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August 12, 2019

Ray Simpson, Brother to Ashford & Simpson's Valerie, Is a Singer in The Village People

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Singer and songwriter Valerie Simpson, better known as one-half of the legendary duo Ashford & Simpson, is not the only talented member of her family. One of her brothers, Raymond Simpson, was once the lead singer of the disco group Village People.

Valerie Simpson, the eldest of three children, became a force to be reckoned with in the music industry alongside her husband Nick Ashford in the early ‘60s.

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They worked at Motown Records for over a decade, contributing with their songs to the success of the label.

Together, they created hit songs such as “I’m Every Woman,” a hit initially recorded by Chaka Khan and later remade by Whitney Houston, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell’s  “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and Diana Ross’s “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).”

However, Valerie is not the only talented Simpson in her family.

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Her brother Raymond Simpson used to sing background vocals for her, until he made his official debut in the music industry in 1979, when he was called to replace the original lead singer of the disco group Village People, Victor Willis, as the Cop.

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Ray was featured in the Village People film, “Can't Stop the Music,” released in 1980 and two years later, he left the group when Victor Willis returned to his position as the lead singer.

Then, when Willis left once again in 1987, Ray returned and remained with the group until 2017, when Willis decided it was time for him to be in the spotlight once again.

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However, as fans of the group claimed they only recognized Ray as the lead vocalist, Willis decided to demolish what the group had built until now, claiming the rights to the band’s name and image and creating his own Village People with all-new members.

Ray and his peers were left basically on the street, but they came up with a solution: they started to tour under the name “Kings of Disco,” alerting die-hard fans every time “the other” Village People announces a performance to avoid confusions.

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Willis, who was awarded between 33 and 50 percent of 20 Village People songs in a 2012 court ruling, said he tried to make peace with the former band members.

“Despite the fact they had misled the public for many years into believing that they are the singers of the Village People hits when in fact the real singer has always been me, I offered an opportunity for several of the group members to join in my return at the helm of Village People. They declined my offer,” Willis told NBC through email.

These days, both groups keep performing the same songs but use different names.

Some fans have sided with Willis, and others with Simpson, but at the end of the day, for those who are not aware of the changes or the legal battles, Village People is still the act they want to see.

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