Gloria Gaynor was born in Newark, New Jersey, to Daniel Fowles and Queenie May Proctor. Her grandmother lived nearby and was involved in her upbringing. "There was always music in our house," Gaynor wrote in her autobiography, I Will Survive. She enjoyed listening to the radio and to records by Nat King Cole and Sarah Vaughan. Her father played the ukulele and guitar and sang professionally in nightclubs with a group called Step ‘n’ Fetchit. Her brothers sang gospel and formed a quartet with a friend.
But Gaynor was not allowed to sing with the all-male group, nor was her younger brother, Arthur, because he was too young. Arthur later acted as a tour manager for Gaynor. The family was relatively poor, but Gaynor recalls the house being filled with laughter and happiness and the dinner table being open to neighbourhood friends. They moved to a housing project in 1960 and Gloria grew up as a tomboy. "All through my young life I wanted to sing, although nobody in my family knew it."
Q.— I suppose there are inevitable questions about I Will Survive. Any idea how many people have covered it??
A. — I Will Survive has been recorded by more than 200 artists since I recorded it.
Interestingly, the song I Will Survive was originally the B-side when Polydor Records released it in late 1978. The A-side, a song called Substitute, then a recent worldwide hit for South African girl-group Clout, was considered more "radio friendly". Boston Disco Radio DJ Jack King, turned the record over and recalls being stunned by what he heard. "I couldn’t believe they were burying this monster hit on the B-side," said King. "I played it and played it and my listeners went nuts!"
This massive audience response forced the record company to flip the songs, so that subsequent copies of the single listed the more popular song on the A-side. King was honoured at New York’s "Disco Masters Awards Show" for three consecutive years (1979–1981) in recognition of his relentless push of the song. The song was awarded the only Grammy Award ever for Best Disco Recording in 1980.
Q.— What do you think about it being a sort of anthem for female emancipation? And I Am What I Am being a gay theme?
A. — I choose songs that I hope will uplift, inspire, encourage, and empower people who have benign desires for themselves and everyone else, whoever they are.
Q.— Who would you duet with if you had a free choice and why?
A. — A few years ago, I would have done duets with Alicia Keys or Justin Timberlake because I love both their voices and styles. Now that I’m recording Christian Music, I would duet with Donnie McClurkin, CeCe Winans, Jason Crabb, or Bart Millard.
Q.— How important in the scheme of popular music development was the disco movement of the late '70s?
A. — I think it was very important because it catapulted black artists onto the pop charts and forever changed the foundation of popular music.
Q.— I read that you believe we could have learned much more from the positive disco era which could have helped us deal with the global trauma we are facing now. Do you think that is still the case?
A. — I believe that the camaraderie that disco music spawned among unlikely groups could have been used to bring people together in such a way as to make the similarities that we share more apparent and the differences less important, creating an atmosphere for a lot less of the anger, hatred and prejudice that exists in the world today.
Q.— Of your contemporaries at that time, who did you most admire? And nowadays, who does you admire/listen to ...?
A. — I most admired Donna Summer, Thelma Houston, Kool and the Gang, and the Commodores in the seventies.
Q.— What do you think of contemporary dance/club music?
A. — I think that, as with every generation, there is some that is good and some that is not so good.
Q.— How often has her material been sampled by contemporary producers?
A. — My popular songs have often been sampled by contemporary artists.
Q.— Not only have you empowered many walks of life and generations with your music, you too also found Christianity late in life,. How much of a difference has that made to your life?
A. — Christianity has completely changed my life. Everything I say, do, think and feel, is coloured by my faith in Christ as my guide, guard, and governor. The Bible is my source of faith and rule of conduct.
Q.— I understand you are a big fan of the Obamas and really consider that he and his family have made a difference. Are you worried about what the future now holds for the United States?
A. — As an artist, who believes that I am an opinion leader by virtue of my career and popularity, I believe it is possible for me to have undue influence on other people’s political affiliations and choices. Therefore, I never publicly express any political views.
Q.— But just a few weeks ago we saw the terrible shootings in Orlando. How did that effect you?
A. — I think it is horrible that human beings can kill each other. We should love each other more and hate each other less.
Q.— Returning to music. What is your secret to having been at the top of the industry for so long?
A. — It’s all about having a real, honest and true relationship with the audience. Every time I choose a song I think how it can motivate the public and transmit strength.
Q.— Today, there are lots of female singers dominating the charts?
A. — Yes, I think it’s fantastic. It’s always going to be difficult for us because we live in a world dominated by men. Being a leader, setting an example has its benefits, but it also comes with lots of responsibilities. Until now, the men have enjoyed most of the benefits, but we are the more responsible, so now the whole situation is changing.
Q.— How has the industry changed since you first started out?
A. — It’s changed a lot. Most of all the technology and the record companies have less control over the artists and they don’t like that. They want the power and the money. I see this relationship like a two-way street: you help me and I’ll help you.
Q.— So, how can you overcome that?
A. — The solution is to be united and fight a better way to collaborate instead of fighting. For example, Taylor Swift is not my competition. People who like her, buy her music, just like the people who are fans of mine. In an ideal world, people should buy both.
Q.— What can we expect from your concert in Majorca?
A. — Well, it’s not the first time I’ve performed on the island, but it was many years ago and I am really looking forward to returning with my British band. The public can expect lots of fun, it’s going to be a real party. My concerts are a love story between me and my audience, and I hope plenty of people come and share the love with me and have a great time.
Gloria Gaynor will be appearing at Port Adriano on 23 July. More information: www.portadriano.com.