I Will Survive

Album: Love Tracks (1978)
Charted: 1 1
  • This female-empowerment anthem is about moving on after a bad relationship. Over the years, it has taken on meaning for people who have overcome just about any difficult situation, but for the song's lyricist, Dino Fekaris, it was about getting fired by Motown Records, where he was a staff writer. Says Fekaris: "They let me go after almost seven years. I was an unemployed songwriter contemplating my fate. I turned the TV on, and there it was: a song I had written for a movie theme titled Generation was playing right then (the song was performed by Rare Earth). I took that as an omen that things were going to work out for me. I remember jumping up and down on the bed saying, 'I'm going to make it. I'm going to be a songwriter. I will survive!"
  • This song was written by the former Motown producers Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris. Perren was a co-writer on three #1 Jackson 5 hits: "I Want You Back," "The Love You Save" and "ABC." Fekaris' biggest co-write with Motown was "I Just Want to Celebrate" by Rare Earth, but he also placed tracks with The Temptations and The Four Tops.

    When Perren and Fekaris left Motown, they formed their own production duo and scored big with Peaches & Herb, taking "Reunited" to #1. When they wrote "I Will Survive," they had nobody to sing it. The pair agreed that the next diva that came their way would get the song. That diva was Gloria Gaynor, whose record company called Perren looking for production work on a song called "Substitute," which was originally recorded by the Righteous Brothers. They took the gig, and Gaynor agreed to record "I Will Survive" as the B-side.

    Gaynor leaned the song from a demo Perren and Fekaris made for her, and both songs were recorded in the session. Everyone involved in the recording knew that "I Will Survive" was the superior track, but the president of Gaynor's record company specifically ordered "Substitute," and released it as the A-side as planned. "Substitute" peaked at #107 in October 1978, but club DJs started playing started playing the B-side, and soon radio stations were also playing "I Will Survive." Polydor finally released the single with the sides flipped, and "Survive" peaked at #1 in the US in March 1979.
  • This won the 1979 Grammy for Best Disco Recording, beating out "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough," "Bad Girls,"
    "Boogie Wonderland" and "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" It was the first and last time the Grammy was offered in this category.
  • Gaynor sees this song as just a simple song about survival, regardless of what you have to overcome. She said: "I love the empowering effect, I love the encouraging effect. It's a timeless lyric that addresses a timeless concern."
  • In June 1998, the French football team (or as Americans call it, soccer) made this their World Cup anthem.
  • This song became an anthem in the gay community, but its reach extends much farther - it has been reproduced in 20 languages, including Arabic. Predictably, it is also one of the most popular songs to be sung on Karaoke. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Adam - Dewsbury, England, for above 3
  • Gaynor is far and away most famous for this song (her autobiography is even called I Will Survive), but she was a formidable dance singer before she recorded it. She made #9 in 1975 with "Never Can Say Goodbye" and cracked the Hot 100 with her covers of "Walk On By" and "Reach Out, I'll Be There."
  • The musicians on this track were some of the first-call session players in the Los Angeles area. There were:

    Drums - James Gadson
    Bass - Scott Edwards
    Guitar - Bob Bowles
    Guitar - Melvin Ragin
    Piano - Freddie Perren (also the song's co-producer and co-writer

    String players were also brought in to play on the track.
  • Gaynor suffered a back injury and spent six months in the hospital before recording this song. She had surgery and was still in a back brace for the session - her producers put baffles under her arms to accommodate her.
  • Since this was first released, Gaynor has become a devout Christian and added a verse reflecting her faith to live performances:

    I will survive
    He gave me life
    I stand beside the Crucified One
    I can go on
    I will be strong
    For my strength to live is not my own
    I will survive!
  • Producer Freddie Perren had Gaynor do several takes of her vocal, and then double tracked them to give her voice a bigger sound. What you're hearing are two different takes synched up and mixed together.
  • This song has given hope to many looking to move on from a troubled relationship, but when she recorded the song, Gaynor was happily married.
  • "Tony Clifton" (Jim Carrey) performed this song near the end of the film Man on the Moon. Frank the pug sings it in Men in Black 2, and many other films have featured the song over the years, including In And Out, Four Weddings And A Funeral, The Replacements, The Adventures Of Priscilla: Queen Of The Desert, The First Wives Club and Coyote Ugly.
  • Among the many artists who have covered this: Diana Ross, Selena, Gladys Knight, and Cake. Cake's version provides a gender reversal as it was now a man singing about a woman who he must free himself from emotionally. Their version is slower, implying that he is still trying to get over her. It's also more profane, with "I should have changed that stupid lock" replaced with "I should have changed that f--king lock." Gloria Gaynor says it is her least favorite version of the song. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • The song has lived up to its title, returning to the Hot 100 every decade since the 1970s in a number of different guises. Latin R&B/ freestyle singer Safire's version debuted on the chart on December 16, 1989 and peaked at #53 in January 1990. In 1996, R&B singer Chantay's slower, jazzier interpretation climbed to #24 and in 2009 the Pussycat Dolls "Survive" sampling "Hush Hush; Hush Hush" rose to #73. Finally, the Glee Cast's mash-up of the song with Destiny's Child's like-themed "Survivor" reached #51 in 2011.
  • VH1 named this #1 on their list of the 100 Greatest Dance Songs.
  • In 1999, Gaynor performed this on an episode of That '70s Show. She played the music teacher Mrs. Clark, and sang this at the prom.
  • Gaynor told Billboard magazine that it doesn't bother her in the least that she will forever be tied to her signature ode. "From the beginning I recognized it was a timeless lyric that everyone could relate to," said Gaynor, "so I don't get tired of singing it. I'm always freshening it up; changing the beat, the lyrics, modernizing the arrangement - I've even stuck a hip-hop section in the middle of it. I become 295% grade A ham when I do this song because people still love it."
  • A performance by the Northern Ireland singer-songwriter Leah McFall on The UK version of The Voice on June 7, 2013 wowed the judges. The general public was impressed as well as her studio version debuted at #16 on the UK Singles Chart with just 24 hours of sales.
  • R&B singer Chantay Savage's slower, bluesy version, peaked at #24 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and #12 on the UK singles chart. Savage was the daughter of Jazz musician parents and had been a session musician for the likes of Kym Syms before going solo.
  • Aretha Franklin covered this for her 2014 album, Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics. At one point, her version of the song suddenly breaks down into Destiny's Child's "Survivor." "That was my granddaughter Victory's song, and then it became our song," she explained at the album's listening party.
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Comments: 33

  • Dan from Newton, KsI can't believe no one has posted this!! The musical bridge (orchestra) part of this song sounds ALMOST EXACTLY like the musical bridge in 'Gonna Fly Now (Theme from Rocky)'. So much so, that I'm surprised it's not mentioned more often, or that there wasn't some sort of 'plagerizing' rumors.
  • Scott from Los Angeles, CaI am Scott Edwards, the bass player on the original version of "I Will Survive" sang by Gloria Gaynor. The original writer of this song was Dino Fekaris who co-produced this song with Freddie Perren. A documentary of the birth and production of this song was done and I have excerpts of the video on my webpage at this link . Copy and paste. Thanks. http://scottedwardsmusic.com/i_will_survive_proof.htm
  • Kent from Greensburg, PaI have a different and personal interpretation of this song. I have had to overcome so much in my life and still have more things to come and I figured if I have survived this long, then I can survive almost anything that isn't life threatening! I overcame self injurious behaviors, very bad depression, and suicidal tendencies and this song helped me get through all of them. So I have to say "Thank you Gloria for recording this song!" Who knows? If she hadn't recorded I Will Survive, I might not be alive today.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyGloria pulled off a rare feat with this song. On March 10th, 1979 'I Will Survive' reached No. 1 & stayed there for two weeks, then the Bee Gees' 'Tragedy' became No. 1 for two weeks. And Gloria then recaptured the No. 1 spot for one more week!!! {A total of 3 weeks at No. 1 and 27 weeks in the Top 100}
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyIn 1979 Gloria proclaimed "I Will Survive"; a year later Amy Holland asked "How Do I Survive?" {Her song peaked at No. 22}
  • Jackie from Blacksburg, VaGaynor has said she doesn't Cake's remake because of the "f@#$ing lock". Personally, the bass line on that version is what blows the others away. If you haven't listened to it, find it an enjoy the bass line (the rest is great too). It's a shame, because I would love to have heard her singing (maybe a duet) with Cake.
  • Dennis Tate from Moses Lake, WaSome guy made an awesome video of a one-eyed alien girl singing this song. The first time she says "I will survive," she's knocked flat by a giant disco ball. No disrespect to Gloria Gaynor but the irony just cracks me up!
  • David Mosley from Lincoln Park, MiHello All...
    I have been arguing with people for years, & years... Will someone whom has an original release of the album, containing I Will Survive from back in the '70's Look-Up (whom) actually is the responsible party whom wrote the song... Because I know it wasn't Gloria Gaynor !!! Originally written, & recorded by a man - ?
    Gloria Gaynor goes around taking credit for his song writing, everytime she appears on a show!!!
    That is getting on my last nerve, I saw a talk show years ago, with him on there, & he was addressed the issue with him losing-out on the song being recorded by her, & she publically states that she wrote the song for (reasons) etc.etc. Someone, Please, Please help set the record straight, because the original name will be in the credits of the song listing on an original album...
  • Paul from San Benito, Txhaha i love this song and no its just an ispirational song to empower any type of people who have to survive a battle with something. i use this song as my antham since my battle with alcoholism and P.S im only 14.. Alcohol and drugs are in schools stupid adults in denial!!!! anyway thats besides the point this song will be as timeless as the battle for survival
  • Robert from Melbourne, AustraliaHi there!, Firstly i work in the music biz, and was lucky enough to meet Gloria in NYC , she is a pain to work with!..lol..We discussed the track and here is the story...Years before she wrote the song she was battling through breast cancer, after her fight , she wanted to write about experience but in a way that only she new, believe it or not?????
  • Musicmama from New York, NyDave from Cardiff: Hmm...Playing this song at a bar mitzvah--or a wedding...What kind of message does that send? LOL

    Anyway, I actually appreciate this song more now than I did when it first came out. Maybe it's because I'm older and more experienced, having survived a few things--including having to live as a male for more than forty years, and, as a result, doing all sorts of things to which I was completely unsuited. Here I've come! Thanks, Gloria!

