With her signature song “I Will Survive” perhaps is fair to say Gloria Gaynor owes her place in music history to the Disco revolution of the late 1970’s, but her career had already a rich history prior to that
Disco Diva Gloria Gaynor turns 72
It is perhaps fair to say that Gloria Gaynor owes her place in music history to the Disco revolution of the late 1970’s, but this Disco diva started her career long before that as a Soul, Jazz and R&B singer.
Born in Newark, New Jersey on September 7, 1947, Gloria Gaynor came from a family who struggled financially and lived in poverty during the early years of her life. Despite that, she was surrounded by music, and would listen to singers like Nat King Cole as she was growing up. During the 1960’s, as Soul music was making it’s way onto the mainstream, Gloria joined the band the Soul Satisfiers, then a Jazz and R&B band. Still during that decade, in 1965 she started her solo career, and released her first single “She’ll Be Sorry/Let Me Go Baby” for Johnny Nash’s Jocida label. By the early 1970’s, Gloria Gaynor had been in the professional music business for a few years, and in 1975, she was signed to Columbia Records by Clive Davis, releasing her debut in that label, the flop single “Honey Bee.” It wasn’t up until she was signed by MGM that her career really started to took off. With the now classic and revolutionary Disco and Dance album “Never Can Say Goodbye”, released in 1975, with side one of the record consisting of three songs mixed together, creating a 19 minute dance marathon that became popular in Clubs and Discos worldwide, at the very beginning of Disco music. The songs were “Honey Bee” and the smash hits “Never Can Say Goodbye” and “Reach Out, I’ll Be There”, both covers from respectively The Jackson Five and The Four Tops. Her memorable version of “Never Can Say Goodbye”, proved to be more popular than the original Jackson Five one, and became the first song to top Billboard magazine’s dance chart and also a worldwide hit in Pop music charts.
Gloria Gaynor performing her first big hit “Never Can Say Goodbye” in 1975
After that initial success, Gaynor released the albums “Glorious” and “Gloria Gaynor’s Park Avenue Sound”, both earning her only a few more moderate hits, not comparable to “Never Can Say Goodbye”. However in 1978, she got back to the top of the charts with the release of her album “Love Tracks” that included the smash No.1 hit, and her signature song, “I Will Survive”, that curiously, was first released as a B-Side to “Substitute”, a cover of The Righteous Brothers. The now Disco classic and one of the most popular songs of all time, sold 14 million copies worldwide and entered the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1978, reaching No. 1 on the chart on March 10, 1979, earning Gloria Gaynor the Grammy Award for Best Disco Recording in 1980, the only year the award was given. During the early 1980’s, Gloria Gaynor popularity decreased immensely, specially due to the backlash against disco in the U.S. backlash against disco. The singer achieved her final success in 1984 with the release of her album “I Am Gloria Gaynor”, mainly due to the song “I Am What I Am”, which became a hit at dance clubs, at a time where Gloria was already regarded as a Diva by the Gay population, eventually becoming a LGBT icon to this day, a cause that she also supports. Her career got a brief revival as Disco music comeback to the charts and music preferences around the world during the early to mid 1990’s More recently, in 2017, Gloria rewrote the lyrics to “I Will Survive”, changing the title to “Texas Will Survive”, after the 2017 devastation wreaked by hurricane Harvey on the state of Texas, and posted a video of herself singing the song on Twitter that same year. Gloria Gaynor most recent album was released in 2019 “Testimony”, and even if without the same visibility or popularity she achieved during the 1970’s, Gloria Gaynor remains an icon of Dance and Disco music with an important page written in music history.
Watch the 1979 music video “I Will Survive”, by Gloria Gaynor
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