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Gaynor, Gloria 1947–

Gloria Gaynor 1947

Singer

At a Glance

Selected discography

Sources

Gloria Gaynors anthemic I Will Survive became the first number one disco hit, and the singer was crowned the Queen of Disco. She won a Grammy Award for the song, and released an album each year from 1973 to 1981, with each one of them making it to the Top 40. She left a life of alcohol and drug abuse behind to become a born-again Christian in 1982, and began incorporating gospel music into her repertoire. Her career was rallied by the disco revival of the 1990s.

Gaynor was born Gloria Fowles on September 7, 1949, in Newark, New Jersey, to Queenie May Proctor and Daniel Fowles. The couple never married because Proctors first husband would not grant her a divorce. Proctor had three children from her previous marriage, three with Fowles, including Gloria, and later had one more daughter. Her parents were an affectionate and loving couple, but her father eventually left the family. Gaynor was born several months later. An attempt to reconcile a few years later was unsuccessful, but resulted in the birth of the couples third child. Gaynors grandmother always lived nearby, and was involved in the childrens upbringing, though her child-rearing habits were much stricter and more physical than those of Gaynors mother. The family only attended church at holidays, much to their grandmothers chagrin.

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 Vaughn. Her father played the ukulele and guitar, and sang professionally in nightclubs with a group called Step n Fetchit. Her brothers, under their maternal grandmothers influence, sang gospel, and formed a quartet with a friend. 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 six children and their mother lived in a cramped lower flat in Newark. They were poor, but Gaynor recalls the house being filled with laughter and happiness, and the dinner table being open to neighborhood friends. They moved to a housing project in 1960. She grew up as a tomboy, and began struggling with her weight when she was a teen.

All through my young life I wanted to sing, although nobody in my family knew it, Gaynor wrote in her autobiography. She was a member of her school choir,

At a Glance

Born Gloria Fowles on September 7, 1949, in Newark, NJ; daughter of Daniel Fowles and Queenie May Proctor.

Career: Singer. Recorded her first single, Shell Be Sorry, 1965; toured with Soul Satisfiers, c. 1969-70; sang for City Life, c. 1970-76; released Never Can Say Goodbye, 1975; I Will Survive became a worldwide number one hit, 1979; became a born-again Christian and began singing gospel, 1982; published autobiography I Will Survive, 1997.

Awards: Grammy Award for Best Disco Record for I Will Survive, 1980.

Address: Agent c/o PolyGram Holding, Inc., Worldwide Plaza, 825 Eighth Ave., New York, NY 10019.

the mixed chorus, and the girls glee club. Because no one in the house paid attention to her singing, Gaynor never got the feeling that any of them thought she had a good voice, but after an initial rush of stage fright before her first solo, Gaynors confidence in her singing grew. Gaynor graduated from high school with honors, and knew she wanted a singing career. To appease her mother, who wanted Gaynor to have something to fall back on, Gaynor went to beauty school and took business courses. While she continued to practice her singing, she worked many non-singing jobs in the years after high school, including a job at Bambergers department store.

Gaynor practiced her singing in her apartment, where her upstairs neighbor could hear her. As it turned out, the man upstairs was a bandleader at a local nightclub, who recognized his downstairs songbird one night when she was in the audience. He called her onstage to sing with the band, and the next night, she began singing with Eddie McClendon and the Pacesetters, who also took her on tour. After the band returned home and Gaynor was out of a singing job, Gaynors brother, Arthur, coaxed other nightclub owners into letting his sister sing.

Gaynor spent years on the chitterling circuit, as she called it, making so little money that she could only afford chitterlings to eat. She sang Top 40 hits with house bands in bars and clubs, promoting herself by word of mouth. She picked up the stage name Gloria Gaynor when she recorded her first song, Shell Be Sorry, on the Josida record label. The song was a minor hit and kept her on the road for a few months. Soon after, she found a place in a group called the Soul Satisfiers, and toured the United States with them for more than a year until 1970, when she played with an all-white band called City Life. Her days on the chitterling circuit came to a close in 1972 and 1973, as the disco era unfolded.

After three auditions, legendary producer Clive Davis signed Gaynor to the Columbia record label. Honey Bee was Gaynors first solo single on Columbia. She moved to New York City and was still successfully touring with City Life, singing Honey Bee and Never Can Say Goodbye, which had been previously recorded by both Isaac Hayes and the Jackson Five. She recorded Never Can Say Goodbye for MGM, and it became one of the first disco hits. Gaynor was the first to record an extended-play remix especially for play in dance clubs, and her 12-inch dance singles from the era have remained hot among collectors. MGM released Gaynors debut album, Never Can Say Goodbye, which went gold. Experience Gloria Gaynor was released in 1975 and made it to the Top 40, as did 1976s Ive Got You (Under My Skin). Her next two albums and the single After the Loving also hit the Top 40. She was officially named Queen of the Discos in March of 1976 at Club Les Jardins in New York City.

