It was this week in 1979 that a rising artist by the name of Gloria Gaynor took the club scene by storm when her breakout dance hit “I Will Survive” started a three-week run at No. 1 on the Hot 100.
Her first and only No. 1 Hot 100 hit, “I Will Survive” was released on her 1978 album Love Tracks. Over 35 years later, Gaynor’s hit is a true testament of survival that remains one of the most beloved dance songs of all time.
Here’s a look back on the track that made Gloria Gaynor a household name in music.
1. The song was released as a B-side
Gaynor originally released “I Will Survive” as the B-side to her cover of the Righteous Brothers’ “Substitute” in 1978. It wasn’t until radio DJs around the country took notice of “I Will Survive” and began giving the song airplay that the song quickly rocketed to the top of the charts and became a dance club staple.
2. Gaynor won the only Disco Grammy
Gloria Gaynor won the Grammy award for Best Disco Recording in 1980 for “I Will Survive.” This was the first and only time the Grammys offered this category at the awards and soon eliminated it after the fall of disco.
3. It doesn’t feature any background singers
Unlike many disco hits recorded at the time, “I Will Survive” is recorded without any background singers adding to the sound. Gaynor also recorded the song at a higher vocal register than she normally sings and the track wasn’t overproduced like her earlier hits.
4. The song has charted in every decade
Dozens of artists have covered Gaynor’s hit anthem, helping it achieve a timeless status on the charts. Since its release in the ’70s, “I Will Survive” has re-surfaced on the Hot 100 chart every decade in a variety of forms. In the ’80s, R&B singer Safire released her version that peaked at #53 in 1989. Singer Chantay Savage’s jazzy ballad peaked at #23 on the Hot 100 in 1996. In 2009, pop group the Pussycat Dolls sampled “I Will Survive” in their hit “Hush Hush; Hush Hush” that peaked at #73 and the hit show Glee helped bring the song back in 2011 with its Destiny’s Child mashup with “Survivor” that peaked at #51 on the chart.
5. “I Will Survive” has become a source of empowerment
The song has played an important part in many people’s lives as a source of inspiration and empowerment to overcome any obstacle in life. It not only serves as a break-up anthem for women that rouses up strength and power to move on from a relationship, but as an anthem in the gay community, among those who suffer from depression, and even to Gaynor herself.
Just before recording “I Will Survive,” Gaynor spent six months in the hospital from a back injury and the song served as her own source of motivation to survive and overcome the injury. Since its release, “I Will Survive” has been translated in 20 different languages all over the world, and remains one of the most popular karaoke songs to this day.
Now that you know a little more behind the tune, watch and sing along with Gloria Gaynor’s timeless anthem below!
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