Glenn Hughes, the original biker of the Village People, lived for the disco group he joined 24 years ago, even requesting to be buried in his leather costume, friends said Tuesday (March 13).
Hughes died of lung cancer March 4 in his Manhattan, New York, home. He was 51.
The Village People’s manager, Mitch Weiss, said the cancer was in the final stages when it was detected in Hughes, and there was nothing medical experts could do. “It came as a surprise to everyone,” he said.
The Village People were assembled in 1977 to appeal to the emerging gay and disco scenes. The group had a huge hit a year later with “Y.M.C.A.,” a novelty tune that remains a dance floor favorite more than two decades after it climbed to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
They had other hits, such as “Macho Man,” “In the Navy” and “Go West,” though the their image, which had members dressed as a biker, policeman, cowboy, GI, construction worker and Indian, often garnered more attention than their talents.
Hughes’ funeral was held Friday, and his fellow Village People bandmates served as pallbearers. Alexander Briley, the original and current GI, sang “Where Do I Go?” from “Hair” during the ceremony, which Hughes had requested.
“Our lives will never be the same,” David Hodo, the original and current construction worker, said Tuesday. “We miss him dearly.”
Hughes, who auditioned for the Village People on a dare while working as a tollbooth collector at the Holland Tunnel in New Jersey, last performed with the group in 1996 but continued to work with the group’s administration until the time of his death. He sported a handlebar mustache and wore leather onstage and off.
Hughes’ bass voice was heard on all of the Village People’s hits, and he starred and sang “Danny Boy” in the 1980 movie “Can’t Stop the Music.”
He also sang on the band’s most recent two house music singles — “Loveship 2001″ and “Gunbalanya” — under the name Village People alias The Amazing Veepers. The latter tune, which means “in the tribe,” was written in Australia with a group of Aborigines during a documentary filmed by the country’s public television network. Both singles have been released on the group’s own label, Plenty Big Music. They also include the current biker, Eric Anzalone.
Hughes, whose Village People character also was known as the “leatherman,” kept in touch with more than 35,000 Village People fans by e-mail, according to Weiss. “He adored being associated with this band,” he said. “He wasn’t touring with them, but he was the Village People.”
Hughes is survived by his parents and sister. He asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the God’s Love We Deliver charity.
A memorial on the band’s Web site (www.villagepeople-official.com) is being constructed by members Felipe Rose (original and current Indian), Ray Simpson (current policeman), Jeff Olson (current cowboy), Briley, Hodo and Anzalone.
“Glenn had a talent for keeping things light and could make you laugh even on your worst day,” Hughes’ sister, Cindy, said at his funeral. “His quick wit, terrific dancing and fabulous voice were his trademarks.”