Carrying On

In many ways, “I Will Survive” will always remain bigger than its creator. Scores of women, gays or simply the crestfallen championed the 1979 disco anthem as a source of inspiration to overcome any obstacle that life presented. For Gloria Gaynor, the voice behind the rousing survival message, the song was just as personal too. Recording since her first single in 1965 as an R&B singer, the New Jersey native was later discovered by MGM Records president Mike Curb who would help release Gaynor’s debut album, Never Can Say Goodbye, that established Gaynor as a disco artist in the burgeoning scene. Gaynor recorded albums regularly from 1975 until “I Will Survive” became her first bona fide hit four years later. The song received the only Grammy Award for Best Disco Recording in 1980, marking the last major hurrah for the disco movement as it fell out of vogue soon thereafter.

As disco ebbed, Gaynor became a born-again Christian in 1982 after a life of alcohol and drug abuse. And although she reinvented herself as a gospel artist, Gaynor hasn’t forgotten the iconic song synonymous with her name. Last year, she appeared on national television to celebrate the 30th anniversary of her karaoke staple. On her website, Gaynor said, “Without faith, inspiration and encouragement, ‘I Will Survive’ is little more than an empty catch phrase.” Gaynor rerecorded the clarion call as the gospel ballad, “He Gave Me Life (I Will Survive).” “After 30 years of telling people I will survive, it's time to tell them how,” she said. Whatever the song’s incarnation, its ultimate expression of human tenacity remains. While the song’s frozen in time, its message is not.

Amidst a world tour, Jupiter Index caught up with Gaynor to find out what some of her poignant memories are throughout her career, her favorite concerts and albums, and who to look out for.

Joshua Barajas: What would you say have been your top ten memories in music?
Gaynor: In no particular order:
1. Receiving the Grammy for “I Will Survive.”
2. Performing “I Will Survive” with Michael Jackson in the audience.
3. Recording “Never Can Say Goodbye” for my first album.
4. Recording “I Will Survive.”
5. Hearing Beyoncé sing “Ave Maria” in her concert.
6. Seeing a Tina Turner concert.
7. Seeing BeBe Winans sing at my church, Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, NY.
8. Seeing BeBe and CeCe Winans sing at my church.
9. Performing for the Nelson Mandela Birthday celebration at Radio City Music Hall.

If stuck on a desert island, which ten CDs would you most want with you and why?
1. The Bible on CD.
2. Kirk Franklin – The Fight Of My Life
3. Kirk Franklin – Rebirth of Kirk Franklin
4. Bebe Winans – Freedom
5. Cece Winans – CeCe Winans
6. Angelo And Veronica – It's Not Enough
7. Martha Munizzi – The Best Is Yet To Come
8. George Gershwin – Gershwin's Finest
9. Michael Jackson's – Thriller
10. Whitney Houston – The Greatest Hits

What would be your top ten music concerts you’ve most enjoyed?
I have been working so consistently since I first started, I've only seen a few concerts by other artists.

1. Performing at a concert in Brazil, where a young lady was inspired to become a Christian because of the Gospel songs I sang and the words I said before the songs even though she did not understand a word of English. (They speak Portuguese.)
2. Performing in Italy where a young lady told me that the lyrical change I made to "I Will Survive" had given her the strength and courage to abandon her plans to commit suicide, because they told her where her strength can come from and that she didn't need to die.

The rest in no particular order:

3. Performing at a concert in Brazil where I re-recorded "I Will Survive" in Spanish joined by thousands of fans who normally hate Spanish. (They speak Portuguese.)
4. Tina Turner (She's a great performer.)
5. The Jackson Five 30th Anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden. Special because Michael watched and enjoyed my performance, and called me at home afterwards to tell me so. Also, all the other artists there did great performances, especially the Jackson Five who were phenomenal.
6. Beyoncé’s concert - Special just because she's a phenomenal performer.
7. Smokey Robinson performance at Miami Children's Hospital, special because it was my first opportunity to see him live.
8. The Nelson Mandela Birthday Celebration at Radio City Music Hall - Special to be a part of a concert with so many great and legendary artists and actors.
9. The Last Dance concert and TV show. Special because it was great to perform with Whoopie Goldberg, and the other Divas.
10. Barry White Concert in England. Special because I got to meet the great man himself.

Who would you choose for your top ten list of up-and-coming artists?
1. Jonathan Tyler
2. Julian Moreno
3. Estelle
4. Nuttin' But Stringz
5. Asia Cruise
6. Crystal Bowersox

by Joshua Barajas