Gloria Gaynor
Vocalist, entertainer
Born: September 7, 1943, in Newark, New Jersey
Lives in: Somerset County, New Jersey
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2017: Performing Arts

Few songs have survived like Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” An anthem of hope and defiance for generations of listeners around the world, the song has made Gaynor a lasting presence on the American music landscape.

Gaynor (born Gloria Fowles) grew up in a musical household. Her father played guitar and sang professionally, and three of her brothers performed in a gospel quartet. After graduating from Newark’s South Side High School, Gaynor began singing in local clubs. She eventually hooked up with a New Jersey jazz and R&B band called the Soul Satisfiers and later started her own group, City Life.

During a performance in New York City, Gaynor was spotted by a talent manager, who helped her land a recording deal with Columbia Records. Not much came from that deal, so she moved on to MGM Records, where she recorded her musical breakthrough, a remake of the Jackson Five hit, “Never Can Say Goodbye.” The song reached No. 9 on the Billboard pop singles chart in January 1975, but more importantly was a smash on the burgeoning disco scene.

A national deejay association crowned Gaynor “Queen of the Discos” in March 1975, marking her ascendancy to stardom. Her career went into hyperdrive in late 1978 with “I Will Survive,” an irresistible tune about a woman determined to move on from a failed relationship. Originally released as a “B” side, “I Will Survive” took on a life of its own. The disco crowd loved it and so did radio listeners. By March 1979, “I Will Survive” moved up to No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart.

In 1980, Gaynor won a Grammy for Best Disco Recording, but in subsequent years it was hard for her to find a song that could match the popularity of “I Will Survive.” In 1983, her recording of “I Am What I Am,” a song from the Broadway musical “La Cage Aux Folles,” reinvigorated her career even as the disco scene was fading.

In subsequent decades, TV appearances and performances around the world kept Gaynor in the public eye. In time, she reinvented herself as a contemporary Christian artist, winning her second Grammy in 2020 for her gospel album, “Testimony.”

Meanwhile, “I Will Survive” had achieved anthemic status for a broad spectrum of listeners in need of a spiritual lift, including survivors of breast cancer, domestic violence and HIV-AIDS. In 2016, the Library of Congress inducted Gaynor’s version of “I Will Survive” into the National Recording Registry. Gaynor also has been applauded and honored for her own commitment to charitable causes.

More than 40 years after soaring to the top of the pop world, Gaynor continues to perform and inspire audiences around the globe.

Intro/Acceptance Video