August 6, 2019 / 7:58 PM / 20 days ago

Village People 'saddened' by co-founder's death

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The Village People said on Tuesday they were “saddened” by the death of Henri Belolo, the French music pioneer who co-founded the band that helped define the disco era.

Belolo, who has died aged 82, founded the Village People in the late 1970s with fellow Frenchman Jacques Morali after seeing the potential in the gay disco scene.

Belolo was heterosexual, but the band, who have sold more than 100 million records since they were founded in 1977, became flag-flyers for LGBT+ rights, mixing popular disco songs with overtly camp lyrics.

In a statement, they said they were “saddened” by Belolo’s death, calling him a “pioneer in the disco genre” whose “legacy is well defined by a body of work which lives on”.

The original group line-up adopted personae familiar to the gay scene of the 1970s, with the five members dressing as a cop, leather man, Native American, U.S. soldier and cowboy.

Village People’s most popular songs, “Y.M.C.A”, “In the Navy” and “Macho Man” were widely adopted as anthems by the LGBT+ community, but also achieved widespread mainstream success.

The group appeared on the cover of rock bible Rolling Stone magazine in 1979 at the height of “disco-mania” around the world.

Having founded his own record label, Scorpio Music, in 1973, Belolo went on to become instrumental in the introduction of hip-hop to France with the U.S. rap group Break Machine in the 1980s.

French music copyright management group Sacem confirmed on Monday that Belolo had died on Aug. 3.

Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit news.trust.org

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