Y.M.C.A. (song)

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"Y.M.C.A."
Single by Village People
from the album Cruisin'
ReleasedNovember 13, 1978
Format7", 12"
RecordedSigma Sound Studios,
New York City; 1978
GenreDisco
Length4:48 (Album Version)
3:46 (Single Version)
LabelCasablanca Records
Writer(s)Henri Belolo, Jacques Morali, Victor Willis
ProducerJacques Morali
Village People singles chronology
"Macho Man"
(1978)
"Y.M.C.A."
(1978)
"Go West"
(1979)
Music video
"Y.M.C.A." (Official) on YouTube
 
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"Y.M.C.A."
Single by Village People
from the album Cruisin'
ReleasedNovember 13, 1978
Format7", 12"
RecordedSigma Sound Studios,
New York City; 1978
GenreDisco
Length4:48 (Album Version)
3:46 (Single Version)
LabelCasablanca Records
Writer(s)Henri Belolo, Jacques Morali, Victor Willis
ProducerJacques Morali
Village People singles chronology
"Macho Man"
(1978)
"Y.M.C.A."
(1978)
"Go West"
(1979)
Music video
"Y.M.C.A." (Official) on YouTube

"Y.M.C.A." is a song recorded by American disco group Village People. It was released in 1978 as the only single from the album Cruisin'. The song reached No. 2 on the U.S. charts in early 1979 and reached No.1 in the UK around the same time, becoming the group's biggest hit. It is one of fewer than forty singles to have sold 10 million (or more) copies worldwide.

The song remains popular and is played at many sporting events in the U.S. and Europe. It is frequently played during breaks in the action at sporting events with crowds using the dance as an opportunity to stretch. Moreover, the song also remains particularly popular due to its status as a disco classic and gay anthem, even among listeners who are otherwise uninvolved in disco or gay culture. It is also known to be a favorite at weddings and school dances. A popular dance in which the arms are used to spell out the four letters of the song's title may have much to do with this. YMCA appeared as Space Shuttle Wakeup call on mission STS-106, on day 11.[1] In 2009, YMCA was entered into the Guinness World Book of Records when over 44,000 people danced to the song with Village People singing live at the Sun Bowl game in Texas. "Y.M.C.A." is number 7 on VH1's list of The 100 Greatest Dance Songs of the 20th Century.

Contents

Content

Taken at face value, its lyrics extol the virtues of the Young Men's Christian Association. In gay culture from which the group sprang, the song was implicitly understood as celebrating the YMCA's reputation as a popular cruising and hookup spot, particularly for the younger gay men to whom it was addressed.[2] However, Victor Willis, Village People lead singer and writer of the lyrics, insists that he did not write YMCA as a gay anthem (Willis is heterosexual). Rather, Willis said he wrote the song as a reflection of young urban black youth fun at the YMCA such as basketball and swimming. That said, Willis has often acknowledged his fondness for double entendre. Willis says that he wrote the song in Vancouver, British Columbia.[3]

Song structure

The song, played in the key of F-sharp major, begins with a brass riff, backed by the constant pulse that typified disco. Many different instruments are used throughout for an overall orchestral feel, another disco convention, but it is brass that stands out.

As with other Village People hits, the lead vocals are handled by Willis and the background vocals are supplied by Willis and professional background singers. The distinctive vocal line features the repeated "Young man!" ecphonesis followed by Willis singing the verse lines. The background vocals join in throughout the song.

History

Executive producer Henri Belolo recalls that he saw the YMCA sign while walking down the street with composer Jacques Morali, who seemed to know the institution fairly well: "Henri, let me tell you something. This is a place where a lot of people go when they are in town. And they get good friends and they go out." And Henri got the idea: "Why don't we write a song about it?" However, Willis recalls it was actually Morali who, while in the studio, asked him, "What exactly is the YMCA?" Willis then quickly wrote the famous lyrics and melody and it was the last track created for the album Cruisin'.

Upon its release, the YMCA threatened to sue the band over trademark infringement and concerns about the song's double entendres. The organization ultimately dropped the lawsuit when it noticed that membership significantly increased in the wake of the song's popularity. Today, the YMCA is happy to be associated with the song and sees it as a positive public representation.[citation needed]

The song became a number one hit throughout the world (although not in the United States where it lost to Rod Stewart's "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?"). It has remained popular at parties, sporting events, weddings and functions ever since.

In 2011, Willis filed a notice of copyright termination to the song as lyricist under the Copyright Act of 1976 which allows recording artists and writers to reclaim their master recordings and publishing rights initially granted to record companies and publishers.

In a landmark ruling in 2012, the United States District Court for the Southern District of California ruled that Victor Willis can terminate his copyrights granted to the publishers Can't Stop Productions and Scorpio Music because "a joint author who separately transfers his copyright interest may unilaterally terminate the grant."[4] YMCA and other hits written by Willis (for Village People and other Can't Stop acts) will revert back to him beginning in 2013. At a minimum, Willis will own (recapture) 33% of his songs; this percentage may increase to 50% if the songs are proved to be written solely by Willis and Jacques Morali, with no contribution from Henri Belolo.[5]

Origin of hand movement and dance

The YMCA dance demonstrated in a photomontage. In this rendition, the M (second from left) is done in a popular variant.
Members of the grounds crew of Yankee Stadium pause to do the YMCA dance.

YMCA is also the name of a group dance with cheerleader Y-M-C-A choreography invented to fit the song. One of the phases involves moving arms to form the letters Y-M-C-A as they are sung in the chorus:

Y —arms outstretched and raised upwards
M —made by bending the elbows from the 'Y' pose so the fingertips meet over the chest[6]
C —arms extended to the left
A —hands held together above head

The dance originated on Dick Clark's American Bandstand. During the January 6, 1979 episode, which featured the Village People as guests throughout the hour, the dance was performed by audience members while the group performed "YMCA." Clark then said to Willis that he would like to show him something. Clark again played the song with the audience doing the YMCA hand gestures. Willis immediately picked up on the dance and mimicked the hand movements back at the audience as other Village People members stared at him with puzzled looks. Clark then turned to Willis and said, "Victor, think you can work this dance into your routine?" Willis responded, "I think we're gonna have to."[7]

At the original Yankee Stadium, the grounds crew traditionally took a break from grooming the infield after the sixth inning to lead the crowd in the dance; this tradition has been carried over to the current Yankee Stadium. In July 2008, Village People performed "Y.M.C.A." with the Yankees grounds crew at the last MLB All-Star Game held at the old Yankee Stadium. Similarly at the Sapporo Dome, during Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters baseball games, "Y.M.C.A." is enthusiastically enjoyed by the crowd and ground staff during the fifth inning stretch.

Sales and certifications

RegionCertificationSales/shipments
Canada (Music Canada)[8]2× Platinum300,000^
France (SNEP)[9]Gold1,450,000[10]
Germany (BVMI)[11]Gold250,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[12]Platinum1,380,000[13]
United States (RIAA)[14]Platinum2,000,000^
Total available sales:5,380,000

