I Will Survive: The Book

Overview

I Will Survive is the story of America's "Queen of Disco." It is the story of riches and fame, despair, and finally salvation. Her meteoric rise to stardom in the mid-1970s was nothing short of phenomenal, and hits poured forth that pushed her to the top of the charts, including "Honey Bee," "I Got You Under My Skin," "Never Can Say Goodbye," and the song that has immortalized her, "I Will Survive," which became a #1 international gold seller. With that song, Gloria heralded the international rise of disco that ...

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I Will Survive: The Book

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Overview

I Will Survive is the story of America's "Queen of Disco." It is the story of riches and fame, despair, and finally salvation. Her meteoric rise to stardom in the mid-1970s was nothing short of phenomenal, and hits poured forth that pushed her to the top of the charts, including "Honey Bee," "I Got You Under My Skin," "Never Can Say Goodbye," and the song that has immortalized her, "I Will Survive," which became a #1 international gold seller. With that song, Gloria heralded the international rise of disco that became synonymous with a way of life in the fast lane - the sweaty bodies at Studio 54, the lines of cocaine, the indescribable feeling that you could always be at the top of your game and never come down. But down she came after her early stardom, and problems followed in the wake, including the death of her mother, whose love had anchored the young singer, as well as constant battles with weight, drugs, and alcohol. While her fans always imagined her to be rich, her personal finances collapsed due to poor management; and while many envied her, she felt completely empty inside. In the early 1980s, sustained by her marriage to music publisher Linwood Simon, Gloria took three years off and reflected upon her life. She visited churches and revisited her mother's old Bible. Discovering the world of gospel, she made a commitment to Christ that sustains her to this day.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A tired and preachy autobiography from one of the first queens of disco.

This is the kind of celebrity autobiography that serious readers have come to dread—the "become famous, hit bottom, find God" kind. We're told all about Gaynor's "dark" past, which included two abortions, drug use, and marital problems, but all this has become rather trite. Gaynor's tendency toward cliché is only compounded by the extremely poor detail that is given about any of these experiences. The abortions are mentioned without anything about the discovery of pregnancy; the drug use seems limited completely to marijuana—rather minor in an age in which cocaine and especially crack have taken a much more serious toll. Gaynor is also unable to turn the camera outward, with her analysis of disco music and its impact on popular music in general limited to a few pages. What hampers this autobiography beyond anything else, however, is Gaynor's relentless proselytizing for her newly found Christianity. While normally a reader might feel happy that a person who had suffered had found solace through religion, Gaynor's endless insistence that only through Jesus can one find salvation is egregiously offensive. Even her own brother, one of two of her siblings to join the Nation of Islam, is depicted in the book as being brushed off by her for rejecting Christianity. How this jibes with Gaynor's admission that her own husband is not yet born again is unclear. All of this, on top of the conversations that she claims to regularly have with God (in which the Almighty is an active participant), seems just a little too crackpot for believability.

It's ironic that Gaynor states, "There's been a lot of interest in a seventies revival in recent years"; if there were not, this book might never have been published.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312300128
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2001
  • Pages: 300
  • Sales rank: 251,654
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Interviews & Essays

On November 11, 1997, barnesandnoble.com on AOL welcomed Gloria Gaynor, whose 1970s hit "I Will Survive" has become not only a song that defines an entire era of life in the fast lane but also a phrase that resonates with meaning in her own life. Her new memoir, I WILL SURVIVE, tells the story of her meteoric rise to stardom in the mid-'70s, which defined an era -- and almost broke her.



JainBN: Thanks for joining us tonight, Gloria. Are you ready to begin?

Gloria Gaynor: Yes, I am.


JainBN: Here we go!

Gloria Gaynor: Great!


Question: How do you feel about the huge homosexual fan base that you have?

Gloria Gaynor: I am happy to have all of my fans!


Question: Can you explain the retro chic of '70s disco?

Gloria Gaynor: Yes, I think so. I think that it's just that when people are not really optimistic about the future, they become nostalgic and begin to look back to a time when times were better. So for the '90s that would be the '70s. And besides that it was just great music!


Question: Everyone knows all the lyrics to your song "I Will Survive." What's your favorite song?

Gloria Gaynor: My favorite song is a gospel song called "I Will Survive," because it happens to be the story of my life, and I recorded it on an album in Italy. It's not available in the U.S., but it will be, because I'll record it on another album for the States.


Question: It seems that "I Will Survive" has meant different things to you at different times in your life. In 1978, you related the song to your spinal injury; later you found survival in Christ, etc. What do you connect the song's message to today?

Gloria Gaynor: Today I connect it to the fact that I have survived through Christ and am able to share his love and knowledge with my fans and my music. With that I can help my fans to survive, and with that I am sure that I will survive, as well as my career!


Question: How have you changed since becoming a Christian?

Gloria Gaynor: Well, I'm told that I'm a much nicer person! I've become more understanding, less critical, more patient, more giving. Most of all, I have a lot more to give.


Question: You and Linwood have always done everything together. So when you found God and he didn't, did it hurt your faith?

Gloria Gaynor: Not at all. Linwood has a very strong faith in God. He just is a lot more private with it than I am.


Question: "I Will Survive" was practically the theme song for the movie "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert." Did you see the movie? What did you think?

