Is there an opening line provokes a stronger response than, "At first I was afraid..."? Have you ever - and I mean ever - been somewhere where those five words played and more than half of the room didn't mumble (or shout) along, "I was petrified"? And you do too, right? Be honest.
That's Gloria Gaynor's legacy, right there. She had a host of other disco-era hits ("Never Can Say Goodbye," "I Am What I Am," Let Me Know (I Have a Right)" amongst them), but none that eclipse that career-making tale of unrequited love in "I Will Survive" that Gaynor belted all the way to the top of the charts in 1979.
But for Gaynor, the track wasn't about unrequited love. No, it was about actual survival - months in a back brace, which she was in when she recorded "I Will Survive," surgery, time in the hospital, and more. She literally survived, and went on to perform the track thousands of times around the world and, this Friday, in Carmel at the Palladium.
NUVO: Tell me, I just learned you were in a back brace when you recorded "I Will Survive," which I cannot imagine. It seems appropriate for the song actually. I wanted to know how the lyrics of that song have changed meaning for you over the years.
Gaynor: Maybe I should say [they have] grown. The song itself was an answer to prayer and the lyrics just so encouraged and inspired me for what I was going through at the time - having recently had surgery on my spine [for a slipped disk causing temporary paralysis], having recently losing my mother, having been recently told by the record company that my contract was going to run out and they weren't going to renew.
Being in the hospital for almost five months, the song just said to me that I could get through all of this and that I was going to survive and things were going to come out great, and they did.
So, I began to sing it for other people because I felt that I was relating all of these different experiences to the lyrics of the song. The lyrics of the song were inspiring me through these experiences and uplifting and encouraging and empowering me through a group of experiences that had nothing to do with unrequited love, which is what the song is essentially all about.
I thought, "Well, if it could do that for me it could probably do that for other people." It is a timeless lyric. People are always going to have problems that they feel are insurmountable and hope that they'll survive.
NUVO: What's your advice to young women starting out their singing careers in 2013? What do you wish you would have known?
Gaynor: Well, I wish I had known that I should follow my passion. That in following your passion is where you're going to be the most comfortable, you're going to be the happiest. Well, let me say it this way. This is a philosophy that I picked up along the way. This is one of the things I learned.
You should never consider yourself poor because you don't have what someone else has or what someone else thinks you should have. So, if you follow your passion and if you follow that, you can be happy in your work, which 90 percent of the population is not. You can have as much materially as you need, you as an individual, to be happy.