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Covers and parodies

References

  1. ^ "Audio Wakeup Call Index". Spaceflight.nasa.gov. http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/audio/shuttle/sts-106/html/ndexpage.html. Retrieved 2011-08-19. 
  2. ^ Neumann, Caryn E. glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture YMCA
  3. ^ "'Macho Man,' 'Y.M.C.A.' about straight fun: publicist - CTV News". Ctv.ca. 2007-08-02. http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070802/village_people_070802?s_name=&no_ads=. Retrieved 2011-08-19. 
  4. ^ http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/village-people-ymca-lawsuit-victor-willis-321576
  5. ^ http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-08/village-people-s-former-lead-singer-wins-ymca-copyright-case.html
  6. ^ "Official Village People website, July 4, 2004". Officialvillagepeople.com. http://www.officialvillagepeople.com/VP%20Live%20page/pages/020_20.htm. Retrieved 2011-08-19. 
  7. ^ American Bandstand 1978
  8. ^ "Canadian certifications – Village People – YMCA". Music Canada. http://www.musiccanada.com/GPSearchResult.aspx?st=YMCA&sa=Village+People&smt=0. Retrieved 29 March 2012. 
  9. ^ "French certifications – Village People – Y.M.C.A." (in French). InfoDisc. http://www.infodisc.fr/Single_Certif.php.  Select VILLAGE PEOPLE and click OK
  10. ^ "Les Singles en Or :" (in French). Infodisc.fr. http://www.infodisc.fr/S_Certif_Or.php?debut=486. Retrieved 29 March 2012. 
  11. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Village People; 'Y.M.C.A.')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. http://www.musikindustrie.de/gold_platin_datenbank/?action=suche&strTitel=Y.M.C.A.&strInterpret=Village+People&strTtArt=alle&strAwards=checked. Retrieved 29 March 2012. 
  12. ^ "British certifications – Village People – Y.M.C.A.". British Phonographic Industry. http://www.bpi.co.uk/certifiedawards/search.aspx. Retrieved 29 March 2012.  Enter Y.M.C.A. in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Click Go
  13. ^ "The Best Selling Singles Of All Time". everyHit.com. http://www.everyhit.com/bestsellingsingles.html. Retrieved April 1, 2012. 
  14. ^ "American certifications – Village People – Y.M.C.A.". Recording Industry Association of America. http://www.riaa.com/goldandplatinumdata.php?artist=%22Y.M.C.A.%22. Retrieved 29 March 2012. 
  15. ^ "List of number-one single in Japan (1968-1979)". Homepage1.nifty.com. http://homepage1.nifty.com/tuty/chart_japan_no1single_1.htm. Retrieved 2011-08-19. 
  16. ^ "Chart actions of Hideki Saijo's singles on the Japanese Oricon weekly singles chart". A.biglobe.ne.jp. http://www7a.biglobe.ne.jp/~yamag/single/hideki.html. Retrieved 2011-08-19. 
  17. ^ Fraser, J. D. "Cartoon for Apr 28, 2002". User Friendly. Accessed on March 2, 2007.
  18. ^ "Asia-Pacific | Powell goes disco for Asean forum". BBC News. 2004-07-02. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3861901.stm. Retrieved 2011-08-19. 
  19. ^ "粵語流行曲黑膠唱片". Vinylparadise.com. http://www.vinylparadise.com/4pop_can/2/252LTC0A.htm. Retrieved 2011-08-19. 

External links

External videos
Original 1978 music video
Preceded by
"Kiss You All Over" by Exile
Australian Kent Music Report number one single (Village People version)
December 25, 1978 - January 22, 1979
Succeeded by
"Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" by Rod Stewart
Preceded by
"Mary's Boy Child/Oh My Lord" by Boney M
UK number one single (Village People version)
6 January 1979 - 20 January 1979
Succeeded by
"Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" by Ian Dury & The Blockheads
Preceded by
"You're the Greatest Lover" by Luv'
German Media Control Charts number-one single
December 8, 1978 - December 29, 1978
January 12, 1979 - February 23, 1979
Succeeded by
"Mary's Boy Child" by Boney M.
"Heart of Glass" by Blondie
Preceded by
"Too Much Heaven" by Bee Gees
Canadian RPM number one single (Village People version)
January 27 - February 3, 1979
Succeeded by
"Too Much Heaven" by Bee Gees
Preceded by
"Hero" by the Kai Band
Japan Oricon Weekly Singles Chart number one single (Hideki Saijo version)
March 12, 1979 - April 9, 1979 (5 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Miserarete" by Judy Ongg