|Single by Village People|
|from the album Cruisin'|
|Released||November 13, 1978|
|Recorded||Sigma Sound Studios,
New York City; 1978
|Length||4:48 (album version)
3:46 (single version)
|Writer(s)||Henri Belolo, Jacques Morali, Victor Willis|
|Village People singles chronology|
"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) physical copies worldwide. A medley with "Hot Cop" reached number 2 on Billboard's Dance Music/Club Play Singles chart.
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. "Y.M.C.A." appeared as Space Shuttle Wakeup call on mission STS-106, on day 11. In 2009, "Y.M.C.A." 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 El Paso, Texas. "Y.M.C.A." is number 7 on VH1's list of The 100 Greatest Dance Songs of the 20th Century.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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."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.
Origin of hand movement and 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
- 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."
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.
Charts and certifications
Sales and certifications
Covers and parodies
- In 1979 a Finnish version "NMKY" was performed on television.
- Cover version sung in Japanese titled "Young Man", was recorded by a Japanese singer Hideki Saijo and released in spring 1979. It marked the #1 on the Japanese official singles chart Oricon for 5 weeks, and finally sold more than 800,000 copies and became the most commercially successful cover version of the song. "Young Man" won the 1979 Japan Music Awards for Grand Prix.
- Adam and the Ants performed a live cover version of YMCA in the late 70s and early 80s, renaming it "A.N.T.S.", and heavily altering the lyrics - for example, "young man" became "Ant fan". The track was recorded in 1981 to give away free on a Flexidisc with Flexipop Magazine in the UK. The lyrics were altered slightly from the live version, as the refrain of "Go then, to Adam & the Ants, they will make you cum in your pants" before the chorus was deemed too offensive for the largely young readers of Flexipop. Adam Ant reinstated A.N.T.S. in his live repertoire in 2011, having not performed the song live since 1980.
- In the late-80s to early 90s, comedian Bobcat Goldthwaite did an imitation of Bono singing the song to the tune of With Or Without You in his stand-up routine.
- A famous YouTube video - Evolution of Dance - features the chorus of this single.
- KFUM is the Danish equivalent of YMCA. It was a big hit in Denmark in 1980 by the show-group Østjysk Musikforsyning with Danish lyrics by Karlo Staunskjær.
- In 1997, Pepsi created a Super Bowl ad where five bears danced an alternate version with "P-E-P-S-I" instead of the usual "Y-M-C-A". The same version of this song was later used in a commercial promoting their new blue look.
- In an episode of Extreme Gong, there is a miniature group parody as The Village Little People and they sing a cover of this song.
- The webcomic User Friendly spoofed the song when Dust Puppy and Erwin sang an altered version which included the lyrics "It's fun to violate the DMCA."
- A 2002 Diet Dr Pepper commercial featured another parody band as the Retirement Village People, singing a parody using the line "It's fun to eat at 4:30 PM". The ad, along with a number of other Diet Dr Pepper ads paroding other cultural items, was produced by They Might Be Giants.
- On July 2, 2004, Colin Powell, then the U.S. Secretary of State, performed a modified version of "YMCA" for his fellow foreign government officials at the ASEAN security meeting in Jakarta. His lyrics includes the lines:
- In 2004, Fisher-Price released a Sesame Street toy featuring Elmo in which he dances and sings to spell out his name to the tune of "Y-M-C-A".
- George Lam recorded a Cantonese remix, still titled "YMCA". This cover version was first released in 1979 as part of album "Choice" (抉擇). It was also featured on 2001 Music is Live - George Lam & Eason Chan Karaoke
- In 2011: The Sportsgasms, a sports song parody group out of San Francisco, release Sports Nut (Y.M.C.A. Song Parody) which uses double entendres to challenge the stereotype of the typical sports fan.
- In 2008 Super Junior a Korean pop group released a version of the song on the DVD of their Super Show Asia Tour. During the performance the singers wore costumes including Peter Pan, Jack Sparrow, Harry Potter, a clown, Bruce Lee and others. As part of the tour the song was performed in South Korea, China and Thailand. The tour was also expected to travel to Tokyo, Taipei and Hong Kong, but those shows never happened.
