I Will Survive's 35 years of staying power is a testament to Gloria Gaynor's brilliance and powerhouse voice, as well as the artistic delivery of the song's message. "My attitude about the song is inherent in the delivery of the vocal, and the people get that," Gloria explained. "Whether they can verbalize that or not, I'm singing encouragement, because I'm being encouraged. I'm singing empowerment because I'm being empowered. All that I believe is inherent in the delivery." I Will Survive has been recorded recorded 200 times, and except for versions by Chantay Savage and Cake, Gloria feels the delivery is where the other artists fell short. "Most who try to sing the song, sing it in anger. And there is no anger in my delivery. The song comes out of forgiveness to whomever or whatever gave me a reason to sing that song. There is no negativity there, and people get that."
Gloria Gaynor continues to sing, record, and use the anthem as an instrument of empowerment and encouragement. Gloria's latest project is a book of survivor stories culled from fans who were inspired by the song to carry on and overcome. “In my travels and concerts, people have shared their stories about how they have been encouraged, uplifted, and empowered through I Will Survive. Each time someone tells a story to me, it encourages me, and adds hope and meaning to my life. And I thought that, if a person that was going through something could read a whole book where people are going through similar situations, but through the song, came out on the other side, then that would be a wonderful thing.”
When asked whether she viewed the song as a gift from God, Gloria emphatically replied, “Absolutely! I have no doubt about that. It gets confirmed to me every time someone records it, and it just dies—doesn’t get much play. The audience recognizes my version of the song after all these years.”
I Will Survive was originally a B-side filler. For Millennials who grew up on CDs and MP3 downloads, that means it was the second side of a 45-RPM vinyl record--the way music was delivered in the 1970s and early '80s. Producers and songwriters Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris were asked to produce Gloria on the A-side song Substitute (originally recorded by the Righteous Brothers), and part of their agreement was that they could also choose what would encompass the B-side of the 45. "They [Perren and Fekaris] talked to me about what type of songs I liked, the subject matter, tempo, all that stuff. Then they said, 'We think you're the one we've been waiting for to do the song we wrote a couple of years ago.'"
I Will Survive was birthed without much fanfare, but thanks to DJs and radio play, it quickly eclipsed the A-side of the record, moving to number one on the charts in 1979. Part of the conviction behind the song is that Gloria was surviving a crisis of her own at the time she recorded it. "I had fallen on stage in a New York performance, so I was in a back brace after spine surgery. I was relating this experience to the lyrics when I read them. I was able to relate my situation to the song, because I was very much incapacitated."
Thirty-five years later, Gloria continues to deliver the song with conviction because she continues to survive loss, setback, and obstacles with grace and strength. "Whenever I go to the doctor and he has me fill out these forms, I feel like the Bride of Frankenstein! I have survived two back surgeries, two myomectomies, two knee replacements--don't ask me why I have to do everything in twos, I have no idea! I have survived the death of most of my siblings, except one, my mother, my father, some dear friends. But it’s the same things others go through, and you just continue to live. The song has helped me through every one of them."
Her faith in Jesus Christ also gets her through the difficult times as well as anchors her purpose and vision in life. "I knew 34 years ago that the song had significance. When I read the lyrics I related something else to it, and I knew other people would too. To be able to push through whatever negative situations they are facing."
Gloria has been honored with awards, had many guests appearances in the United States and other countries, and has received accolades worldwide. Along with her global reach through concerts and engagements, Gloria uses the platform and inspiration of I Will Survive to give back. "I Will Survive should remind us to be proactive in this world." Gloria embodies this through her work with the American Diabetes Association, Save the Children, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, and St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, among others.
"Whenever I am around people who I feel need encouragement, whenever I do something for a charity, that's when I use my celebrity, and my way of encouraging people--I use that song to draw people into a cause, to rally people who need help with different situations."
During her years of touring, Gloria earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology through Walden University. This achievement is part and parcel of her latest charitable vision: a healing, learning and recreation Center for teenage parents in her hometown of Newark, New Jersey. “I will be partnering with another organization that deals with teen mothers and fathers, but my focus will be on drawing the young fathers to be an active partner with their women and children, or at the very least, to be involved in their children's lives."
Gloria grew up without a father in a single-parent home, so her heart resonates with this need. "The Lord just kind of tapped me on the shoulder and said there's a need there, and I want you to fill it. I discovered that where God calls you, he also equips you. My mother raised seven children, five who were boys. She did her best, but had a difficult time of it. It shouldn't have been as difficult as it was, because she needed help.
"I am equipped to deal with it because I grew up in a single parent home. I can speak to young fathers about how not having a father in the home affects a girl, because I went through it myself."
Gloria hopes the Center can be a model that is replicated to other cities in the nation. You can discover more about this work by visiting the Charities link on her website.
Gloria is also inviting her fans to be a part of the Survivor stories for the book project. Anyone who has been inspired and transformed by I Will Survive can visit Gloria Gaynor's Official Facebook Page or the website and share their story. The release is planned for Winter of 2013, in conjunction with Gloria's five-song Gospel EP currently titled He Gave Me Life (I Will Survive).
Through the book, Gloria hopes to reach people “who have heard the song, and people who are going through difficult situations. People who have heard the song, know the song, and will be drawn to the book. When they hear of people in their lives who are going through things, they can say to them, 'Read this.'"
And for the few on the planet who have never heard of Gloria Gaynor or I Will Survive, Gloria offers this incentive to read her book: “If you're going through any kind of difficulty or know anyone who is, here's some help for you.”