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The Tragic Story of The Village People

The Tragic Story of The Village People

The Village People were perhaps the most entertaining and identifiable of all the disco bands in the late 1970s. The Village People only enjoyed sustained success for fewer than two years; but they made the most of it! Releasing a number of memorable, funny, danceable singles. These included In the Navy, Macho Man, and Y.M.C.A. Any or all of those songs are still nearly always played at gatherings nowadays, even 40 years later.

The members of the Village People were recognizable by their personalities and histories as portrayed by their clothing. These were stereotypes of American manliness. A cowboy, a builder, a leather-clad biker, a Native American, a policeman, and a soldier were among its members. Some of the happiest music ever recorded was created by The Village People. The members of the renowned disco vocal trio, however, suffered severely outside of the costumes and off the stage. Here is a look at the tragic life tales of the Village People

Original member Victor Willis has sued the group more than once.

In addition to being the lead singer of the Village People during their 1970s hit parade, Victor Willis was also one of its songwriters. Willis co-wrote more than a dozen Village People songs with the band’s composers Jacques Morali and Henri Belolo. He consequently held a third of the copyrights (and the resulting royalties) for those songs for many years. However, Willis claimed that the copyright agreements he had signed in the 1970s were legally dubious or unenforceable. He filed a lawsuit in 2011 to obtain 50% of the credit. In that lawsuit, Willis prevailed in 2015, removing Belolo’s name off the credits.

Willis and his old band won a second legal battle in 2017. He was granted ownership of the band’s name despite having left it decades earlier. Willis told the Chicago Tribune he had received something back that was his. A version of the group was still sometimes playing shows all over the world at that time, but after Willis took over, he put an end to that. Every singer in the Village People at the time was sacked by him; including founding member Felipe Rose and Ray Simpson, who succeeded Willis as the policeman.

The Village People movie was a disaster

Few other disco groups had a visual component like The Village People’s members’ stage attire. That someone would create a Village People movie was all but guaranteed. Can’t Stop the Music was a rough account of how the Village People came to be. Steve Guttenberg, a future Hollywood star, took the role of musician Jack Morell. He played an Americanized version of Village People creator Jacques Morali who feverishly rushes about New York on roller skates hoping to be noticed until he joins a group instead.

Some might say that the Village People film was tragic. Can’t Stop the Music failed to draw in a crowd. Only $2 million was made at the box office. Its 1980 release at a time when disco and the Village People were becoming less and less popular could have contributed to this. It could also be related to the fact that everyone agrees that the movie was a failure. The actress Nancy Walker was chosen by the producers to direct the movie. Prior to this, Walker had never directed a theatrical film. Bruce Jenner, who had recently won an Olympic gold medal and is now known as Caitlyn Jenner, is another notable newcomer who tried acting by playing a stuffy businessman.

So just how terrible was Can’t Stop the Music? John Wilson was influenced by it to develop the Razzie Awards, which are given out each year to the worst films. The film took home awards for Worst Screenplay and Worst Picture of the Year at the inaugural presentation. It took home two of the seven categories for which it was nominated.

The Village people were unable to survive the post- disco era

Disco was dead by the early 1980s. The Village People’s standing as pop stars was jeopardized by the disastrous failure of Can’t Stop the Music. The group whose last charting single was the small 1979 success “Ready for the ’80s” had to prove that it could adapt to shifting times and trends. The eighth album by the Village People, Renaissance, was released in 1981. The Village People gave New Wave a shot with songs like “Do You Wanna Spend the Night” and “Food Fight,”. They were composed of rock n’ roll that had been pared down to its essentials, punchier elements, and occasionally keyboards. By this time, New Wave had supplanted disco as the current music trend.

The group also changed how they looked, ditching their trademark stage attire. Instead, they sported slick, retro-inspired outfits of tight trousers, vests, and heavy makeup. The public flatly rejected the band’s admirable endeavor to advance; Renaissance failed to produce any big songs and stagnated at number 138 on the Billboard album chart.

Alex Briley’s Brother was killed in the 9/11 attacks

The Village People, who sprang from the vibrant, underground gay club culture of the 1970s in the Big Apple, are a significant part of the history of the city. One of its many stereotypically macho characters was a G.I. Alex Briley. He occasionally wore a naval uniform following the success of the track “In the Navy,” and also dressed in camouflage fatigues. Beyond the Village People, Briley is tragically and irrevocably linked to another turning point in New York history, one of the many tales that emerged from those tragic days.

The attacks of September 11, 2001 left behind a number of horrifying, unfathomable images. One of these images was one taken by photographer Richard Drew of a man dying as he descended from one of the besieged Twin Towers. As the world processed the events of 9/11, the image, known as “Falling Man,” was reproduced by numerous news sites and entered the cultural lexicon.

The identity of the subject was unknown, but in 2016 Esquire writer Tom Junod discovered the truth: the person was Jonathan Briley. Briley was a worker at the restaurant Windows on the World, which is located atop the World Trade Center. Alex Briley was his brother.

Glenn Hughes passes away from lung cancer.

Fewer people recognize the name “Glenn Hughes” than the label of the persona he played as a member of the Village People for years. He is known as “leatherman” or “the biker.” Hughes wore an all-leather costume (aside from his bare chest), a quirky hat, and one of the best-looking 1970s mustaches after Burt Reynolds. In the 1970s, when homosexuality was not widely acknowledged, discussed, or accepted, the group made numerous allusions to New York’s gay culture. Many of which flew completely over the heads of millions of fans. Jacques Morali, the creator of the Village People, based the persona on visitors to the Mineshaft, a leather bar and sex club in New York.

According to the New York Times, Hughes stayed with the Village People well beyond the group’s disco heyday. He continued to play as the biker in smaller venues and on nostalgia tours. In 1996 he launched on his own and established himself as a fixture on New York’s cabaret scene. Sadly, Hughes’ second act and reinvention didn’t last very long. The Village People singer battled lung cancer until his tragic death in March 2001 at his Manhattan residence. He was fifty years of age.

AIDS claimed the life of one of the group’s creative forces.

Although he wasn’t an official Village People member, Jacques Morali is arguably the most significant figure in the group’s illustrious story. The French-Moroccan songwriter and producer immigrated to the United States in the early 1970s. Shortly after arriving, The Ritchie Family, a band he helped put together, scored a hit with “Brazil.”
He formed a group around Felipe Rose after spotting him dancing in traditional Native American garb in a New York club. He advertised in the press for good-looking gay singers and dancers with mustaches.

Since it was the 1970s, which were comparatively more conservative, homosexuality wasn’t widely acknowledged or discussed. Millions of uninformed listeners at the time didn’t even notice the gay concerns Morali wrote and recorded songs about.

Because Jacques was gay and he believed the LGBTQ community had been treated unfairly he wanted to support LGBT culture. Sadly, Morali was taken by the early HIV/AIDS catastrophe that erupted in that neighborhood in the late 1970s and early 1980s. At age 44, the founder of the band Village People passed away from tragic illness in 1991.

There has been some in-fighting among the Village People

When former bandmates argue, it is always heartbreaking. Especially when it’s due to the fame and money they earned together. Playboy Ivan Wilzig hosts a large party in his huge castle in the affluent Hamptons neighborhood of New York every summer. In 2015, Page Six reported that the celebration was going to be inspired by Studio 54. Wilzig had requested the group’s cowboy to perform at the event. However, he later added Native American Village People member Felipe Rose to the invitation list. According to a source familiar with the matter, Rose told Wilzig that he would have to pick between him and the cowboy. The reason was he didn’t want to share the spotlight with Jones. Wilzig went with the cowboy.

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