Glenn Hughes, a singer who performed as the mustachioed, leather-clad biker in the disco band the Village People, has died of lung cancer. He was 50.
Hughes, who died on March 4 at his home in Manhattan, was one of six men who formed the Village People, a disco group that capitalized on fetishized images of the American male popular in New York’s gay nightclubs.
The group, which was the brainchild of producer Jacques Morali, featured men dressed as an Indian, a soldier, a construction worker, a police officer, a cowboy and Hughes’ character, a biker.
Raised in the Bronx, Hughes was working as a toll collector when friends dared him to respond to an advertisement seeking “gay singers and dancers, very good-looking and with mustaches.”
The group was an improbable success, expertly balancing a campy and suggestive image that was never too suggestive for the mass market.
The band released its first single, “San Francisco (You’ve Got Me),” in 1977. It followed the next year with its first hit, “Macho Man.” The band then produced a string of hits, including “YMCA,” “In the Navy” and “Go West.”
The Village People sold 65 million albums and singles and were featured in the 1980 autobiographical movie, “Can’t Stop the Music.”
Although disco fell out of fashion in the 1980s, Hughes stayed with the band until 1996, when he left to sing in Manhattan cabarets.