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)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits