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Gloria Gaynor reveals pain behind ‘I Will Survive’ in new doc


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Disco legend Gloria Gaynor is legendary for belting out some of the iconic survival anthems of all time — and he or she meant each phrase.

Solely months earlier than recording her basic “I Will Survive” in 1978, the two-time Grammy winner needed to overcome a devastating accident that occurred whereas she was onstage acting at NYC’s Beacon Theatre. 

“I fall backwards over a monitor onstage. I get again up, I end with the present, went house, went to mattress. Awoke the following morning paralyzed from the waist down,” the 79-year-old singer reveals within the new documentary “Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive,” which premiered on the Tribeca Festival this weekend.

“I used to be within the hospital for 3 months, and that’s the place I had that first horrific backbone surgical procedure. I didn’t know if I’d ever stroll once more.”

Nonetheless worse, whereas Gaynor was “flat on my again” within the hospital, she received a letter from her document firm saying the label wasn’t going to resume her contract.

Gloria Gaynor performing in 1975.
Gloria Gaynor made her disco breakthrough with a canopy of the Jackson 5’s “By no means Can Say Goodbye” in 1974.
Getty Pictures

“I assumed it was over,” she says within the doc.

However even at her lowest level, Gaynor didn’t crumble.

Simply months after her near-paralyzing accident, a back-braced Gaynor was within the studio wailing for her life on what would turn into her signature song

And the remainder is historical past.

“I Will Survive” — which, unfathomably, was initially launched because the B-side to Gaynor’s cowl of the Righteous Brothers’ “Substitute” — went on to turn into her first and solely No. 1 hit and to win the primary and solely Grammy for Finest Disco Recording in 1980.

Gloria Gaynor and ex-husband Linwood Simon.
Gloria Gaynor needed to survive mistreatment and mismanagement by ex-husband Linwood Simon.
Gamma-Rapho by way of Getty Pictures

Belted out after many a breakup, the track’s legacy was cemented for eternity when it was chosen for preservation within the National Recording Registry in 2016.

For Gaynor, it was additionally a really private anthem of resilience and perseverance as she endured — and survived — all the things from poverty and sexual abuse whereas rising up, to mismanagement by her ex-husband, to the demise of disco, which just about killed her profession.

Born in Newark, New Jersey, Gaynor was raised by her mom in a one-bedroom residence with 5 brothers and one sister. 

“My youngest brother and I slept within the kitchen,” she remembers.

Gloria Gaynor in "Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive."
The brand new documentary “Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive” particulars the disco legend’s triumphs and trials.
Betsy Schechter

However, she provides, “we had been very, very completely satisfied. Youngsters don’t know they’re poor so long as they’re beloved.”

Nonetheless, she suffered the trauma of sexual molestation, first on the age of 12, by her mom’s boyfriend on the time.

“He got here to my mattress one night time, and I woke as much as him touching me very inappropriately,” she remembers within the documentary. “At 17, I used to be sexually molested once more. He was my boyfriend’s cousin. He had his means with me and threatened to kill me if I screamed. And no person would hear me anyway as a result of nobody else was within the constructing besides the 2 of us.”

Gaynor suffered in silence.

Gloria Gaynor in "Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive."
Within the new documentary “Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive,” the Grammy-winning singer reveals previous sexual abuse.
Betsy Schechter

“I by no means talked about it, and I by no means cried about it,” Gaynor reveals. “The sexual abuse simply sort of made me really feel unworthy … We internalize all that craziness.”

Certainly, for years, it haunted her — even unconsciously. “You understand, you get these emotions deep inside,” she says. “These items contact you in a spot the place you don’t even know, and so they depart scars that you just’re not even conscious of.”

The truth is, Gaynor sees these early abuses as the rationale why she accepted years of mistreatment and mismanagement by her ex-husband, Linwood Simon, whom she wed in 1979.

These “deep scars,” she says, “allowed me to permit these issues to occur.”

Gloria Gaynor at the 2023 Tribeca Festival.
Gloria Gaynor carried out on the Tribeca Pageant premiere of her new documentary on Friday.
Getty Pictures for Tribeca Pageant

Simon would ship her off to work in Europe at a breakneck tempo whereas he remained within the US partying and philandering. As soon as when she returned house, she discovered Simon had put in a lock on the basement so he might have his non-public affairs down there. Gaynor and Simon divorced in 2005.

In 2020, Gaynor made a triumphant comeback beneath new administration, profitable her second Grammy for her gospel album “Testimony.” And the brand new documentary is a testomony to her survival instincts.

“I’ve positively survived loads of issues,” she says. “Generally our plans work out, however typically you don’t fairly make it.”


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