  • Cyberpope from Richmond, CanadaGloria guest-appeared recently on "Don't Forget The Lyrics"(US game show) & sang it to/with a young contestant who came back from a car accident to dance once again. . .

    The audience gave her a standing ovation as she sang.

    Yes, she's much bigger now!
  • Renee from Bloomington, MnMatt from Marietta, if you paid attention to the actual song facts above you would know 1.) Gloria did not write this song 2.)The people who did write it did in fact write it as an inspirational song for her to sing due to her back injury, which was caused by a fall, not anything to do with her weight as you imply and 3.) Gloria has also said her take on the song was not based on any relationship in her life at that time, past or present.
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesAiedail - it doesn't prove that girls rule, but that they can be just as bad and as egotistical in their own way as guys. In 1997, Gaynor admitted that the song was not conceived as an anthem for women being abused by men, but inspired by her recovery from a back injury
  • Caitlin from Upper Township, NjUH-MAZING SONG!It's inspirational for anyone who listens. The only problem is when people try to sing it karioke!
  • Egypt_queen from Roseville, Mnits an ispiration song to all girls everywhere. never has a girl i know not been inspired by this awesome song. its a powerful song and no other song can bring down its meaning.
  • Michael Gray from Manning, Schands down this has got to be the greatest survival insporation song that i have ever heard
  • Priya from MumbaiA song that lifts me up always....to stand up, to fight and never give up....a song about life itself!

    Metti -Pune (INDIA)
  • Priya from MumbaiI like this song cos it inspires me to move on and not care about any hurdles that come my way..i will survive yes I will
  • Sum Sum from New Delhi, IndiaThe other night our very known dj vaibhab played this song in our gay night club. every one swayed. i dragged in feather boa and a short dress... i danced till my heels broke....ha ha ha!
  • Matt from Marietta, NyHealth problems? Sorry, I really do believe that this is about a failed relationship. Anyone as big as Gloria Gaynor would have had back problems.I doubt that's why she wrote the song (unless her back pain made her cranky and that's why she broke up with the dude)
  • Helen from Durham, Englandthis song is actually about her health problems. most people assume that it is about a failed releationahip. inact she had back problems for years and she wrote this song after she recovered, so congrats to Igor frm Miami
  • Bill from Southeastern Part Of, FlThe group Cake has the definitive version of this song. Sung by John McCrea, it makes a dismal song finally listenable. I find humorous the slight lyric change: Instead of "I should have changed that stupid lock," McCrea sings (unexpectedly): "I should have changed that f***ing lock." A bit jarring when first heard, but then it's wonderful. Terrific remake. As an aside, I thought a man sang this song first. I know a man (Otis Redding) wrote and sang the song Respect way before Aretha Franklin made it a hit. It kind of gives that song a whole new meaning when sung by a man, huh?
  • Aiedail from Carnation, Wait proves girls rule
  • Jl from Bretagne, FranceJust a detail about the "woman empowering" stuff : What I like about this song is that it is indeed genderless, no he or she mentionned.....
    So drunken male secretaries can also sing it for late nights out!
  • Daniel from Leeds, EnglandThe thing that puts me off this song is that it makes me think of middle-aged women standing on table-tops and shouting the lyrics at a drunken 'girls night out'.
  • Royston from Essex, EnglandThis is a song which has been mistakenly embraced as an anthem by drunken secretaries and divorcees the world over. I say mistakenly as many have seen it as a celebration of the female will to overcome. A fanfare for woman against adversity. Bollocks.

    In reality it is an illustration of how chicks go for blokes who are arseholes and then wonder why they can't change them. I hate this song.
  • Keith from Slc, UtI can't believe that NOBODY has mentioned "Alien Song," the video clip in which this song. . .uh . . ."ends abruptly." If you do a search, you will find this MPEG on Gloria's own website!
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesChantay Savage had a huge hit with an abysmal cover of this song in 1996. Quite why anyone would want this song played at a bar mitzvah is a mystery...
  • Chloe from Somewhere, CanadaThis is probably a classic song, basically everyone i know knows at LEAST of this song, the huge majority know the words or at least the chorus!!amazing song..can be overplayed at weddings, bar mitzvah's etc.
  • Jo from Newcastle, AustraliaIt was also sampled by Robbie Williams for his hit "Supreme"...
  • Igor from Miami, FlI think she recorded this after recovering from a serious back injury. She fell off a stage, hurting herself.
  • Sigga from Gardabaer, IcelandI don't care what you say about this song if it is not I LOVE IT! This is one of the gr8est song i've ever heard!
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