In 1978 Gaynor discovered that her former manager had squandered all her earnings and had incurred huge debts in her name. After a fall on stage, she was sidelined by surgery on her spine, and wore a back brace from her hips to her underarms for three months. She married music publisher Linwood Simon, who had become her manager, in 1979.

I Will Survive originally was a B-side to the single Substitute. The song featured strings, a rousing beat, and a big vocal performance from Gaynor. It became an instant hit with club DJs and started getting play at Manhattans famed disco club, Studio 54. The public response was tremendous. The song became an anthem to anyone who had ever struggled to overcomeit became an anthem to women, the depressed, to the gay community, even to Gaynor herself. After her scare in the hospital, the song was as much about her inspiration and survival as it was about anyone elses. It became a number one hit worldwide, sold 14 million copies, and was featured on the album Love Tracks.

In 1980 Gaynor won the first and only Grammy Award for Best Disco Recordthe award category was eliminated upon the fall of disco soon after. The Queen of Disco was alive and well and touring the world, appearing on television and radio, fueled by the success of the single that defined the disco era. I Will Survive was translated into some twenty languages, including Arabic, and remained a popular dance and club track more than twenty years later. It has been re-released and remixed countless times, and appears on countless soundtracks and compilations.

In 1990 Gaynor re-recorded I Will Survive for release on Gloria Gaynor 90, which went gold in 1991, though she changed the words slightly to reflect her Christian views. Gaynor has performed in more than eighty countries, and remains popular in Europe. She headlined the first East-West unification concert, and has performed for such international personalities as President Bill Clinton, Pope John Paul II, Princess Grace, and Oprah Winfrey. The French World Cup Soccer team named Gaynor the team godmother after they won the 1998 World Cup, and claimed I Will Survive as their anthem.

With the riches of stardom also came its pitfalls. Gaynor and her husband had drugs and alcohol at their disposal. Though many of the songs on her albums II Have a Right, Stories, and I Kinda Like Me were love songs to her husband, the marriage was suffering. Gaynor went through alternate phases of religiousness and indulgence as she struggled to find herself. Her tenth album, Gloria Gaynor, was released in 1982, after which Gaynor became a born-again Christian, leaving her years of alcohol and drug abuse behind her. In 1985 she began incorporating a gospel song called I Will Survive into her concerts, and began hosting a British radio show called The Gospel Train. Eventually she steered away from recording secular love songs in favor of gospel tunes, writing many of the lyrics herself. She performed her disco hits during the first half of her concerts, and her gospel songs during the second. She gave up singing secular music for a time altogether at a concert in England called Farewell Secular Music, Hello Gospel. Finances were lean for Gaynor during this time, as she quit performing until she could reconcile her Christianity with her secular music.

Gaynor ultimately regained a balance between her secular and religious songs, and her career got a second wind during the disco revival of the mid-1990s. In 1999 she appeared for two weeks in the Broadway musical Smokey Joes Café. She has been involved in countless charities, including the United Cerebral Palsy Organization, The Rita Hayworth Gala for Alzheimers, Revlons Annual Walk for Life, The Michael Bolton Foundation, and Whitney Houstons Foundation, among others. She signed with the popular Wilhelmina modeling agency, and made appearances on the popular television sitcoms That 70s Show and the popular Ally McBeal. Her life story was the subject of an episode of the VH-1 biography series Behind the Music. The music-video network also named I Will Survive the greatest dance hit of all time.

Selected discography

Experience Gloria Gaynor, MGM, 1975.

Never Can Say Goodbye, MGM, 1975.

Ive Got You, Polydor, 1976.

Glorious, Polydor, 1977.

Park Avenue Sound, Polydor, 1978.

Have a Right, Spring, 1979.

Love Tracks, Polydor, 1979.

Stories, Polydor, 1980.

I Kinda Like Me, Polydor, 1981.

Gloria Gaynor, Polydor, 1983.

I Am Gloria Gaynor, Chrysalis, 1984.

The Power of Gloria Gaynor, Stylus, 1986.

Gloria Gaynor 90, New Music, 1990.

I Will Survive, 1990.

Sources

Books

Gaynor, Gloria, I Will Survive, St. Martins Press, 1997.

George-Warren, Holly, and Patricia Romanowski, editors, Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rolling Stone Press, 2001.

