RIFFS / 'Go - walk out the door': Did you think she'd lay down and die? No, no, not her. Gloria Gaynor recalls 'I Will Survive'

Gloria Gaynor's 'I Will Survive' was No 1 for a month in 1979 and has served as a cast-iron disco anthem and a four-minute self-assertion course ever since. Re-mixed and re-released, it is back in the charts this week at No 6.

THE FIRST thing I knew about this song was the lyrics. They were handed to me written on the back of a brown paper bag, for some reason. And I read them, and I remember thinking immediately that this was a hit. I didn't know what the melody was going to be, but I couldn't imagine a melody that was going to alter the power of those lyrics.

My producer had scribbled the lyrics down for me. I had an A-side called 'Substitute' and I was looking to record a B-side. And the producer, Dino Fekaris and the executive producer Freddie Perren had asked if they could be allowed to write it. My manager and I said yes, and they came up with 'I Will Survive', which was only ever intended to be a B-side. But when we heard it, we immediately thought, let's reverse the order, this song is too good to hide away on the back.

The thing was, 'Substitute' was the President's baby - the President of Polydor at the time had made that song a hit in England and he was out to do the same in America. Nobody wanted to come up against the President, so we didn't even bother to try and talk the company into changing it around. My manager said, 'Let's just put the song in the show and see if the public likes it.' I made it the last song in my show and it's been my closer ever since then. Eventually, the disc jockeys in the clubs started playing it and then the radio stations, and eventually the record company decided to put some weight behind 'I Will Survive'.

When I recorded the song, it was five weeks after I had been released from the hospital after spine surgery. That was one of the things I was relating to when I read the lyrics, because obviously spine surgery is a serious thing and people had warned me that I could be paralysed for life. But I hadn't, I had survived. And I had been told I would be convalescing for three months but there I was, five weeks later, in the studio. But I was still pretty weak and I had to periodically sit down on a stool between takes. Incidentally, at the same time, I cut a version of the song sung in Spanish - the first time I had ever done that.

All of the rhythm track was ready when I sung it, but there were no horns or strings on there at that point. Dino Fekaris was a perfectionist - I didn't do too many takes, but he had me double it, sing it twice exactly the same to make it sound stronger. This is actually a harder thing to do than it sounds, to hit the same performance twice, and doing it over and over did start to get to me in the studio. So Freddie Perren took me aside and said, 'Look, not everyone can do this. Dino is simply enjoying working with someone who can. Be flattered rather than aggravated.'

I've not changed the song at all over the years of performing it - maybe little inflections in the lyrics according to how I might be feeling, but never anything with the tempo. I became a born-again Christian in 1982, and when I re-recorded the song for an Italian company in 1990, I asked the writers if I could change one of the lines: from 'It took all the strength I had' to 'Only the Lord could give me strength'. They were possessive about their writing, so I was reluctant to ask. And I was surprised at the response: 'Praise the Lord, Alleluia' - they were born-again too.

I've never tired of singing this song. It's like telling one of those side-splitting jokes: you get to the punchline, people crack up, you're king for a minute - it's a good feeling, specially if you're a ham like I am. I'm aware that it's going to be in my repertoire for ever, but I'm flattered there's a signature song that people associate with me.

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before