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Entertainment > Music > Story
'I Will Survive' is disco queen's mantra for hope
By Kevin C. Johnson
POST-DISPATCH POP MUSIC CRITIC
02/14/2008
music

When singer Gloria Gaynor recorded her Grammy-winning disco anthem "I Will Survive" nearly three decades ago, she was doing some surviving of her own.

Gaynor recorded the song after a fall from a stage led to temporary paralysis, a three-month hospital stay and spinal surgery.

"The reason I was able to record the song with such fervor and force is because when I recorded it, I was standing at a microphone with a back brace," Gaynor says. "People in the hospital had been saying the queen is dead. I was thinking about that, as well as the death of my mother, which happened years before."

Gaynor, 58, who is also well known for "Never Can Say Goodbye," says "I Will Survive" has helped her through many situations over the years, which speaks to the song's longevity.


"It's not just another 'Somebody done somebody wrong' song," she says. "It's about going forward. It's a song of hope and encouragement. It's a timeless lyric anyone can relate to about the tenacity of the human spirit. I always imagined it would be popular, though I never thought it would be after 30 years."

Gaynor, who headlines the Boogie Ball on Friday night at Ameristar Casino with fellow disco stalwarts the Village People, had more to say about her immortal hit, who the real queen of disco is and more.

Q. How do you feel about all the covers of your song?

A. They're all a tribute to me. And I'm very happy they're not as popular as mine. It's a great compliment to me (that) people keep going back to that song.

Q. Which cover is your favorite and least favorite?

A. I haven't heard all of them, but I really like the one by Chantay Savage. She made it her own rather than a carbon copy of mine. Another one was Gladys Knight. The one I don't like is the one by Cake, because they used profanity.

Q. How do you feel about primarily being known for one thing, "I Will Survive?"

A. I feel great, because I think I speak for all artists when I say there is nothing better than having a song you know will be received when you walk out there. It really gives something for people to take away from the concert that impacts their life. Not many artists can say that.

Q. How will you celebrate the 30th anniversary of "I Will Survive" this year?

A. I'm going to release a celebratory, one-time CD with two songs called "I Will Survive." The first is the song we all love. The second is a gospel song. I'm doing it that way because I want people to know what my foundation is and where my strength comes from.

Q. How did you deal with disco's backlash?

A. It had a positive and negative effect on me, but I looked at it as more positive. It enabled me to do more travel and broaden my scope, push me to move out into the rest of the world.

Q. Who is the Queen of Disco, you or Donna Summer?

A. Whoever someone is giving it to at any given moment. Those titles are to be given by the fans or the public. I was elected it by the International Association of Disco DJs, who were fully qualified to choose me at that time. After that, other people thought Donna was the queen. I have no problem sharing the crown.

Q. What can fans expect out of you at the Boogie Ball this weekend?

A. They can expect a party, and they can expect something old, new, borrowed and nothing blue. They'll get the songs they expect me to do, and then some songs I covered of other artists, perhaps "Every Breath You Take" and songs from my latest CD.

kjohnson@post-dispatch.com | 314-340-8191
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Boogie Ball with Gloria Gaynor and the Village People

When: 9 p.m. Friday

Where: Ameristar Casino second floor ballroom; VIP reception is at 7 p.m. at the Home nightclub at the casino

How much: $50-$200 (benefit for the American Liver Foundation)

More info: www.liverfoundation.org or 314-352-7377

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