The Village People PhotoFORMED: 1977, New York, NY

Part clever concept, part exaggerated camp act, The Village People were worldwide sensations during disco's heyday and keep reviving like the phoenix. Producer Jacques Morali in 1977 assembled a group designed to attract gay audiences while parodying (some claimed exploiting) that same constituency's stereotypes. He landed a deal with Casablanca, then carefully recruited an appropriate cast of characters. These included go-go dancer Felipe Rose, who was dressed in Native American headdress when first spotted, Alexander Briley, Randy Jones, David Hodo, Glenn Hughes, and Victor Willis, the one group member with some genuine vocal skills.

Songwriters Phil Hurtt and Peter Whitehead were tabbed to compose songs with gay underpinnings, and other roles and costumes were carefully selected; among them were a cowboy, biker, soldier, policeman, and construction worker complete with hard hat. The group clicked first in England with the single "San Francisco (You Got Me)" in 1977, then reaped stateside honors with "Macho Man" in 1978. "Y.M.C.A." and "In the Navy" were worldwide smashes, both peaking at number two on the pop charts. Neither song did as well on the R&B/soul side, with "In the Navy" doing best at number 30. Though a disco band rather than an R&B, soul, or funk unit, The Village People's ranks included at one time or another three solid singers in original lead vocalist Willis, his replacement Ray Simpson, and later Miles Jaye, who took Simpson's place.

After two more successful singles, "Go West" and "Can't Stop the Music," the group's fortunes plummeted, in large part due to their participation in the ill-fated film also titled Can't Stop the Music. They tried a comeback with updated dance-rock material, but flopped. They've resurfaced in the '90s with more new cuts, though they haven't rekindled past success. Jaye became a major figure in Urban Contemporary circles in 1987, and continues recording and performing as a solo vocalist. ~ Ron Wynn, All Music Guide