French music producer Jacques Morali, creator of the Village People, succumbed to AIDS in Paris on November 15, 1991 at the age of 44. Besides the Village People, Morali also wrote classic disco hits for the all-female group the Ritchie Family, including Best Disco in Town, Life Is Music and African Queens. Morali died one week after Magic Johnson announced he was HIV+ and a week-and-a-half before Queens' Freddie Mercury died of AIDS.
Part of the burgeoning gay scene of the late '70s, The Village People were embraced by gay men with the release of their song San Francisco/Hollywood. Despite lyrics filled with gay double entendres they crossed over to the general market, which got a kick out of the group's "camp pop". First came Macho Man followed by the ubiquitous YMCA, which spent three weeks at #2 on Billboard's Hot 100 in the winter of 1979. Their third album Go West was released in the spring and the single In the Navy went to #3. Rolling Stone Magazine even put them on its cover. However, overexposure soon ensued and the group "jumped the shark" in 1980 with their embarrassingly bad movie Can't Stop the Music.
The late '70s happened to be my formative coming-out years. I bought the Village People's eponymous first album (right) during the spring of my junior year at Penn State. I'd get a frisson of excitement listening to the lyrics of songs such as Key West and Fire Island - places I'd yet to experience. The dorm complex I lived at in University Park was where many members of the football team lived and some on my floor occasionally asked to borrow this LP for parties.
Unfortunately, Village People videos from You Tube aren't available for sharing but here's one of the Ritchie Family performing African Queens. From it you can see/hear the origins of the Village People sound/costuming.