Gloria Gaynor on Obama, Beyonce, How Disco Could Have Ended Terrorism
Gloria Gaynor’s disco anthem “I Will Survive” – forever a mainstay of movie soundtracks, karaoke bars and drag shows – has never gone out of style and was recently inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry. “It’s such an awesome honor,” Gaynor tells Rolling Stone. “It was totally unexpected, but I am honored to be counted among those great songs.”
Currently, 66-year-old Gaynor is touring and performing live, but the song also can be heard eight times a week thanks to the satirical new musical Disaster! currently playing at the Nederlander Theater on Broadway. The music legend recently attended a performance of the goofy show that spoofs Seventies disaster films such as The Poseidon Adventure and includes covers from disco faves and the K-Tel era of pop music. “It was hilarious. I remember Volcano and Tornado.” she says of the film genre that thrived when she was at the top of the charts.
In fact, the musical includes another of her hits, “Never Can Say Goodbye,” which the singer admits she feels is too-often overlooked. It’s also one of the highlights of Disaster!, with a guitar-playing nun (a hilarious Jennifer Simard) singing her undying love to a Hawaii-Five-O-themed slot machine.
“I was surprised they did so much of it,” she says. “And even did a reprise. I love performing these songs. I never tire of ‘I Will Survive’ – I love doing it for the audience.”
While Gaynor says that the Seventies was a time of excess – “which wasn’t a good thing” – she thinks that the positive disco-era feelings could help us deal with our current global traumas.
“It was a time when people came together,” Gaynor explains. “It was every nationality and color and age group. Disco had that thing of camaraderie. It was an upbeat and happy time. If disco had stuck around, we don’t how much less terrorism we might have in the world now. It puts everyone in a good mood.”
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Gaynor says she’s especially disappointed in the current presidential candidates. Without naming Donald Trump specifically, she said she found the “lack of dignity appalling.” However, it only reinforces her respect for President Obama and the first lady, who she sees as beacons for future generations: “I think Obama presents that one thing: He never strayed from the dignity from the office of the president.”
What about Beyoncé, another pop star who has her own “Survivor” hit, the Destiny’s Child song that may have been inspired by Gaynor’s classic? “I haven’t sung the song with her, but I did meet Beyoncé a few years ago,” Gaynor says. “I remember she was very ladylike and demure, almost like a Southern belle. She was very quiet and laid back, but not recently. She went off the rails. What I loved about her before is I thought, ‘Here’s a young lady who is teaching young ladies, young people to love, respect yourself.’ Not now. Young people look up to entertainers. You’re an opinion leader. You should give them something to emulate.”
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