Culture Wikia

This article is about the song. For the organization, see YMCA.

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File:YMCA by Village People US vinyl single A-side label.jpg
One of A-side label variants of U.S. 7-inch vinyl single
Song by Village People
from the album Cruisin'
B-side"The Women"
ReleasedNovember 13, 1978
  • 1978
  • Sigma Sound Studios (New York City, New York)
  • Jacques Morali
  • Victor Willis
Producer(s)Jacques Morali
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Music video
"Y.M.C.A." (Official) on YouTube

"Y.M.C.A." is a song by the American disco group Village People. It was released in 1978 as the only single from their third studio album Cruisin' (1978). The song reached number 2 on the US charts in early 1979 and reached number 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.[1]

The song remains popular and is played at many sporting events in the U.S. and Europe, with crowds using the dance in which the arms are used to spell out the four letters of the song's title as an opportunity to stretch. Moreover, the song also remains particularly popular due to its status as a disco classic. "Y.M.C.A." appeared as Space Shuttle Wakeup call on mission STS-106, on day 11.[2]

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 2008 Sun Bowl game in El Paso, Texas.[3] "Y.M.C.A." is number 7 on VH1's list of The 100 Greatest Dance Songs of the 20th Century.[4]


The Village People was an American disco group created by Jacques Morali and Henry Belolo in 1977.[5] According to Marjorie Burgess, it all began when Morali went to a New York gay bar one night and noticed dancer Felipe Rose dressed as a Native American. Morali then spotted Rose again one week later dressed in Indian garb. Rose happened to be dancing near one man dressed as a cowboy and another wearing a construction hat. "And after that I say to myself," Morali told Rolling Stones Emerson, "‘You know, this is fantastic’—to see the cowboy, the Indian, the construction worker with other men around. And also, I think in myself that the gay people have no group, nobody to personalize the gay people, you know? And I say to Felipe, ‘One of these days I’m going to employ you.’" Morali began to produce disco records with masculine stereotypes in mind that same week.[5] Victor Willis, lead singer and lyricist, recalls that while in the studio, Morali asked him, "What exactly is the YMCA?" After Willis explained it to him, he saw the expression on Morali's face and said, "Don't tell me Jacques, you want to write a song about it?" and they quickly wrote the track for the album Cruisin'.[6]

Upon its release, the YMCA threatened to sue the band over trademark infringement. The organization ultimately settled with the composers out of court and later expressed pride regarding the song saluting the organization.[7]

The song became a number 1 hit throughout the world (although not in the United States where it was kept out of the top spot by Rod Stewart's "Do 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. In a landmark ruling in 2012, the United States District Court for the Southern District of California ruled that 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."[8] YMCA and other hits written by Willis (for Village People and other Can't Stop acts) began to revert to him on September 13, 2013.[9] On March 4, 2015, it was determined that the sole writers of the song are Morali and Willis and the name Belolo has been removed. Willis now owns 50% of the song previously credited to Belolo.[10]


Taken at face value, the song's lyrics extol the virtues of the Young Men's Christian Association. In the gay culture from which the Village People sprang, the song was implicitly understood as celebrating the YMCA's reputation as a popular cruising and hookup spot, particularly for the younger men to whom it was addressed.[11] Willis, the group's lead singer and lyricist, said through his publicist that he did not write "Y.M.C.A." as a gay anthem[12] but as a reflection of young urban black youth fun at the YMCA such as basketball and swimming. That said, he has often acknowledged his fondness for double entendre.[13][14] Willis says that he wrote the song in Vancouver, British Columbia.[15] The initial goal of Morali and Belolo was to attract disco's gay audience by featuring popular gay fantasy.[16] Although the two creators of the group were gay and initially intended to target gay men, the other group members were straight men, who simply enjoyed disco culture. Therefore, the group became more popular and more mainstream over time.[17]

Song structure[]

The song, played in the key of G♭ 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.

Willis's version of the song is used in the film, Can't Stop the Music, though by that time Ray Simpson had replaced him as the policeman.

Origin of hand movement and dance[]

File:YMCA dance.jpg

The YMCA dance demonstrated in a photomontage. In this rendition, the M (second from left) is done in a popular variant.

File:Ymca dance.jpg

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 Template:Emdasharms outstretched and raised upwards
M Template:Emdashmade by bending the elbows from the 'Y' pose so the fingertips meet over the head[18]
C Template:Emdasharms extended to the left
A Template:Emdashhands 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."[19] In a 2008 retrospective article for Spin, Randy Jones has opined that the dance may have originated as a misunderstanding: The group's original choreographed dance had the group clapping above their heads during the chorus and he believes that the audience, believing them to be making the letter "Y", began following suit.[20]

Following the sixth inning of New York Yankees baseball games at Yankee Stadium, the grounds crew traditionally grooms the infield while leading the crowd in the dance.[21] 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.[citation needed]

Chart performance[]

