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She Will Survive: Gloria Gaynor
by Gregg Shapiro

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Gloria Gaynor's new CD, I Wish You Love ( Logic/BMG ) , was released on Sept. 10, just a few days after her birthday. In that way, she was able to give her fans a gift on her birthday, and what a gift it is. The Hex Hector remix of "I Never Knew" has already reached the top of the Billboard Dance Music chart, allowing Gaynor the kind of comeback that most disco divas only dream about. The album also has enough dance-oriented tunes, including the infectious "Just No Other Way," to keep the dance floors packed until next summer, and beyond. A kind and generous person, who graciously poses for photos with fans, Gaynor was in Chicago for a few days prior to her concert performance, and I had the chance to speak with her at the Peninsula Hotel.

Gregg Shapiro: I Wish You Love is your first worldwide release in 15 years—what other types of things were you doing during that period of time?

Gloria Gaynor: I did eight albums over in Europe. They were the same kind of combination that I've always done. Some dance music, some ballads, some mid-tempo. I even did a rock song on one of the albums, believe it or not.

GS: What song was it?

GG: It was called "Perfect World." Soft rock, of course. On each of the albums, one thing that I did, that I haven't ever done here, is gospel. I did one to three gospel songs on each of the eight ( European ) albums. I intended to do some gospel on this album ( I Wish You Love ) , but it just didn't work out.

GS: After less than two months, Hex Hector's remix of "I Never Knew," the first single from the album, is already in the No. 1 position on the Billboard dance chart. How does it feel to be back in such a big way?

GG: It really feels great. It makes me know that our timing was absolutely perfect. We felt that it was time for me to come back into the U.S. market with an album worthy of the U.S. public. That they were ready for my kind of music. Strong, pleasant, memorable melodies and good, meaningful lyrics, and also music that has not only the techno ( instrumentation ) , but also some live musicians, as well. The way this album is being received, with the single being No. 1 so quickly, proved that we're right.

GS: Did you ever imagine that, in 1975, with the release of "Never Can Say Goodbye," your name would become so closely associated with disco music? The two are almost synonymous.

GG: I really hadn't thought about it in 1975, no. I hadn't imagined that at all. I was trying to supply the newly formed disco market with music; that was our intention. That it would last this long? That I would last this long? That I would even outlast disco in America? No, I never even thought about it.

GS: "I Will Survive" earned you countless honors and accolades. Did you immediately connect with the song the first time that you heard it or did you have to be sold on it?

GG: As a matter of fact, I had to sell them on it. "I Will Survive" was written as the B-side of another song. When my husband Linwood—he's my manager, as well—and I first read the lyrics, we recognized that it was a timeless lyric that everybody could relate to, and that as long as it was played, it would be popular. We would have expected this kind of longevity for the song, if we'd thought about it that far ahead

GS: Do you think that there are any particular songs on I Wish You Love that have the same potential?

GG: Probably "Just No Other Way To Love You."

GS: I completely agree. It really grabs the listener.

GG: That was one of the first songs that we chose, and I thought, OK, what I want to do with this album is not only sing about love, which was the original concept of the album, but to be sure that with every song I am speaking the heart of a woman, the heart of the American public. It's a man's world and it always will be, so if I'm chosen to have a voice for women, I'm going to use it in the way that they would have me use it. That's what I'm trying to do.

GS: I like the way the songs on the disc conjure up a vintage disco-era sound while managing to sound completely fresh and contemporary. Was straddling those two worlds something that you kept in mind while you were selecting material?

GG: Yes. We did that because I do that. The way that we did that was choosing producers who had a track record. It's not so much a sound as it is the elements that are included. As I said, the strong, meaningful lyrics, the good melodies, the strong production with live musicians where they're going to be most advantageous. We kept producers that would want that and that's how we, as you said, straddled both worlds.

GS: And with respect for the voice.

GG: Exactly, because the voice is very important.

GS: You are going to be on a panel at the Billboard Dance Music Summit Oct. 1, you are going to be on a panel with Yoko Ono and Cyndi Lauper. How do you feel about that?

GG: Great! We'll certainly have three very different women doing it, from three different eras.

GS: Have you ever met either of them?

GG: I've met Cyndi. She's very sweet.

GS: As a performer with roots in the disco, you must be aware of the way that you have been embraced by the gay community, especially after you covered "I Am What I Am," from the musical La Cage Aux Folles. How do you feel about your relationship with your gay fans?

GG: Great! They're a great audience. They love the music. They love to dance. They're very enthusiastic.

GS: As an artist, how has your life changed since Sept. 11, 2001?

GG: ( Deep breath ) As an artist, my life hasn't changed that much. I've always been very aware of the public and very outgoing. I think that "I Will Survive" has taken on a stronger meaning for the country.

I've seen it more as a song for America—and hopefully other people have too—than ever before. Before it was an individual thing. Now it's a song that unites us in music.

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