When she recorded it back in 1978, Gloria Gaynor could not have guessed that "I Will Survive" would survive the way it has -- 36 years as not only a disco favorite but a bona fide pop anthem.
In fact, it wasn't even set up to be a hit when it was first released, as the B-side to another song called "Substitute." "The record company (??) had asked me to record a song that the president of the company had chosen," recalls Gaynor, 65, a New Jersey native who will sing "I Will Survive" at Saturday's (March 21) Detroit Pistons game against the Chicago Bulls. "I went out to L.A. to do the song and the producer (Dino Fekaris) told me he and his partner (Freddie Perren) had a song they believed I was the one they'd been waiting for to record it. So we did.
"I kept telling the record company, 'This is a hit song. It's got a timeless lyric. This is the one we should promote,' but no one would listen to me. They were afraid to go against the president's choice."
Gaynor took matters into her own hands, taking "I Will Survive" to a friend who DJ'd at Studio 54. The song was a bit hit with dancers there and spread to other New York clubs, and then Jack King, a radio DJ in Boston put it on the air. "The rest is history," as Gaynor notes.
The song has appeared in countless movies and TV shows and inspired Gaynor to write a book, "We Will Survive," that was published in 2014 and compiles stories she's been told about the song's impact on listeners. There have been scores of cover versions, too -- the latest by Aretha Franklin on last year's "Sings the Diva Classics."
"She had some nice things to say about the song, which is great," says Gaynor, who's currently working on her first gospel music album. "I always say imitation is the greatest form of compliment. To have something like Aretha cover my song is quite a tribute and an honor."
So how does she think the Queen of Soul's version stacks up to the original? "Well, who's gonna do it as good as me?" Gaynor says. "The first one is always THE one, if it's done well. And mine was done well, obviously."
Saturday, March 21 at halftime of the Detroit Pistons game vs. the Chicago Bulls. Tip-off is 7:30 p.m.
The Palace of Auburn Hills, Lapeer Road at I-75.
Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
Send your thoughts and comments to