Sales and certifications[]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[53] 2× Platinum 300,000^
France (SNEP)[55] Gold 1,450,000[54]
Germany (BVMI)[56] Gold 250,000^
Japan (RIAJ) 302,000[57]
United Kingdom (BPI)[59] Platinum 1,500,000[58]
United States (RIAA)[60] Platinum 2,000,000
Total available sales: 5,762,000

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

Covers and parodies[]

  • In the same year, Jo Kyung-soo released a Korean version of the song. This was covered by Twice on Immortal Song 2 in 2016.
  • George Lam's 1979 album "抉擇" (Choice) featured a Cantonese version of the song, entitled "好知己" (Good Friends).
  • Since 1990, the Hungarian parodist band "Template:Interlanguage link multi" wrote an alternative lyrics to the song, that they since use as their signature song.
  • Billy Connolly's 1979 recording "In the Brownies" is a spoof of both this song and the Village People's "In the Navy".
  • A 1993 episode of Married with Children had Marcy placating a militant feminist group at a Halloween party by having Peg, Jefferson, Kelly and Bud impersonate and lip-synch to the Village People. However, the only Village People album Marcy owns is a single-track of Y.M.C.A, constantly repeating it and angering the guests.
  • The 1993 comedy film Wayne's World 2 features a scene where Wayne, Garth, and two of their show's colleagues (while running away from the main antagonist) accidentally go into a gay club; since they are dressed in different clothing (power line worker, policeman, sailor, and roadie respectively), the DJ puts on the song and the four perform the dance.
  • In 1994, the duo of 2 Live Jews did a parody of the song as "What did you say?", which was about a young man, who could not hear what was being said from the older man. It came from the album Disco Jews (1994).
  • In 1996, the song was featured in a commercial for Old El Paso, with lyrics changed to "S-A-L-S-A".
  • 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:

    President Bush, he said to me: 'Colin, I know you will agree. I need you to run the Department of State. We are between a rock and a hard place.' [61]

  • In 2006, TC Moses covered "YMCA" for iNiS's Elite Beat Agents.
  • In 2008, a commercial for the Israeli TV provider yes. had a group of Jews dancing on Wall St., moping about the then-new switchover to HD quality to the tune of "YMCA". It also poked fun at the religion; with references to Sodom and Gomorrah, to lyrics like "It's against the Torah!" and "Now the "shikes" look so well./You will all go to Hell!/Or in Hebrew, "yismor hokel"."[62][63]
  • 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 makes fun of irresponsible financial management of the largest bank in Slovenia Nova Ljubljanska banka (NLB), causing a severe, longlasting financial and economic crisis in Slovenia.[64]
  • Ubisoft Games Called Raving Rabbids Travel In Time Covered A Song By Raving Rabbids And Just Dance 2014
  • On March 2, 2013, during the opening monologue on Saturday Night Live, Jay Pharoah 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 of four Village People characters did the arm dance in order after Pharaoh recited the appropriate verse of the song.[65]
  • In early 2013, Disney Channel covered the song as "O.W.C.A." for the TV series Phineas and Ferb in one of its music videos shown in commercial breaks. As seen in the music video, it shows Disney Channel stars from shows such as Jessie, Dog With a Blog, Good Luck Charlie, and Austin & Ally, and showed the secret agents dancing to the song.
  • The English YouTube company The Yogscast made a parody called M.I.L.K. in 2011, which was all about a milkman.
  • The song was covered in the 2013 animated film Despicable Me 2 by Gru's minions. This version was included on the film's soundtrack.[66]
  • In November 2013, Chris Pennington released a parody of the song directed at Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien, entitled "Why not P.K.?", expressing sentiment that Therrien was not giving star Canadiens defenceman P. K. Subban enough ice time.[67]
  • On the children's show Sesame Street, Oscar the Grouch sings the song "Stretch, Wiggle, Yay!" at his trash can, while his worm, Slimey and his worm friends do their daily workout. "Stretch, Wiggle, Yay!" spoofs "Y.M.C.A.".[68]
  • One commercial for Malaysian Idol - following the theme of the everyday Malaysian singing mundane situations for the sake of a place in the reality TV show - has a scene where security guards order a man to drive his car away from an apartment compound in tune to this song, as the man fails to produce his "visitor pass".[69]
  • In January 2017, artist Neil Cicierega released "T.I.M.E", which combined the Village People's lyrics with Hanz Zimmer's song "Time" from the 2010 film Inception, in the mashup album "Mouth Moods".


