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Meet Gloria Gaynor [PHOTOS, VIDEOS]

gloria gaynor
Gloria Gaynor, 1988 Best Of (Craig Allen photo)

Gloria Gaynor is synonymous with disco music…but did you know that she is a New Jersey native?  Read more, on our “Jersey Fresh Weekend!”Gloria Gaynor was born in Newark on September 7, 1949. There was always music in her life.

As a kid, she enjoyed listening to the radio, and to records by the likes of Nat “King” Cole and Sarah Vaughn.. Her father played the ukulele and guitar, and sang professionally in area nightclubs! Her brothers sang gospel, and formed a quartet, but Gloria was not allowed to join the all-guy group. In an autobiography, Gloria confesses to wanting to sing as a child…but no one in her family knew it! Further, she grew up in the projects as a “tomboy”

In high school, Gloria was a member of her school choir, the mixed chorus, and the girls’ glee club. While she suffered a bit of stage fright before her first solo, Gaynor’s confidence in her singing grew. By the time that she graduated from high school with honors, Gloria knew that she wanted a singing career.

To appease her mother, who wanted Gaynor to have something to fall back on, she went to beauty school and took business courses. And, while she continued practice singing, she worked many non-singing jobs in the years after high school. She even cashed a paycheck from Bamberger’s! Remember them?

In the 1960′s, Gloria Gaynor was a singer with the “Soul Satisfiers”, a jazz/pop band. As Gloria Fowler, she recorded “Will You Be My Guy / Train Of Love” for a small Chicago label. She released a second single, “She’ll Be Sorry/Let Me Go Baby” as Gloria Gaynor in 1965.

1975 was a good year for Gloria Gaynor! After that long a wait for a “hit,”, I should hope so!

The “Never Can Say Goodbye” album would establish Gloria Gaynor as a “disco” artist, a tag that she has to this day.

Side one consisted of “Honey Bee,” “Never Can Say Goodbye” and “Reach Out, I’ll Be There,” with no breaks in between the songs!

This 19-minute dance “marathon” proved to be enormously popular, especially at dance clubs. All three songs were released as singles (radio edits).

“Never Can Say Goodbye” was a #9 song, in early 1975…”Reach Out, I’ll Be There” went to #60 on the hit singles chart.

The album played an important role in introducing disco music to the public, with  “Never Can Say Goodbye” becoming the first song to top Billboard Magazine’s Dance chart!

Attempting to capitalize on her success, Gaynor rushed out the album “Experience Gloria Gaynor” in late 1975…but it did not equal the success of “Never Can Say Goodbye.”

For the next few years, Gloria Gaynor would release singles that–lacking radio airplay–only became hits in the clubs. Albums would also fail to attract “mainstream” attention.

But…all that would change in 1978, with the release of the album “Love Tracks.”

It is interesting to note that “I Will Survive” (or as I call it: the Female National Anthem), was not supposed to be the hit! It was the flip-side to “Substitute.” This song was a worldwide hit for a South-African girl group called “Clout.”  Polydor Records felt that would be the hit…

A Boston Disco DJ changed all that, when he flipped the record over, and played “I Will Survive.” The rest is history!

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“I Will Survive” is on COUNTLESS numbers of compilation CDs! (Craig Allen photo)

“I Will Survive” topped the charts (#1) in early 1979.

“I Will Survive” earned the only Grammy Award EVER  for Best Disco Recording, in 1980.

In 1980 and 1981, Gloria Gaynor released disco albums that went largely ignored in the U.S., thanks to the “disco backlash.”

1983 would bring the album “Gloria Gaynor,” which basically rejected disco, and had more of a Rhythm & Blues and “pop” sound.

It would include a new version of “I Will Survive,” with some changed lyrics to reflect Gloria’s new Christianity. The words “It took all the strength I had not to fall apart” were changed to “only the Lord could give me strength not to fall apart”. This proved to be a turn off to all but her most devoted fans…

Gaynor would achieve her final success of the ’80s with the 1984 album “I Am Gloria Gaynor.” This was mainly due to the song “I Am What I Am.” The song was a hit at dance clubs, and made Gaynor a “gay icon.”

With the “disco revival movement” in the mid-to-late 1990s, Gloria Gaynor’s hits started to make a comeback. She also started dabbling in acting…

…you may remember Gloria playing the kids’ music teacher, and singing “I Will Survive” at the prom on “That ’70s Show.”

In 2001 Gaynor performed “I Will Survive” at the 30th Anniversary Concert for Michael Jackson.

Gloria Gaynor returned to the recording studio in 2002, releasing her first album in over 15 years. “I Wish You Love” returned Gaynor to the Dance music charts.

On September 19, 2005, Gaynor was honored twice when she and her music were inducted into the “Dance Music Hall Of Fame.” She was inducted in the “artist” category, along with fellow disco legends Chic and the late Sylvester.

“I Will Survive” was inducted in the “record” category.

Almost 35 (!) years after its release, Gloria Gaynor continues to enjoy great success with “I Will Survive,” as she tours the country…and the world…and performs her signature song on TV, as well!

Born in Jersey…back in Jersey…Gloria Gaynor lives in the Watchung Mountains…and my neighbor “FedEx Pat”  (of House Christmas Lights fame here at nj1015.com, in November and December) delivers to her. He tells me that Gloria is a “sweetheart!”

So, I’m thinking that I should give Pat one of my Gloria Gaynor CDs….that maybe she’d sign it for me???

Hey…it could happen…!

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