Village People co-creator Henri Belolo has died aged 82.
Scorpio Music, the record label he founded, confirmed the news “with deep sorrow” on Wednesday, but gave no further details.
He died on Saturday in France and a funeral has already taken place, with plans for a public memorial service to be announced soon.
“I am devastated by the untimely death of Henri Belolo who was my former producer, mentor and co-creator of Village People”, said the band’s lead singer Victor Willis.
“He leaves an impressive body of work that helped shape the disco genre, and as a record executive, he was par excellence”.
The disco pioneer was born in Casablancas, Morocco in 1936 but moved to Paris in his twenties where he became a DJ in the city’s jazz clubs.
A chance encounter with an import of MSFB’s track “TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia)” led to him falling in love with the sound of disco.
He moved to New York in 1973, where he met fellow Moroccan producer Jacques Morali and lead singer Victor Willis, and they assembled the six-member group Village People.
“We were walking around Greenwich Village and we saw an Indian playing bells on the street”, he told The Parisian Today.
“Intrigued, we followed him to a bar where he was a waiter, and sang a disco number every 20 minutes. Among the customers was a guy with a cowboy hat. That was the trigger: To create a group with all the stereotypes of the American male”.
“We were keen on doing something for gay liberation, because Jacques was gay and I was feeling that an injustice was done to the gay community”, Belolo told DJ History in 2004.
The group’s self-titled debut album was released in 1977 and in 1978 their second album spawned the hit single “Y.M.C.A.” which was co-written by Belolo and reached No. 2 on the Billboard chart.
A year later, Village People released the album Go West, which included “In the Navy”, another song co-written by Belolo that peaked at No. 3 on the chart.
Though the group declined in popularity in the 1980s, Belolo and Morali continued to write hits for Eartha Kitt and Break Machine.
After moving back to France, his label released international hits like Eiffel 65’s “Blue (Da Ba Dee)”, Gala’s “Freed From Desire” and Haddaway’s “What Is Love?”
The label is now run by his son Anthony and has recently topped the charts with J Balvin and Willy Williams’ “Mi Gente”, and Loud Luxury’s club hit “Body On My”.