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Gloria Gaynor on Beyonce, Retirement, and What It Takes to 'Survive'
The disco era may be over, but its queen—and her biggest hit—certainly aren't. Today, Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" boasts nearly 25 million hits on YouTube and has inspired scores of other artists, from Diana Ross to Cake, to record their own versions of the song.
Gaynor, 63, couldn't be happier about the longevity of her song, which recently passed its 30th anniversary. "It's great to know that I'm having this positive impact on people of all ages," she says. "It's a wonderful privilege."
In fact, she's even using the hit's fame to support the Miami Children's Hospital Foundation's Bald, Brave, Beautiful pediatric cancer project. Gaynor rewrote the lyrics, transforming the song into an anthem for kids with cancer.
Plus, with a contemporary Christian album in the works, research for a book underway, and several tour dates planned for this year, Gaynor isn't retiring any time soon. "I definitely have slowed down and do a lot less than I used to, but actually quitting? I don't see that happening," she says.
The legendary singer talked to Parade.com about her favorite (and least favorite) covers of her song, what it feels like to win a Grammy, and the biggest hardships in life that she has survived.
"The cover by Chantay Savage is my favorite, because she really made it very different. I think that's what you ought to do when you're covering someone else's song. My least favorite is the Cake version, only because they use profanity, and that's something that I would never do, in light of the fact that there are all these young people who want to emulate artists. I feel very strongly about that."
On why she still loves performing "I Will Survive."
"I love it every time that I perform that song. It's my favorite song to perform because of the response from the audience and the stories that I've heard from fans over the years. I've noticed that the song is inspiring, empowering, uplifting, and because of that, I'm doing a book of stories from fans and friends. I'm looking forward to hearing from lots of people about how 'I Will Survive' has had a positive impact on their lives." [You can submit your own story for Gaynor's book here.]
On the biggest hardships she's survived.
"When I recorded this song, I was overcoming surgery on my spine from having had an accident on stage and waking up the next morning paralyzed from the waist down. I was overcoming the death of my mother, and since then, I've had to survive the deaths of five of my six siblings and my divorce. 'I Will Survive' has helped me through a lot."
On what it's like to win a Grammy.
"One of the high points of my career was winning the Grammy for 'I Will Survive.' It's awesome, because you know that this is an accolade that's coming to you from your peers—people who know what it's like to be in show business and know what it takes to accomplish what they feel you've accomplished. It's quite an honor."
On her favorite recording artists today.
"I'm listening to rhythm and blues, some dance music, and lots of gospel music. I still love a variety of kinds of music. I like Beyonce. I think my all-time favorite song of hers is 'Single Ladies.' I also love Alicia Keys, Norah Jones, and Adele."
On finding the energy to continue touring.
"When I'm on stage, all is right with the world. I think the energy comes from the audience. The better your audience, the more energy you have, and the more energy you have, the better show you do. The better show you do, the more they love it, and the more energy they give back to you. So it's like a back and forth exchange between you and your audience, and I think that's where my stamina comes from."
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