One of the most successful groups of the Disco era, the Village People were undeniably a manufactured novelty act in a genre that spawned many. But no other disco novelty act managed to break into mainstream consciousness to the degree that the Village People did – an achievement is all the more impressive considering the flamboyantly costumed group's grounding in gay culture and its unabashed, albeit lighthearted, use of gay archetypes. Despite this, in their heyday the Village People managed to win acceptance with mainstream audiences, who embraced the group's cartoonish image and such catchy hits as "Y.M.C.A.," "Macho Man" and "In the Navy."
The group was created by French songwriter Jacques Morali and business partner Henri Belolo, who aimed to appeal to disco's gay audience through the tongue-in-cheek use of popular gay fantasy archetypes. They recruited visually appropriate non-singers to fill the characters of cowboy, construction worker, biker, soldier and Native American, along with genuinely soulful lead singer Victor Willis, who co-wrote many of the group's songs, including their biggest hits.
Recording for the Casablanca label, the Village People's early releases achieved initial popularity in dance clubs before going mainstream. The group maintained a high media profile in 1978 and 1979, becoming a familiar presence on TV shows. Willis left in 1980, and was replaced by Ray Simpson (brother of Valerie) in time for the group's feature film debut, in Can't Stop the Music. But the Village People's popularity (and that of Disco in general) had waned substantially by the time the film hit theaters.
In the '80s, the group briefly attempted to reinvent itself as a New Romantic act, but eventually returned to its original image and concentrated on performing its familiar hits. In the years since, the Village People have remained in demand as a live act and continue to tour internationally.