  1. "The Village People Awards". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-10-31.
  2. "Audio Wakeup Call Index". Retrieved 2011-08-19.
  3. Peterson, Jan (2011-02-02). "Dancing Without the Stars: "YMCA" and Other Record-Breaking Dance Events – Yahoo TV". Retrieved 2014-03-28.
  4. "the VH1's 100 Greatest Dance Songs @". Retrieved 2014-03-28.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "The Village People – FREE The Village People information | Find The Village People research". Retrieved 2016-05-04.
  6. Victor Willis Interview, SiriusXM Radio, Studio 54 Channel, Marc and Myra Show, September 24, 2013
  8. Gardner, Eriq (2012-05-08). "Village People Songwriter Victor Willis Wins Case Over Termination of 'Y.M.C.A.' Rights". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
  9. Larry Rohter (2013-09-10). "Copyright Victory, 35 Years Later". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
  10. Eriq Gardner (5 March 2015). "Jury Decides Village People 'Y.M.C.A.' Songwriter Has 50 Percent Song Share". The Hollywood Reporter.
  11. Neumann, Caryn E. glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture YMCA
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  13. Boles, Benjamin (February 7, 2014). "Gay Village People Co-Founder Says 'YMCA' Not A Gay Song". The Huffington Post. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
  14. Varga, George (August 2, 2015). "Victor Willis on life & music, post-Village People". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
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  17. Juzwiak, Rich. "Village Person Says "Y.M.C.A." Isn't About Gays, Is Probably Lying". Gawker. Retrieved 2016-05-05.
  18. "Official Village People website, July 4, 2004". Retrieved 2011-08-19.
  19. American Bandstand 1978
  20. Pearlman, Jeff. "Y.M.C.A (An Oral History)". Spin. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  21. "NY- Yankee Stadium- 7th Inning Stretch". I Photo New York.
  22. Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 329. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  23. "Australia n°1 Hits – 70's". Retrieved 10 June 2013.
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  26. "Y.M.C.A. in Canadian Adult Contemporary Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  27. "Y.M.C.A. in Canadian Disco Singles Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
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  30. 30.0 30.1 "Toutes les Chansons N° 1 des Années 70" (in French). 3 June 2013. Archived from the original on March 30, 2014. Retrieved 3 June 2013. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  31. "Ireland singles charts". Archived from the original on June 3, 2009. Retrieved 2014-05-13. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  32. "Nederlandse Top 40 – Village People" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  33. " – Village People – Y.M.C.A." (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  34. " – Village People – Y.M.C.A.". Top 40 Singles.
  35. " – Village People – Y.M.C.A.". VG-lista.
  36. John Samson. "Y.M.C.A. in South African Chart". Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  37. Salaverri, Fernando (February 1979). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
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  39. " – Village People – Y.M.C.A.". Swiss Singles Chart.
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  43. "The ARIA Australian Top 100 Singles Chart – Week Ending 03 Apr 1994". ARIA. Retrieved 27 February 2016.
  44. "Y.M.C.A. and Y.M.C.A. '93 in Irish Chart". IRMA. Archived from the original on June 3, 2009. Retrieved 3 June 2013. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help) Only results when searching "Y.M.C.A."
  45. "Y.M.C.A. '93 in New Zealand Chart". IRMA. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  46. "Indice per Interprete: V". HitParadeItalia (it). Retrieved 6 July 2013.
  53. [[[:Template:Certification Cite/URL]] "[[:Template:Certification Cite/Title]]"] Check |url= value (help). Music Canada. Retrieved 29 March 2012. URL–wikilink conflict (help)
  54. "Les Singles en Or :" (in French). Retrieved 29 March 2012.
  55. [[[:Template:Certification Cite/URL]] "[[:Template:Certification Cite/Title]]"] Check |url= value (help) (in French). InfoDisc. URL–wikilink conflict (help) Select VILLAGE PEOPLE and click OK. 
  56. [[[:Template:Certification Cite/URL]] "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Village People; 'Y.M.C.A.')"] Check |url= value (help) (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved 29 March 2012.
  57. "List of best-selling international singles in Japan". JP&KIYO. 2002.
  58. "Pride special: Celebrating the biggest selling singles by LGBT artists". The Official Charts Company. 25 June 2016.
  59. [[[:Template:Certification Cite/URL]] "[[:Template:Certification Cite/Title]]"] Check |url= value (help). British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 29 March 2012. URL–wikilink conflict (help) Select Platinum in the Certification field. Type Y.M.C.A. in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  60. [[[:Template:Certification Cite/URL]] "[[:Template:Certification Cite/Title]]"] Check |url= value (help). Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 29 March 2012. URL–wikilink conflict (help)
  61. "Asia-Pacific | Powell goes disco for Asean forum". BBC News. 2004-07-02. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
  62. YES HDTV - Chassidic commercial. 4 December 2007 – via YouTube.
  63. YES HD Commercial in Israel. 26 August 2008 – via YouTube.
  64. Official Slon in Sadež website. Retrieved 2014-01-19.
  65. David Badash (2013-03-04). "Funny Or Not Funny? SNL's Obama Explains Sequester Using 'Village People'". The New Civil Rights Movement. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
  66. "'Despicable Me 2′ Soundtrack Announced". Film Music Reporter. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
  67. "P.K. Subban Anthem Implores More Ice Time for Defenseman, Catchy Song Inspired by Village People (Audio)". NESN. 2013-11-18. Retrieved 2013-11-22.
  68. Sesame Street: Trash Gordon's Worm Workout. 15 January 2010 – via YouTube.
  69. Malaysian Idol Ad - Visitor Pass YMCA. Mar 21, 2006 – via YouTube.

External links[]

Template:External media

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)
31 December 1978– 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

Template:Village People