Larkin, Colin, editor, Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Muze UK, Ltd., 1998.

On-line

All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (June 29, 2002).

Gloria Gaynor Homepage, http://www.gloriagaynor.com (May 28, 2002).

Brenna Sanchez

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Gaynor, Gloria

Gloria Gaynor

Singer

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Gloria Gaynor was lifted to the pinnacle of success when her biggest hit, I Will Survive, became the anthem of the disco craze of the 1970s and early 1980s. But this monster hit came within a hairs breadth of not being made at all. Even after it was recorded, her record label had profound doubts about releasing it. The song is a tale of unrequited love sung to a driving disco beata picture of the life Gaynor had lived up to that time and prophetic of the years that laid ahead.

Gaynor was born Gloria Fowles on September 7, 1949, in Newark, New Jersey, the daughter of a seamstress and an absentee father who sang professionally. One of seven children, she grew up poor in a house full of music. Although her father was not around for most of her childhood, her mother had a lovely singing voice, and all her siblings enjoyed singing as well. But when Gaynor was still a girl, her mother had throat surgery that robbed her of her rich singing voice. After that, she often asked Gloria to sing some of her favorite songs. I didnt think she had ever paid any attention to my singing, Gaynor recalled in Guideposts. And there she was asking me to do one of her favorites. Gaynor gained further confidence when she was 13 years old and practiced a popular song under the staircase in the hallway of the familys apartment building. Hearing her, a lady from the upstairs apartment called out in surprise, Oh, I thought that was the radio.

Shortly after graduating from high school, Gaynor took a babysitting job in a nearby apartment building. When she heard footsteps from the apartment above, she would sing out loudly below in the hope of being heard. This went on for several days. One evening not long afterward, she accompanied her brother Arthur to a local nightclub. As the two sat at a table nursing their Cokes, Gaynor sang along with the band, the Soul Satisfiers. The bandleader eventually came to the microphone and announced that there was a girl named Gloria in the audience who perhaps could be persuaded to come up onstage and sing if the audience applauded loud enough. Gaynor was coaxed onstage and sang, after which she was hired immediately to sing with the band. Only later did she find out that the object of her babysitting serenades was the manager of the nightclub.

Gaynor sang with the Soul Satisfiers for about a year, after which she made the rounds of clubs throughout the eastern United States and the Midwest. Her first big break came when singer/producer Johnny Nash caught her act at the Wagon Wheel Club and asked her to sing on a record he was producing. The Nash produced record became a hit locally, but more importantly it won a broader audience for Gaynor. In the early 1970s, the dawn of the disco era, she enjoyed a club hit with a song called Honeybee. There was a real need for music that people could dance to, Gaynor recalled in comments included on her official website. The

For the Record

Born Gloria Fowles on September 7, 1949, in Newark, NJ; married Linwood Simon, c. 1979.

Discovered by Clive Davis, then head of MGM Records, after years of struggling in second-rate clubs; signed by Davis to a recording contract after three auditions; rocketed to fame as first Queen of Disco with such hits as Never Can Say Goodbye and number-one smash I Will Survive, 1970s; title track from album I Am What I Am became an anthem for the gay community, 1984; toured extensively in Europe, late 1980s-early 1990s; released six albums in Italy, 1985-90; returned to the United States during revival of disco, mid-1990s; wrote autobiography I Will Survive, 1997.

Awards: Grammy Award, Best Disco Recording for I Will Survive, 1979; World Music Awards Legend Award, 2002.

Addresses: Agent Polygram Holding Inc., Worldwide Plaza, 825 Eighth Ave., New York NY 10019. Website Gloria Gay nor Official Website: http://www.gloriagaynor.com.

world needed an inexpensive way to release the tension and frustration of daily life.

Gaynor firmly established herself as the First Lady of Disco in 1973 when she released Never Can Say Goodbye, which climbed to number nine on the pop charts and became the first genuine disco hit. The song was the title track on her 1973 album, the first to feature nonstop programmed dance music. Gaynor released at least one album a year from 1973 through 1981, and all of them managed to climb into the top 40. The biggest selling album of all, however, was Love Tracks, released in 1978 and featuring the most memorable song of the disco crazeI Will Survive. This was by far Gaynors biggest hit, rocketing in 1979 to number one on the pop charts and adopted by generations of Americans as their personal anthem of defiance and survival. The single won Gaynor the one and only Grammy ever awarded for Best Disco Recording in 1979 and is still the song most closely associated with her career.

