A novelty act created by a French music producer to attract gay audiences, The Village People was expected to be a fad with all the staying power of “Disco Duck.” Thirty-six year later, though, the singing cowboy, biker, soldier, policeman, and construction worker are still inspiring people at fairs, festivals, universities and casinos around the world to smile while doing the "Y.M.C.A."
On Independence Day, The Village People will be performing with opening act The Guess Who at a free concert sponsored by the City of Palmetto at Sutton Park Pavilion. Thousands are expected to celebrate in Manatee County while the band plays the disco faves "Macho Man," "In the Navy" "San Francisco (You Got Me)," "Go West," "Can't Stop the Music," and, yes, the dance routine-inspiring "Y.M.C.A."
“We just try and keep it fun and try to put ourselves into every song,” said Ray Simpson, the group’s cop and lead singer, during a phone interview. “There’s something kind of contagious about performing for someone; it changes their spirit. That’s our aim, taking people and elevating them so they’re a little bit happier when they walk out the door.”
Simpson did backup vocals for numerous acts including The Village People but had no idea he would land the role of the cop when original lead singer Victor Willis left around 1980.
“Are you kidding me?” Simpson said with a laugh. “It was a surprise. I had done some work with the group and knew everybody but that’s the funny thing with the music business, you never know when you’ll get that call. Being with The Village People, anything can happen – one day nothing, and the next a call to play Paris or Tokyo. It’s pretty exciting.”