Village People Group Shakeup Rocks Upcoming Streamy Awards

Village People, 2017
Courtesy of Dick Clark Productions Partnerships

Village People

Disco hitmakers and ubiquitous wedding party voices Village People are set to close the 2017 Streamy Awards on September 26th, and co-founder Victor Willis will be returning to perform with the group for the first time in over 30 years. The only thing is: he's completely replacing the group's lineup, including two Village People who have been a part of it since its inception in 1977. 

Co-founders Felipe Rose and Alex Briley -- the Villagers who play the "Native American" and "GI" characters, respectively -- along with Ray Simpson (who replaced Willis as the cop in 1979), Eric Anzalone (the leather man since 1995), Bill Whitfield (construction worker), and Jim Newman (cowboy) are reportedly furious that Willis is ousting all of them to form a practically new group.

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.