(CelebrityAccess) — Henri Belolo, the French concert promoter and music impresario who played a key role in the creation of the Village People, has died. He was 82.
According to the New York Post, Belolo died on Saturday, and his passing was confirmed by his performance rights organization Sacem on Monday.
“I am devastated by the untimely death of Henri Belolo who was my former producer, mentor and co-creator of Village People,” Village People lead singer Victor Willis said in a statement to Rolling Stone.
”Henri who actually died on August 3, 2019, leaves an impressive body of work that helped shape the disco genre, and as a record executive, he was par excellence. A private funeral was held already in France [in] Paris, but we are working on a public memorial service which is expected to be announced soon,” Willis added.
Born in Morocco, Belolo studied business in Casablanca before relocating to Paris in 1965. While in Paris, he partnered with Eddie Barclay and began importing records and performing as a club DJ before joining Polydor in an A&R role in 1960.
While at Polydor, he served as a producer on albums Georges Moustaki and Jeanne Moreau, and staged concerts in Paris by artists such as James Brown and the Bee Gees.
In 1973, he relocated to the U.S., and established Can’t Stop Productions in New York City. In 1975, he partnered with Jacques Morali to oversee the writing and production of the Ritchie Family’s hit album “Brazil.” The title track, “Brazil” became a major dance hit, peaking at #1 with promotional help from New York DJ Frankie Crocker.
In 1978, Belolo and Morali created the group The Village People, with Belolo serving as a songwriter, and working with Morali to shop the band’s music to record labels, eventually signing with Casablanca Records.
However, Belolo’s involvement with the Village People’s songwriting was contested in 2015, with Village People frontman Victor Willis successfully arguing in court that he and Morali had written the songs together, without any involvement from Belolo. Can’t Stop Productions argued that Belolo had written the origianl lyrics in French which were then adapted into English by Willis but the court rejected the claim, ordering that Belolo be removed from the songwriting credits.
In the 1980s, Belolo and Morali also discovered the band Break Machine and served as producers for the group.
Belolo continued to work in France as a music producer, until his death on 3 August 2019.