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Gay Disco Music History: Henri Belolo, Co-Founder of the Village People, Dies at 82

Henri Belolo — he’s the one without a costume — with the Village People in an undated photograph. Mr. Belolo and the composer Jacques Morali, a business partner, created the group in 1977 after, he recalled, they “started to fantasize on what were the characters of America.”

Henri Belolo, one of the creative minds behind the Village People, died on Aug. 3 of pancreatic cancer at his home in Paris. He was 82.

Via the New York Times:

Mr. Belolo had been a music producer and executive in Morocco and France in 1977 when one night he and the composer Jacques Morali, his business partner, were at the Anvil, an after-hours gay nightclub in the West Village of Manhattan. They noticed a bartender who doubled as a dancer wearing a headdress and loincloth.

As they watched, the man, Felipe Rose — who was wearing that outfit to honor his Native American father — attracted the attention of a man dressed as a cowboy.

“Jacques and I suddenly had the same idea,” Mr. Belolo told the website Disco-Disco in 2000. “We said, ‘My God, look at those characters.’ So we started to fantasize on what were the characters of America. The mix, you know, of the American man.”

Mr. Belolo, who was straight, and Mr. Morali, who was gay, initially focused on gay listeners as the group’s core audience. They had regularly frequented gay clubs in Manhattan like the Anvil and the Ramrod. Later after the group became popular they packaged the Village People as a “straight group” but everybody.

Jacques Morali, died from complications of AIDS in 1991, believed that he and Mr. Belolo could build hits in gay discos — “Y.M.C.A.” rose to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979; “In the Navy” reached No. 3 that same year; “Macho Man” peaked at No. 25 in 1978.

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is one of America's best known LGBT historians, He is also a a accredited journalist and the owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced on such notable media venues as BBC News, CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The Daily Wall Street Journal, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story. Back2Stonewall has been recently added to the Library of Congress' LGBTQ+ Studies Web Archive. Mr. Kohler is available for comment, interviews and lectures on LGBT History. Contact: Will@Back2Stonewall.com

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1 thought on “Gay Disco Music History: Henri Belolo, Co-Founder of the Village People, Dies at 82”

  1. WOW, I follow David Hodo and respond to many of his comments. I like him very much. This is big news for some of us. May he RIP!
    H.

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