Village People returns to rock to Park City
Simpson enjoys role as the Cop
Nearly 360 days ago, music icons the Village People rocked the Egyptian Theatre during a five-night run, and playing hits such as “YMCA,” “Macho Man” and “In the Navy.”
Ray Simpson, whose character is the group’s policeman, remembers how energetic those performances were.
“It was so nice, we had to do it twice,” Simpson said with a laugh during an interview with The Park Record. “We are looking forward to going back.”
The Egyptian Theatre’s first concert run of 2017 will be the Village People from Wednesday, Jan. 4, to Saturday, Jan. 7.
Simpson, who replaced original cop Victor Willis in 1979, said his favorite songs are “Macho Man” and “YMCA.”
“‘Macho Man’ is silly and it’s like a goof about being buff and tough,” he said. “I like ‘YMCA’ because people love that song, and it’s an incredible thing that so many people can love one song so much. You never know why that happens, but you have to enjoy letting them enjoy it.”
Seeing people take delight in the music is one perk of being in the group.
“That, in itself, gives us a charge, because we like to think our shows are a joint experience,” Simpson said. “The more we put out, the more we get back from the people who get up and dance and sing in the audience.”
While no two shows have ever been the same during Simpson’s tenure, they all have that kinetic element to them.
“Even some days when you’re not feeling too great, you’ll get up there and see and feel the energy from the people, which makes you find your own energy within you to amp things up,” he said. “I don’t think there is a challenge being in the Village People, except to do the best performance you can each night and deliver joy and put a smile on somebody’s face.”
That’s important during this day and age, Simpson said.
“There is a lot going on in life and in the world, and you need to take people to a different place and elevate them,” he said. “It’s fun to see these elderly people in the audience acting like they’re 20 again.”
But older people aren’t the only fans in the audiences.
“We perform to their kids and their grand kids,” Simpson said. “This is something that you couldn’t predict, because in the early days, we used to be called a risqué group. Now we’re G-rated.”
Simpson, the brother of singer Valerie Simpson of Ashford & Simpson fame, joined the Village People in 1979.
“I had an album and worked extensively with my sister and brother-in-law,” Simpson said. “I recorded with them and other people and did some commercials. So, I’d been doing quite a bit by the time I joined the Village People.”
Joining the group was still a daunting task.
“It was mainly because we were going into a movie at the same time,” he said. “We were working on ‘Can’t Stop the Music’ and I had never been in a movie, so that was interesting.”
The film, which starred Steve Guttenberg and Valerie Perrine, was released in 1980, when the disco trend had began to slide.
The group returned in 1987 and, since the early 1990s, has continued to perform for audiences throughout the world.
“That’s what music is about,” Simpson said. “It’s about having fun. It’s about trying to take everything you do in stride and realizing that there is a tomorrow.”
Simpson, who lives in New Jersey with his wife and daughter, originally thought about being a teacher when he graduated with a degree in English and a minor in music from City College of New York.
“I thought that would be something I might enjoy because I like working with kids,” he said. “Then I tried to figure out how I would make money and pay the bills.”
By that time, however, Simpson was already getting offers for his music.
“People were asking me to record things, so that ball was already rolling,” he said. “So, I just kept going with that.
“Music has been very good to me throughout my life,” he said. “It’s been a savior and has kept me going. This is a blessing for us, and I’d be foolish not to be thankful.”
Village People will perform at 8 p.m. from Wednesday, Jan. 4, to Saturday, Jan. 7, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Tickets for the Wednesday and Thursday shows range from $43 to $70. Tickets for Friday and Saturday range from $49 to $80. They can be purchased on line by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.
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