Composed by Jacques Morali and Victor Willis of American disco group Village People and recorded by the same group for their third studio album, Cruisin’. There were originally three credited composers of the song but, following a court case, Henri Belolo was removed, leaving Jacques Morali and Victor Willis as the only composers. To understand more about the song, the reader should be aware of the history of the YMCA, Young Men’s Christian Association. It began building single room occupancy accommodation in the 1880’s to house people from rural areas who moved into the cities to look for work. By the 1970’s, the average YMCA tenants were more likely to be homeless people, and young people facing life issues.
The song’s lyrics celebrate the virtues of the Young Men’s Christian Association. However, in the gay culture from which the Village People stemmed, 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. When the song was released the YMCA threatened to sue the band over trademark infringement. The organisation ultimately settled with the composers out of court and later expressed pride regarding the song saluting the organisation. Co-composer Victor Willis said he did not write the song as a gay anthem but rather as a reflection of the fun activities that young urban black youth experienced at the YMCA.
The original video was filmed in 1978 at locations in New York City, USA. A Guinness World Record was set when over 44,000 people danced to Village People’s live performance of the song at the 2008 Sun Bowl game in El Paso, Texas, USA. Advert/World-Record/YMCA.