The lyrics to the song tell of a woman finding strength to send her ex-companion packing when he returns after their devastating breakup. The singer realizes it was a bad relationship. This song has grown in popularity far beyond an anthem for women’s empowerment. It extends to gay rights and for those who believe they’ll survive bad circumstances. The song was written by former Motown producers and songwriters Dino Fekaris and Freddie Perren. The story behind the song goes something like this. After Fekaris was fired by Motown records, where he had been a staff writer, he was wondering how he was going to make a living. He was watching TV and on came a song he had written for the theme of the film Generation, which was performed by Rare Earth. He took is as a good sing. He jumped up saying, “I’m going to make it. I’m going to be a songwriter. I will survive.”
Fekaris and Perren formed their own production company. They were looking for a singer for “I Will Survive” — that is, a diva with a powerful voice. Gloria Gaynor’s record company called Perren to work on a song for her called “Substitute.” They did. “I Will Survive” was released as a single with “Substitute” as the A-Side and “I Will Survive” as the B-Side. “Substitute” charted modestly but club DJs loved it, as did the radio DJs. Polydor finally released the single with the sides flipped. “I Will Survive” was also on Gloria Gaynor’s 1978 album Love Tracks.
“I Will Survive” was an international smash. It went to #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Dance Club Songs, #1 in the U.K. and Canada. It was in the Top 10 in Australia, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, and Switzerland. It earned Platinum certification in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. In 1979, the song won the Grammy for Best Disco Recording. This was the first — and last — time that the Grammy’s had that category.
“I Will Survive” is a very popular karaoke song. There have also been numerous versions. Artists with covers include Diana Ross, Selena, Gladys Knight, Cake, Safire, Chantay Savage, Hermes House Band, and Leah McFall, just to name a few.
On the track were Gloria Gaynor (vocals), James Gadson (drums), Paulinho Da Costa (percussion), Scott Edwards (bass guitar), Freddie Perren (keyboards), Bob Bowles and Robert White (guitar). The strings and horns were arranged and conducted by Dave Blumberg. Gloria Gaynor continues to tour and perform around the world.