'Y.M.C.A.,' The Sports Anthem About A Gay Cruising Spot: Lyrics And Meaning

By Jacob Shelton
Photo of DISCO; The audience performs the 'YMCA' dance with The Village People at the "ABC Disco Ball" at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, CA (Photo by Amanda Edwards/Redferns)

The Village People's "Y.M.C.A." is an unmistakable call to the dance floor -- from the opening brass hits of its intro melody you know what song is playing and you even know the arm motions that accompany the lyrics. Like the accosting fingering of "Stairway To Heaven," or the 1, 2, 3, 4 of "Blitzkrieg Bop," the beginning of "Y.M.C.A." is unmistakable. The song itself is one of the most bizarre cultural phenomena of all time. What began as a gay anthem performed by the Village People has been cleansed of its camp and brought into the mainstream as an upbeat song about how great it is to work out at the Y. It's performed at campaign rallies and the sixth inning of New York Yankees baseball games.

"Y.M.C.A." was immediately adopted as a gay anthem not only because of its subtext and banging disco beat, but the Village People were the most "out" gay musical act of the era (in spite of their very straight lead singer), but did it begin as a song about gay sex? Or was it just a track about having a clean place to sleep and work out? Even today everyone involved can't agree.