- A cover by TC Moses appears in the Nintendo DS game Elite Beat Agents.
- A parody, with the Village People, appears in a 2012 in television TV commercial for Wonderful Pistachios. They sing "C-R-A-C-K" instead of "Y-M-C-A".
- In September 2012 a Slovenian musical group and stand-up comedians Slon in Sadež released a slovene parody of the YMCA-song with the title "NNLB". It is making fun out of irresponsible financial management of the largest bank in Slovenia Nova Ljubljanska banka (NLB), causing a severe long lasting financial and economic crisis of Slovenia.
- Versions of "Y.M.C.A." have been used in a series of UK television adverts for Confused.com since 2010. The advertisements do not parody the original song as such, but simply use the music as a familiar tune to which several distinct new lyrics have been added.
- In February 2013 The Disney Channel followed the Phineas and Ferb episode "My Sweet Ride", with a video showing animal agents and kids parodying the song, singing "O.W.C.A"
- Apologetix wrote a song called "YHWH," set to the tune of YMCA.
- On March 2, 2013, during the opening monologue on Saturday Night Live, Jay Pharaoh parodied President Barack Obama giving a press conference about the recent budget cuts in Congress, saying that there were going to be cuts on the military, social service workers, federal construction projects, and Native American funding. The representatives of each (four Village People characters) did the arm dance in order after Pharaoh recited the verse of the song.
- "The Village People Awards". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-10-31.
- "Audio Wakeup Call Index". Spaceflight.nasa.gov. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- Neumann, Caryn E. glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture YMCA
- "'Macho Man,' 'Y.M.C.A.' about straight fun: publicist - CTV News". Ctv.ca. 2007-08-02. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- "Official Village People website, July 4, 2004". Officialvillagepeople.com. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- American Bandstand 1978
- "Canadian certifications – Village People – YMCA". Music Canada. Retrieved 29 March 2012.
- "French certifications – Village People – Y.M.C.A." (in French). InfoDisc. Select VILLAGE PEOPLE and click OK
- "Les Singles en Or :" (in French). Infodisc.fr. Retrieved 29 March 2012.
- "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Village People; 'Y.M.C.A.')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved 29 March 2012.
- "List of best-selling international singles in Japan". JP&KIYO. 2002.
- "British certifications – Village People – Y.M.C.A.". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 29 March 2012. Enter Y.M.C.A. in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Click Go
- Ami Sedghi (4 November 2012). "UK's million-selling singles: the full list". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 November 2012.
- "American certifications – Village People – Y.M.C.A.". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 29 March 2012.
- "List of number-one single in Japan (1968-1979)". Homepage1.nifty.com. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- "Chart actions of Hideki Saijo's singles on the Japanese Oricon weekly singles chart". A.biglobe.ne.jp. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- Fraser, J. D. "Cartoon for Apr 28, 2002". User Friendly. Accessed on March 2, 2007.
- "Asia-Pacific | Powell goes disco for Asean forum". BBC News. 2004-07-02. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- "粵語流行曲黑膠唱片". Vinylparadise.com. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- http://www.sloninsadez.com/ Retrieved 10 October 2012.
|Original 1978 music video|
"Kiss You All Over" by Exile
|Australian Kent Music Report number one single (Village People version)
December 25, 1978 - January 22, 1979
"Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" by Rod Stewart
"Mary's Boy Child/Oh My Lord" by Boney M
|UK number one single (Village People version)
6 January 1979 - 20 January 1979
"Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" by Ian Dury & The Blockheads
"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
"Mary's Boy Child" by Boney M.
"Heart of Glass" by Blondie
"Too Much Heaven" by Bee Gees
|Canadian RPM number one single (Village People version)
January 27 - February 3, 1979
"Too Much Heaven" by Bee Gees
"Hero" by the Kai Band
|Japan Oricon Weekly Singles Chart number one single (Hideki Saijo version)
March 12, 1979 - April 9, 1979 (5 weeks)
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