Catching up with the "I Will Survive" singer ...
By DEANNA MARTIN-OSUAGWU
Singer Gloria Gaynor made history by winning the only Grammy for Best Disco Recording with her platinum-selling 1979 track “I Will Survive.” In honor of the song’s upcoming 35th anniversary, Gaynor has released an inspirational book titled We Will Survive— a compilation of stories from people around the world who’ve connected with the underlying message of the famous tune— along with a companion album of the same name. The Queen of Disco tells JET about what the hit song has meant to her and what she’s working on next.
JET: What inspired your book and album We Will Survive?
Gloria Gaynor: The book is an idea that I had many years ago, but things didn’t come together then. I believe that God’s timing is perfect. We started in March of 2013 and finished compiling stories by the end of July. We received many personal accounts from different support groups like RAINN. We went to the heads of these groups and asked if they could canvas their members to see whom the song “I Will Survive” had positively impacted and if anyone would be interested in contributing to the book. The song was a catalyst for their hope. The stories in the book inspired me so I wanted to do more songs that would further inspire people.
JET: You have stated that you also want to help people by opening up a healing, learning and recreation center for teen parents in your hometown of Newark, NJ. Why is that an important mission for you?
GG: God dropped the idea into my heart. I grew up in a single-parent home without a father, and saw firsthand the trials and tribulations of single motherhood. Also, I recognized that teen parents don’t have a clue. No one is teaching anyone to be a parent. At that age, you certainly don’t know how to be a parent or an adult.
JET: To what do you attribute your staying power in the music industry?
GG: I purposely choose songs that touch people and become the musical background to their lives. I also try to stay current. Whenever I update a song, I maintain the melody even if it has a new arrangement.
JET: “I Will Survive” has become your signature song. What keeps it fresh for you?
GG: The proudest moment of my career so far has been winning a Grammy for Best Disco Recording for this song. I still enjoy performing it with every new audience. They make it fresh for me. I close my shows with “I Will Survive.” To this day, it’s my favorite.
JET: Many have remade your classic. Which version do you like best?
GG: I like the one by Chante Savage. When you re-record someone’s song, you should make it your own, and she did.
JET: Who have been your biggest musical influences?
GG: Those my mother listened to like Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Cleo Laine and Nancy Wilson. I personally have always liked Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight. I also like Beyoncé and Alicia Keys. They’re all great.
JET: Do you think anything is missing from today’s music?
GG: The biggest thing missing from today’s music is the spontaneous creativity that comes from live musicians and singers influencing one another.
JET: What did you most appreciate about disco music?
GG: This was upbeat, positive music that brought people together— every nationality, age, creed and race. No other musical genre had ever done it.