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The inside story of how The Village People shot the music video for 'In The Navy' onboard an active warship
The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.
Then the rhythmic clapping begins.
This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.
"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."
Earlier this month, U.S. military personnel at Naval Base San Diego were surprised with a special treat when country music singer and songwriter Chris Young ("I'm Comin' Over," and "Think of You") dropped in for a visit before a nearby performance as part of his Raised On Country Tour. Young and tour sponsor USAA have prioritized visiting military bases and offering tickets to every service members who wants to see his show, which is exactly what he did that night in San Diego.
But his visit was about more than just promoting his tour. As Young told Task & Purpose, his family ties to the military (both his sister and brother-in-law served as Marines), along with friends who serve, have made personally saying "thank you" to U.S. service members "really, really important" to him, no matter where he travels.
It's not necessarily surprising: the country star has a history of working to spend time with men and women in uniform.
In 2009, Young traveled to Iraq, Kuwait, and Germany with fellow country artist Craig Morgan for Stars For Stripes, an organization that provides entertainment for troops overseas; in 2013, Young raised over $30,000 for Stars For Stripes, and he partnered with Crown Royal a few years later for a fan giveaway, which included Crown Royal donating $10,000 to Stars For Stripes. And in April this year, a month before his tour kicked off, Young performed at a NFL Draft USAA Salute to Service event for service members at Fort Campbell.
Young spoke with Task & Purpose last Friday about his trip to San Diego and what meeting with service men and women means to him. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.