45 years of the Village People’s ‘YMCA’, the first great gay anthem in history

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If there is a song that is directly associated with homosexual themes, it is YMCA., the immortal theme of the Village People. It was published in November 1978 and It was the only single from their third studio album Cruisin. The group was born in New York in 1977 and, among other things, was characterized by its costumes and the infectious rhythm of its songs.

Its creators, the French producers Jacques Morali, They assembled a group whose objective was to attract the gay public, parodying the stereotypes of the group. It was, therefore, a planned and studied project. Its original members were: Víctor Willis (the policeman), Felipe Rose (the Indian), David Hodo (the worker), Alex Briley (the soldier), Glenn Hughes (the motorcyclist) and Randy Jones (the cowboy). Its name refers to the New York district of Greenwich Village.a key area for the homosexual liberation movement.

The song corresponds to the acronym of Young Men’s Christian Association, an ancient Christian association that provides temporary housing for young men. The Village People they sing about YMCA. like a place where you can hang out with guys. Implicitly, the song talks about a place where young homosexuals meet covertly.. There they can relax, forget about worries and problems, and relax. Although the lyrics do not specifically contain any gay allusions, The song became one of the best-known homosexual anthems.

After what YMCA. debuted on the list in February 1979, just one week later, on March 3, 1979, it had already reached No. 1 on Los 40. She held the top spot for two consecutive weeks. That same year, Village People The list re-entered with other songs: in the navy (no. 14) and go west (no. 20). Previously, the American group had also entered the list with male manin 1978.

The Village People: Randy Jones (the cowboy); David Hodo (the worker); Felipe Rose (the Indian); Victor Willis (the policeman); Glenn Hughes (the biker) and Alexander Briley (the soldier). / (CBS Archive/Getty Images)

A song composed in 20 minutes

Randy Jones (the cowboy) explained this to the magazine Spin how was born YMCA.: “When I moved to New York in 1975, I joined the McBurney YMCA. In 1977, he took Morali there on three or four occasions. She loved it. He was fascinated by this place where a person could weight-train, play basketball, swim, take classes and get a room. Plus, I had a lot of friends there who worked in the adult film industry. As Jacques was gay, he was impressed to meet people he had seen in videos and magazines.. Those visits with me inspired him, and that’s how it came about YMCA..

Initially, Village People used YMCA..as a filler for your album. David Hodo told it like this in Spin: “We had finished our third album and needed one more song to fill out. Jacques wrote YMCA in about 20 minutes: the melody, the choruses, the outline. He then gave it to Victor Willis and ordered him to complete the rest. I was a little skeptical about some of our hits, but the moment I heard YMCA I knew there was something special because it sounded like an advertisement. And everyone likes ads”.

Regarding the homosexual theme of the song, Hodo is clear: “Certainly, YMCA. He has a gay origin. That’s what Jacques was thinking when he composed it.. There was nothing more to see. We were a gay group. So was the song written to celebrate that association of gay men? Yes absolutely. And gay people love it”.

Village People, during their 1983 tour, in Sydney.

Village People, during their 1983 tour, in Sydney. / (Russell Mcphedran/Fairfax Media via Getty Images).

Is it or isn’t it a gay-themed song?

However, the author of the lyrics, Víctor Willis insists that “it’s not a gay song” and? the phrase “you can hang out with all the boys” is inspired by his youth, when he played basketball with his friends at the YMCA: “I wanted to write a song that could adapt to any lifestyle,” he stated in an interview. And he added: “I feel happy that the gay community has adopted it as an anthem. I don’t feel any qualms about it.”.

Village People became the flagship group of the gay movement of the 70s, and there is a widespread misconception that all the members were homosexuals. In reality, only Felipe Rose (the Indian) and Randy Jones (the cowboy) were. Jacques Morali, creator of the group, was homosexual and formed the picture of Village People according to his vision, with stereotypes associated with the LGTBI community of the time.

The song has a famous associated dance in which people form the four letters of the song title with their arms. It is enormously popular and Village People He popularized these dance moves during his concerts. Sometimes the group gave instructions for the audience to do it correctly.

A censored video clip

The video of YMCA. It was filmed in New York and the band appears singing and dancing throughout the city. Some scenes were shot outside the YMCA headquarters on 14th Street. Other locations seen include West Side Piers and Hudson River Park. It ends with a zoom of the Empire State. At that time, 1978, it was exceptional for American groups to make videos, because MTV did not exist.. In Europe, however, there were many platforms that spread them, and that is where Village People got the largest number of viewers. When MTV was born in 1981, they aired a lot of clips from British groups and a few from American bands. However, Village People, supposedly, it didn’t fit its format.

On the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the song reached number 2 in early 1979. It did not reach the top position because it was prevented from doing so. Le Freak Chic and Do you think I’m sexy? by Rod Stewart. Outside the United States, YMCA. It did reach first place in many countries. It was especially popular in the United Kingdom, where it remained at the top for three weeks, and in Australia, a country that became the group’s stronghold. In Spain, its highest position on the best-seller list was No. 4.. It is one of the few singles that has exceeded 10 million physical copies worldwide.

Village People, at the awards at the 1993 MTV Movie Awards.

Village People, at the awards at the 1993 MTV Movie Awards. / (Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)

In 2009, YMCA. entered the Guinness World Records after more than 44,000 people danced to the song with Village People singing live at the 2008 ‘Sun Bowl’ game.


Written by

Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson is a dedicated writer and key contributor to the WECB website, Emerson College's student-run radio station. Passionate about music, radio communication, and journalism, Christopher pursues his craft with a blend of meticulous research and creative flair. His writings on the site cover an array of subjects, from music reviews and artist interviews to event updates and industry news. As an active member of the Emerson College community, Christopher is not only a writer but also an advocate for student involvement, using his work to foster increased engagement and enthusiasm within the school's radio and broadcasting culture. Through his consistent and high-quality outputs, Christopher Johnson helps shape the voice and identity of WECB, truly embodying its motto of being an inclusive, diverse, and enthusiastic music community.