Only a short time before she recorded the song, Gaynor was told that she would very likely be paralyzed for life, the result of a devastating back injury she suffered in an accident that occurred during a stage performance. Defying the doctors and wearing a back brace that extended from under her arms to her hips, Gaynor was rolled into the recording studio in a wheelchair and gave the performance of her life. Although she has often said she knew from the start that the song would be a hit, she never realized that it would become her theme song. Surprisingly, the president of Gaynors record company saw little promise in the song, although almost everyone else seemed confident it would be a big hit. In an interview with the Daily Record of London, Gaynor recalled that she and husband/manager Linwood Simon took the record to the world-famous Studio 54 discotheque in New York City to drum up support for the song. The DJ loved it, other DJs picked up on it, and soon the record company couldnt resist the public demand for the song. By February of 1979only a short time after its releasethe single had skyrocketed to number one on the pop charts. I Will Survive remains one of the most requested songs of all time, and is a wildly popular karaoke selection as well. Since its release in 1978, the song has been recorded in some 20 languages, including a French version recorded by Regine, the longtime queen of Paris nightlife.

Ironically, even as her popularity soared on the strength of I Will Survive, marital problems and her abuse of both alcohol and drugs threatened to shatter her success. Like many of the other patrons of New Yorks popular club Studio 54, Gaynor and her manager husband abused cocaine. In her 1997 autobiography I Will Survive, she told how she and Simon eventually tired of the party circuit and began searching for greater meaning in their lives. Gaynor turned her back on drugs and alcohol and became a born-again Christian in the early 1980s. In an interview with People in 1996, Gaynor credited her faith with seeing her through the loss of her only sister, Irma, in the fall of 1995. Irma, the mother of three, was beaten to death by a suspected drug dealer after trying to break up a fight on a Newark street.

As the disco craze faded in the early 1980s, Gaynors popularity in the United States declined. She remained extraordinarily popular in Europe, however. Between 1985 and 1990 she released six albums in Italy, and spent much of her time playing clubs across Europe. The title song from her 1984 album I Am What I Am was adopted as an anthem by the gay community, which at that time had been shocked to its core by the rapid spread of AIDS. Gaynor began to devote more and more of her time to performing at AIDS benefits.

A disco resurgence in the mid-1990s revived Gaynors popularity at home, and she again began performing across the country. In 1995 she released two new albums: Best of Gloria Gaynor, released in Europe, included a completely remixed version of I Will Survive, and in the United States, Radikal Records issued a double CD entitled Ill Be There, which featured a duet by Isaac Hayes and Gaynor on You Are My Everything, the classic first introduced by Barry White.

Once again, Gaynor proved she was a real survivor. In the early years of the new millennium, the singer continued to appear frequently at clubs both in the United States and abroad. She and her husband, who still live in New Jersey, had no children, but doted instead on their many nieces and nephews.

Selected discography

Experience Gloria Gaynor, MGM, 1975.

Never Can Say Goodbye, MGM, 1975.

Ive Got You, Polydor, 1976.

Glorious, Polydor, 1977.

Gloria Gaynors Park Avenue Sound, Polydor, 1978.

Love Tracks, Polydor, 1978.

I Have a Right, Polydor, 1979.

Stories, Polydor, 1980.

I Kinda Like Me, Polydor, 1981.

Gloria Gaynor, Polydor, 1983.

I Am Gloria Gaynor, Chrysalis, 1984.

The Power of Gloria Gaynor, Stylus, 1986.

I Will Survive, PolyGram, 1990.

Ill Be There, Radikal, 1995.

I Am What I Am 96, Hot Productions, 1996.

The Best of Gloria Gaynor, PolyGram, 1997.

Greatest Hits, PDG/PolyGram, 1998.

I Will Survive (The Anthology), PDG/Polydor, 1998.

Just Keep Thinking About You, Logic/BMG, 2001.

Sources

Periodicals

Daily Record, May 26, 2000.

Essence, January 2001, p. 56.

Jet, January 8, 1996, p. 53.

People, June 17, 1996, p. 109.

Publishers Weekly, September 8, 1997, p. 67.

Online

Contemporary Authors Online, Biography Resource Center, http://www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC (March 22, 2002).

Gloria Gaynor, Sing 365.com, http://www.sing365.com/music (December 3, 2001).

Gloria Gaynor Biography, BookingEntertainment.com, http://www.bookingentertainment.com/Gloria_Gaynor_biography.html (December 3, 2001).

Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive, Where Are They Now? Archives, Biography magazine online, http://www.biography.com/cgi-bin/frameit.cgi?p=http%3A//www.biography.com/magazine/read.html (December 3, 2001).

Don Amerman

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"Gaynor, Gloria." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Gaynor, Gloria." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/gaynor-gloria