Willis is the recognizable voice behind the group's most iconic hits, including "Y.M.C.A.," "Macho Man," and "In The Navy."
As with a number of other groups from the '50s and beyond, The Village People have remained together and been nostalgia touring for decades, with a number of different members playing the different characters. A shakeup to an old-school group lineup isn't a new concept, but Willis's replacement of the co-founders after winning a decades-long lawsuit over his rights to the group's hit songs earlier this year is a tremendous blindside to fans and group members alike. Willis held months of auditions to find new members, including the group's first Asian American member, model and actor James Kwong.
“I felt the former touring version of the group... looked old and tired,” Willis said. “So a revamp or repositioning of the group was required to bring it back into the mainstream. The addition of an Asian American for the first time in the group’s history is part of that reposition.” Willis went on to criticize the lineup for being what he deemed a "karaoke" act, and blasted them for using backing tracks during their live performances rather than a live band.
At the height of the AIDS crisis, Village People -- consisting of both gay and straight men -- were a voice for a generation of LGBTQ people who didn't have much support or representation from musical artists. Their effect on the LGBTQ community is still very much alive today: here's a video of legendary NYC drag queen Peppermint lip syncing to "Macho Man" with fellow NYC queen Alexis Michelle on last season of RuPaul's Drag Race.
The Streamys will be airing live on Twitter at 9:30 p.m. ET / 6:30 p.m. PT on Tuesday, September 26th. The new (and improved?) Village People are set to close the show with a medley of the group's greatest hits.