When Victor Willis, original Village People lead singer, returned to the group last year, fans waited for an announcement of new material from Willis who wrote lyrics of such iconic hits as “Y.M.C.A.,” “Go West,” “Macho Man,” and “In The Navy.” Many assumed the Village People would release a new dance tune, after all, they are one of the biggest party bands on the face of the planet. Instead, Willis introduced the group to a new holiday song written and produced by him, titled “A Very Merry Christmas To You”. The first Christmas song ever recorded by Village People.
“We were surprised when Victor informed us the first of our new material would be a holiday song. But once he hummed the melody, we all felt the song had the potential to become a yearly favorite”
says James Lee, Village People G.I.
A version of the song had a limited test run last year to a handful of radio stations as the group went on to perform in the televised Hollywood Christmas Parade. Radio stations immediately clamored for service of the initial but unfinished version. Now finished, re-mixed and mastered, “A Very Merry Christmas To You,” is being officially released worldwide this holiday season.
The complete album titled “A Village People Christmas” features nine original holiday songs written by Victor Willis. The full album is scheduled for release November 14th which will include ballads and dance tracks with a music video to be released on November 16th.
“It’s a catchy and wholesome song which we incorporate a children’s choir for the hook. These voices blended with the group gives the song a warm holiday feeling”
states Victor Willis, Village People lead singer
Village People is one of the most iconic groups in the world and are known for their distinctive characters and costumes. Their hits include the mega-hit “Y.M.C.A.,” “Macho Man,” “Go West,” and “In The Navy,” to name a few. The group who’s celebrating their 40th anniversary throughout 2019 has sold over 100 million records and they continue to tour the world. A major push is planned for the single including promotional appearances, television and radio interviews.
ABOUT THE VILLAGE PEOPLE:
Village People is one of the most iconic music groups in the world. Their music has become part of the international songbook. The group’s hits are featured in dozens of major motion pictures, on Broadway, in commercials and in “Village People Party” slot machines. Of course, Y.M.C.A (along with its dance) is played at almost every party, wedding, bar mitzvah, and sporting event in the universe.
It began in 1977 when producer Jacques Morali and his business partner Henri Belolo (known as Can’t Stop Productions) were recording a new album for their hit group the Ritchie Family. They needed background singers. Horace Ott, the arranger/conductor who was working with them, suggested Victor Willis, a singer who Ott was working with on a solo album and who was performing in the Broadway musical The Wiz. After Willis completed background on the album, Morali approached him about another musical project he and Belolo were planning which turned out to be Village People.
“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 and the rest is history. Those initial four tracks, San Francisco (You’ve Got Me), In Hollywood (Everyone’s a Star), Fire Island, and Village People, were recorded by Willis under the auspices of “Village People” with use of professional background singers, and released as the group’s debut album in 1977. The album quickly climbed to the top of the dance charts and became an international hit.
Demand for “Village People” to appear in concert and on television shows like American Bandstand and Merv Griffin was great. The only problem … “Village People” was Victor Willis! So Morali, Belolo and Willis had to put together an actual group … and quick. Morali and Belolo had already met Felipe Rose who dressed as a Native American. They recruited him. Willis hand picked Alex Briley, who he’d previously worked with in a musical.
The quickly assembled original lineup which appeared with Victor (dressed as a disco king) on American Bandstand consisted of seven members: Mark Mussler (Construction Worker), David Forrest (Cowboy), Lee Mouton (Leatherman), Peter Whitehead (nondescript), Felipe Rose (Indian), and Alex Briley (nondescript). After that appearance, an ad was placed in a trade paper for new members which read: Macho Types Wanted for World-Famous Disco Group — Must Dance and Have a Moustache. Randy Jones, Glenn Hughes and David Hodo answered the call, and the six member classic lineup was soon in place. Casablanca Records and Filmworks, the group’s label, having had success with the first release, got behind the second album Macho Man with full promotion and marketing. Village People became an international phenomenon and quickly followed with their third album, the 5x-platinum Cruisin (which featured the blockbuster hit Y.M.C.A.). They embarked on a worldwide tour in 1979 to coincide with the release of their fourth album, Go West.
The group has received many honors and awards, including the American Music Award for Favorite Musical Group, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone. After Willis exited in late 1979, several replacement singers took over as lead singer of the group, including Ray Stephens, Miles Jaye and Raymond Simpson (who served the longest). The group went on to star in the 1980 Razzy Award-winning movie Can’t Stop the Music. Over the years, various renditions of the group have consistently toured the world along with original members Felipe Rose and Alex Briley, including Raymond Simpson (cop), Jeff Olson (cowboy), Mark Lee (Construction Worker), Bill Whitefield (Construction Worker), Eric Anzalone (Biker), and James Newman (Cowboy). The group has sold more than 100 million records worldwide and continues to break records. In 2004 BMI recognized Y.M.C.A. as exceeding one million airplays. In 2017, Y.M.C.A. made UK’s Official Millionaires Chart – songs that have reached 1 million in combined sales/streams.
For the group’s 40th anniversary, Victor Willis returned and is back at the helm. Backed by a live band (no pre-recorded tracks!), Village People continues to thrill concert-goers around the world — as they did back in the day. Village People is: Victor Willis (Cop/Admiral), Angel Morales (Native American), James Kwong (Construction Worker), Chad Freeman (Cowboy), James Lee (G.I.), and James J.J. Lippold (Leatherman).