By Audrey Yeager, Marketing & PR Intern
As a classically trained ballet dancer, my friends laugh at me every time I bust a move to anything that isn’t Mozart or Tchaikovsky. But I can’t help but start dancing when I hear that ultimate feel-good party song that has undoubtedly ‘survived’ the decades. The hit is a staple at all karaoke nights, and is as much a symbol of female empowerment today as it was when it was first released in 1978. (And yes, I will admit to butchering the song at many a karaoke gathering with my friends and family—I wish that I could hold a tune!) Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” is doing more than surviving; this hit is here to stay.
This song is just one of the reasons why Gaynor is a disco music legend. The lyrics are about a woman letting go and moving on after getting out of a difficult relationship. Mixed with Gaynor’s extraordinary vocals, the toe-tapping pump-up disco beat, and its relatable theme, it’s no wonder how quickly “I Will Survive” came into the limelight.
Let us follow the song from when it was first introduced to its place amidst music today. After being released in October of 1978, “I Will Survive” became immediately popular. The song was first released on the “B”-side of a record. (Gasp! Remember the time when there weren’t CD’s or iPods?!) The “A”-side of records were usually the more popular ones, and were often heavily edited with changes to the song’s speed and pitch. Luckily, “I Will Survive” did not undergo many changes.
Only one year after its release, the song secured the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100. The next year, “I Will Survive” won a Grammy for Best Disco Recording. Since then, it has been recorded in over 20 languages. It is incredible to see how many famous music artists reproduced this hit. Among the singers that released covers of Gaynor’s song are Diana Ross, Cake, Gladys Knight, Chantay Savage, Shirley Bassey, and Selena. In 2000, "I Will Survive" was ranked Number 1 on VH1’s list of the 100 Greatest Dance Songs, beating out classics party hits such as “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge and Aretha Franklin’s “RESPECT.”
See Gloria Gaynor live with the Village People on Saturday, June 25 at 8pm.