
The band’s Christmas album was re-released as ‘Magical Christmas’ in November 2019 with two additional tracks. Interestingly, the group again got the world’s attention when their song ‘Macho Man’ was played in the background at one of Trump's rallies in February 2020. At the same time, the band allowed Trump to play the songs at events, despite being flooded with requests from fans urging the band to block the president's use of the music, NBC News reported. In an official Facebook post, the group said, “We have received numerous requests demanding that we prevent or ban President Donald Trump’s use of our songs, particularly ‘YMCA’ and ‘Macho Man.’ Since our music is not being used for a specific endorsement, the President’s use is perfectly legal."
Then in June 2020, Willis, the only original member still with the group, posted on Facebook against the use of his song amid growing protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He had stated, "I ask that you no longer use any of my music at your rallies especially ‘YMCA’ and ‘Macho Man.’ I can no longer look the other way,” as reported by the Independent. As of September 2020, The Village People is confirmed to be featured in the song ‘My Agenda’ from the Dorian Electra album ‘My Agenda.’
You can check the group’s much-discussed song ‘Macho Man’ and 'YMCA' here: