Whatever Happened to Felipe Rose of the Village People?
Whatever Happened to Felipe Rose of the Village People? Part 1
By Ramón Hernández
Rather than wait to give you the answer at the end of this article, the spoiler alert is that after a nasty, legal messy battle with another original Village People co-founder, Felipe Rose went solo in 2013 and is now riding high with “Dance Again,” his fourth single as a solo artist.
By the way, this kick-butt tune also features Ada Dire on backup vocals.
“I wrote this song while struggling through PTSD over losing his producer (Frosty Lawson) last fall. And on my birthday (January 12, 2021), I went into the studio with my young producer, Tyler Sarfert, who loves disco. So yes, this production has a deliberate touch of my past disco roots,” Felipe excitedly said during a 43-minute telephone conversation.
“After the 15-month pandemic lockdown, we’re coming back to life again. It’s about now. We’re back, we’re coming out and now it’s time to dance again. So, when I sing the song, I yell out ‘locked up’ because we were locked up. The words are powerful. So, enjoy my brand-new single, my new rebirth, new attitude, and new rebooted me with this, my latest offering with my team – Benny Harrison, Khadijah aka Kiki, Estela Crespo of MBQ Productions. She’s my comadre and social media director, Then there’s Jimi Carter of Act Now Promotions.”
Now, given the fact that “Macho Man,” the tune that launched the Village People’s musical career was released in 1977, allow me to educate our young readers who are not aware of the group that changed the face of disco with “Y.M.C.A.” – a gay anthem that the Library of Congress inducted to its National Recording Registry in March 2020. This registry honors tracks and albums that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” The Latin connection is that a conga and a timbale were included in its instrumentation.
My favorite was “In the Navy” because I was at the midway point of my 23-year Naval career.
NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 12: A general view of atmosphere at Cartier Juste un Clou After Party at Skylight Studio on April 12, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/WireImage)Long story short, this group, which was assembled through a series of auditions and really didn’t have much in common, sold more than 100 million records, had three top ten hits, four top twenty dance/club hits, toured the world, and sold-out New York’s Madison Square Garden twice. Furthermore, they were the subject of a biopic – “Can’t Stop the Music.”
Most importantly, the Village People catapulted Felipe’s talent into pop music’s stratosphere. For starters, this singer, songwriter, and dancer is also a movie/television actor, a culinary enthusiast, a motivational speaker, an ordained minister, a visual artist/painter who continues to embrace his history while remaining contemporary; and let us not forget he was the title character in “The Adventures of Swift Arrow,” a true Native American superhero in a comic book.
Combined, this makes Felipe a true renaissance man.
Now the former loin cloth-wearing Lakota Sioux/Puerto Rican with a bespangled war bonnet is also hosting “The Disco Chronicles” podcast on his YouTube channel.
As an actor the disco icon was in a soap opera, made some appearances on television hit series “Fame,” “Love Boat,” “Married with Children,” plus two movie musicals, he was in ‘Tu Me Tien Por La Barbachette,’ a French comedy, and he played the part of Bernardo in “West Side Story.”
FELIPE’S CULINARY TALENT
Another side few people are aware of is Felipe’s culinary expertise and how he almost landed his own cooking show on ABC. And after viewing one of Felipe’s cooking episodes on his YouTube channel, I was curious about what sparked his interest in cooking when he has the money to eat out and never has to cook a meal at home. Also, if he shared his Puerto Rican heritage as a part of his show.
“Of course,” he answered. “There’s one episode where I do a monfongo de platano with rice and black beans. I learned watching my mother because she was so bad at it. And with nine kids, she hated to cook. Her ideal dinner was to open five cans of Chef Boyardee and a loaf of bread. So, I said, ‘no, no, no, I’m going to learn how to cook.’ Thus, at 13 or 14, I learned to clean, wash, and cook rice because I would see my aunts and sisters cooking roast pork. But I would experiment and drench meat in beer as I cooked my tostones.
“However, I really haven’t shot many episodes that feature Puerto Rican dishes because it depends on what I really want to make.
“My cooking show has had three incarnations, me cooking in celebrity homes and I pitched it to ABC, but they wanted the Village People and I kept saying no. We worked together, but we never set out to become a band. We were put together as young adults through auditions and that’s how we got to know each other. We would do our show, then everybody would go their own way. We’d go here, we’d go there, then I would go back to my own world and catch up with friends or whatever. Therefore, we would never be in the kitchen cooking together.
“As I told one of the attorneys, ‘It’s not real. It’s not believable. So why am I going to compromise my artistic ideas?’ So, I shelved the show.
“Then I revamped it with the late Chef Lou Petrozza, a Hell’s Kitchen runner-up. That one was called ‘Rose and Petrozza, the Art of Food and Music’ and we shot an episode at Gloria Gaynor’s house. But producers kept on wanting to bring in the Village People, so I said, ‘forget it.’
Next, Felipe did two pilots of “No Feathers in the Kitchen” with the concept of bringing Native American artists to the show to share some of the cooking dishes that had been handed down through the generations.
Today, he continues to cook on his YouTube channel.
MEANWHILE, FELIPE ROSE BEGAN TO CREATE HIS OWN MUSIC
From 2000 to 2008, while still a member of the Village People, Felipe wrote and recorded “Trail of Tears,” “We’re Still Here,” “Red Hawk Woman” and “Going Back to My Roots” – four singles that were a blueprint of who he was and that garnered him four Nammys (Native American Music Awards) for outstanding achievements in the Native American music industry.
After Felipe went solo, in 2011, he released “Soul of a Man,” an album that contained and those four tunes,
More facets of this many-sided artist will be covered in ‘Part Two’ of this feature article in the August issue of StreetTalk. That’s because this month we want to highlight “Dance Again,” his most recent musical gem as a solo artist that was released in LGBT Pride Month.
FELIPE ROSE’S LATEST OPUS
“This really my fourth recording as a solo artist,” Felipe resumed. “But it’s more commercial because I think they’re calling it neo disco.
“I guess that’s because I come from disco, but now I’m doing dance and because of the way it sounds thanks to my 24-year-old producer, it’s a fresh sound and it does not sound like something from a guy that is trying to hold on to his past. Instead, I wanted to learn from him. I wanted him to show me how I was going to sound. He said, ‘this is the music we’re going to do and it’s going to sound like this.’ So, I’m excited about that journey, about the process because I love collaborating with people.
“I hope I did the job right because I’m getting emails from people around the world telling me they are incredibly surprised about the production and of the way I sound because a lot of people really never got to hear me sing and now, I’m singing full voice, aloud and out front with vibrato.
“I’m happy about how big the reaction was and incredibly surprised that ‘Dance Again’ caught on so quickly when it came out four weeks ago.
“A music colleague of mine recently said, ‘After all the things that happened and then the pandemic. How did you come out with such a fantastic song? That’s not supposed to happen. Who does that?’
“That’s not supposed to happen, but it did because I knew that as soon as there was distance from the Village People split, plus the 15 months at home. I told myself, ‘Sitting down, pouting, and drinking wine is not in my cards. I don’t want to write about sad or negative stuff. I want to lift spirits because isn’t that what music is about. And the result is ‘Dance Again.’”
“I think the fantastic reaction has been a combination of things, like the way I’ve treated my fans, how I’ve treated people along my journey, with respect and kindness. So, you get that back when they appreciate good work and they come back to you.”
Felipe’s new dance single is now available on all music websites and at www feliperose.com where you can satisfy your musical appetite with a 30-second sampler.
In closing, next month is the continuation of a few very revealing sides of the Felipe Rose few fans know.