How The YMCA Really Felt About The Village People Song Y.M.C.A.

New York disco ensemble Village People pushed the envelope in terms of filling the charts with wry references to gay and cruising culture, especially in their 1978 smash hit, "Y.M.C.A." The song is now a staple of countless sporting events and family parties the world over and is guaranteed to get the crowd striking all the right poses when the song's infectious chorus comes around.

"Y.M.C.A." came into being on the whim of music producers Jacques Morali and Henri Belolo, who had relocated to the U.S. from their native France. The idea of the Village People was to openly target disco's gay audience with songs containing references to gay life and cruising. After Morali learned about the YMCA from a member of the band, he decided to write the outline of a song about it, which reportedly took him around 20 minutes before he handed it over to the Village People's frontman, Victor Willis. Willis then populated the song with double-entendres that invite young men to visit the YMCA to "hang out with all the boys" and "do whatever you feel" (for any who doubt the undertone of the song, the album from which it is taken is called "Cruisin'".) But while the YMCA didn't take issue with a song bearing the organization's name having a homosexual subtext, it did take some issue with its name being used without request.

The Young Men's Christian Association and YMCA

The Young Men's Christian Association — aka the YMCA — has been an American institution since the late 1800s. More than a simple hotel or hostel, YMCA buildings were specially made to facilitate the relocation of countless young men across the country who were traveling from place to place to find work in big cities. As well as promoting Christian values, the YMCA sought to support visitors with sports facilities, training courses, and community-building initiatives. The Y's reputation as a potential hotspot for gay cruising emerged as early as the 1910s when a branch in Oregon became the center of a sex scandal that made headlines in American newspapers and peaked in the 1970s. In recent years, lyricist Victor Willis has made a concerted — though largely unsuccessful — effort to downplay the gay subtext of the Village People song "Y.M.C.A.", claiming that it refers simply to sports and male bonding.

However, it wasn't the song's overt homosexual undertone that rankled the YMCA — as executive Joe Pisarro explained to The Ledger, "The only people who have raised that question are the media." The organization pointed out that the Village People had used their trademark without permission and were seeking an out-of-court settlement with the band's management.

The YMCA is proud of its anthem

As time has passed, the YMCA claims to have taken Village People's "Y.M.C.A." to heart. According to its media relations manager Leah Pouw (per Spin), "We at the YMCA celebrate the song. It's a positive statement about the YMCA and what we offer to people all around the world."

But while the YMCA chose to withdraw its original objection to the song while it was still in the charts, "Y.M.C.A." has been the subject of further legal action at the hands of its own creators. In 2011, the original Village People frontman Victor Willis (pictured) — backed by the Songwriter Guild of America — filed a suit against the music publisher Scorpio Music to reclaim partial control of the hits he wrote, including "Y.M.C.A.". Willis ultimately secured between 33% and 50% stake in royalties for the songs.

The song itself has also been added to the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry, denoting its lasting cultural importance.