Victor Willis—the “cop” from The Village People—could soon have a third claim to fame. (The second being that he was married to Clair Huxtable in the 1970s).
Willis, the disco group’s lead singer and co-writer, is trying to reclaim ownership of some 33 Village People songs—including “In The Navy,” “Go West,” and that paean to the epicenter of hetero masculinity, “Y.M.C.A.”—using a provision of copyright law that gives music rights back to songwriters and recording artists after 35 years. Given that “Y.M.C.A” is still played everywhere from weddings to Major League Baseball games, and that “Go West” is currently featured in Priscilla Queen of the Desert on Broadway, that could net Willis some serious do-re-mi.
Linda Smythe, a spokeswoman for Mr. Willis, said that royalties from Village People recordings currently earned him from $30,000 to $40,000 a year, a figure that she said would “triple or quadruple” if he succeeded in gaining rights to recordings made when he was a member of the group.
Seeking to block Willis’ claim are French company Scorpio Music and its U.S. subsidiary, Can’t Stop Productions. They claim he was essentially just an employee.
“The Village People were a concept group, created by my clients, who picked the people and the costumes. It was probably no different than the Monkees when they started. We hired this guy…we gave them the material and a studio to record in and controlled what was recorded, where, what hours and what they did.”
Scorpio shouldn’t be so blasé about this case: Willis has won infringement cases against Hallmark cards and the Tampa Bay Rays. Don’t be surprised if he goes Rodney King on their French asses.
Image via victorwillisworld.com