Gloria Gaynor, Disco's Ultimate Survivor, Discusses That Song
You know "I Will Survive." Everybody knows "I Will Survive." Aliens know "I Will Survive." Dogs know "I Will Survive." Dogs who are aliens know "I Will Survive."
Gloria Gaynor's 1979 disco anthem, written by the same producers who wrote "Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel" and "Reunited," has long since taken on a life of its own. VH1 named it the No. 1 Dance Song of All Time; the late George Carlin pegged it at No. 9 on his "Most Embarrassing Songs of All Time" in his 2001 book Napalm and Silly Putty. He didn't say why, but it might have something to do with its ubiquity at karaoke bars across the globe. It has also, as Gaynor told Rocks Off Wednesday, literally saved at least one person's life.
The Newark native had actually notched several club hits by the time "I Will Survive" conquered the globe, including the Top 10 "Never Can Say Goodbye," "Casanova Brown" and "Let's Make a Deal." Today, she's the national spokeswoman for the W.A.K.E. Up & Flexx campaign, a pharmaceutical-sponsored initiative to raise awareness of knee osteoarthritis, and will sing her most famous hit at tonight's opening ceremonies of the 2011 Summer National Senior Games at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
Rocks Off: How did you get connected with these Senior Games?
Gloria Gaynor: I'm here to bring about awareness of osteoarthritis of the knee, especially as it occurs in women, as well as bring awareness of how they can go about easing the pain and ill effects of osteoarthritis.
RO: Is this something you have personal experience with?
GG: Absolutely. Yeah.
RO: What are the details of your performance here?
GG: Well, I'm going to be performing "I Will Survive." That's the only song I'm performing.
GG: It's great. It's wonderful to know that I have a song that gives people something that lasts beyond the duration of the concert. It gives them hope, it gives them encouragement, it empowers them. Very often it becomes part of the musical backdrop of people's lives. It's very encouraging and uplifting for me, and adds meaning and purpose to my life.
RO: How did it find you?
GG: The song was written by a couple of producers [Freddie Perrin and Dino Fekaris] who had been asked to record me on another song, and they said they would be pleased to if they could write the B-side. So after speaking with me about the kind of songs that I like to sing, the subject matter I like my songs to contain, they decided that I was the one they had been waiting for to record this song.
RO: It was actually a B-side when it came out, right?
GG: Exactly. Yeah.
RO: What made it take off?
GG: When the song was recorded, I went to the record company and said to them that it was a hit song. I felt that when I first read the lyrics, that it was a timeless lyric that everyone would be able to relate to, and that I thought it was the song they should promote rather than the other side.
They wouldn't even listen to the song. So I and my management team took the song to Richie Kaczor at Studio 54. When he played it, the audience immediately loved it, which signaled to us that I was right about it, and they were right to agree with me. New York audiences are so jaded they don't immediately like anything.
So Richie was pleased to see that response in his club, and agreed to give the record to other DJs in the New York area, and they began to play it and people began to request it from them. Then they went on to request it from radio, because now they wanted to hear it on the way home, on the way to work. Radio stations started calling the record company, asking "Where is this record we're getting requests for?"
And the record company had to say with much chagrin, "You've already got it. It's on the B-side of that other song."