Gloria Gaynor: I did not see the movie, but I was sent a clip of the portion that the song was used in. I thought it was hilarious!


Question: Ms. Gaynor, I read in your bio that you are a born-again Christian. Do you sometimes find it difficult to be in the entertainment world being a Christian too?

Gloria Gaynor: No I just keep my heart and mind on my purpose for being there, and that is to share the love and knowledge of Christ with my audience, through my audience. Without a doubt, I feel people are hearing my message of Christ. I've had people come backstage and tell me so. It makes me feel wonderful. I'm involved in my church ministry -- I'm a member of the choir. To be a member of the choir in my church means to me an opportunity to serve God and to serve his people.


Question: Did you think that "I Will Survive" would become the hit it did when you first saw it finished?

Gloria Gaynor: I knew that "I Will Survive" would be a hit before I heard the music, when I first read the words. I knew it was a timeless lyric that everyone would be able to relate to. "Bridge over Troubled Waters" is another song that I think is timeless and brings hope and encouragement to people in need.


Question: Have you recorded a Christian soundtrack, or do you have plans for one?

Gloria Gaynor: I have recorded Christian songs, 14 on my last four albums. Unfortunately, only one is available in the United States. All the rest are European. The album is called "I'll Be There," and the gospel songs on it are "Mighty Height," "I Choose Joy," and another one I can't think of right now.


Question: In your opinion, who are today's brightest and most talented singing sensations?

Gloria Gaynor: Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Anita Baker, Luther Vandross.


Question: There's a history of cancer in your family. What advice would you give to a woman that has the same sort of history?

Gloria Gaynor: Well, get to know the Lord, and with Him you can survive cancer and anything else. He is greater than any disease or any other malady known to man.


Question: When did you find your faith? What brought about your realization?

Gloria Gaynor: In 1982, after much struggle between staying with my peers and doing the decadent things that they were doing -- such as indulging in drugs, alcohol, and all-night parties -- and going back to the way my mother had raised me to live, I finally set out on a search for something that would give me thestrength and the courage to stand alone upon my own convictions. That search lead me to a search for truth. I found that truth in Christ, and the knowledge of the gifts, talents, and attributes that he had placed in me that gave me enough self-esteem and security to stand on my own convictions, and with it, the unconditional love, the acceptance, the validation that I had sought in my peers, which is what caused me to be with them in the first place. I felt that because of what I had found, I only felt loss for them, because although I tried at many times and for a long time, I was unable to share the riches of a relationship with Christ.


Question: How about the Cake version of your song. Have you heard it yet?

Gloria Gaynor: No, I've only heard about it. So my only critique is that it wasn't necessary to use one word of profanity. I think that each individual artist must take responsibility for the young people who they know are seeking to emulate them and realize that it is not responsible to disseminate anything to any young people that you would want disseminated to your own child. Unless people's hearts start to change, I don't see this stuff getting cleaned up. As the Bible says, Not money, but the love of money is the root of all evil. When we begin to find people more important, relationships more important, when our hearts are changing, then the music business will start to turn around. Only then and not until then.


Question: Did you experience a lot of racism or prejudice as a black woman in the music industry during the '60s or '70s?

Gloria Gaynor: Not overtly, not openly, but I'm sure that at least some of my lack of availability in the United States is due to that. I think that all artists are more quickly received in Europe and have more longevity in Europe simply because they don't have as many great stars as we do, and America produces simply the best music. I never think of moving to Europe! I am 295 percent American, especially after all the travels I've had.


Question: In your book, you devote a chapter to your four best friends. What has their friendship brought you, and how are your friends today?

Gloria Gaynor: We're still just as good friends as ever. Their friendship has brought me camaraderie, love -- they're my confidants. They brought me understanding, empathy, and the knowledge that there are four people in the world, at least four -- five, with my husband -- that I can call on anytime of the day or night and know that they will be there for me. I think I am extremely blessed, since most people find it really difficult to find more than one good friend in a lifetime.


Question: Gladys Knight recorded a live version of "I Will Survive" in 1982. Did you like her version? How about Diana Ross's version? Do you like her cover?

Gloria Gaynor: I loved Gladys's. It was a great tribute to me. Diana's I thought was also a tribute -- it was flattering.


Question: What real-life circumstances/events inspired the lyrics and song "I Will Survive," if you can give a brief summary. (By the way, one of my most favorites -- played it at our college-grad dance night!)

Gloria Gaynor: For me, it was the death of my mother, and the spine surgery. Both situations were extremely difficult for me, and there were doubts, at least in the minds of some others, that I would survive. My back pain today is intermittent. To stay healthy I take glucosamine and Condroitin with gelatin. I wear high heels only when I need to, I walk quite a bit, and I keep promising myself that I'm going to lose weight.


Question: At this point in your life -- with everything going so well for you -- does your past seem like a bad dream? Or do you look at it as something you had to go through to get where you are today?

Gloria Gaynor: It seems more like a bad dream, because although it has made me who I am, I always feel that wherever you've come to in the middle of your life, you could always have taken a shorter route. I would have made fewer mistakes and would have paid more attention to the advice I was given by those who are older and wiser.


JainBN: Thanks so much for joining us! Any closing comments?

Gloria Gaynor: Thanks, goodnight, and God bless.


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