Written by Dr. Cynthia Paulis Wednesday, 17 July 2013 00:00
Wearing a red-hot sequined top and a megawatt smile, Gloria Gaynor wowed a crowd of ten thousand fans at Burns Park this week, with her pitch-perfect voice singing some of her famous hits as well as new songs.
Levittown’s Debbie Ruppert was the last fan of the night, right around midnight. “She was great, fabulous, she sounded wonderful,” she said. “I used to listen to her songs, I am of that age.”
Gaynor’s performance has extra resonance for Ruppert: Not only did she survive Sandy without power for 12 days, but Ruppert is also surviving a diagnosis of lung cancer.
“Her song, ‘I Will Survive,’ has special meaning for me,” Rupert mused.
Known as the queen of disco, this Grammy award winning singer, actress, author and humanitarian opened her performance acknowledging the victims of Hurricane Sandy, many whom were in the audience, including Maureen Fitzgerald, Commissioner of Community and Youth Services, who lost her home to four feet of water.
“We are so excited to open up at Burns Park with “That Seventies Band” and Gloria Gaynor. Just a great opening night,” said Fitzgerald. “We are also very happy to be here in Massapequa acknowledging the families that lost their homes down here and the way they have rebuilt. We are really saluting them—and how appropriate we are here with Gloria Gaynor.”
Known for her biggest hit, “I Will Survive,” Gaynor has a new book coming out at the end of November called We Will Survive, which can be preordered on Amazon.com. The book is a series of survival stories from people around the country.
“The inspiration was the people these stories come from,” she said. “I have been told these stories ever since this song was first released 35 years ago, so I thought when people tell me these stories it’s uplifting and inspiring and encouraging to me. I am sure it’s going to be the same way for people who read the story, because I can’t imagine anything more encouraging then when you are going through a difficult time and hearing of someone who has gone through the same thing and has come out the other side victorious.”
Though she often writes her own songs, Gaynor did not write “I Will Survive.” The song shot to number one in almost every country and continent when it was released in l979 and earned Gaynor her first Grammy—for Best Disco Song—in l980. This was also the first and last time the Grammys had a category for disco. In February 2012, the song was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame along with recordings by Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, The Rolling Stones and Paul Simon. The song has taken on a life of its own becoming an anthem for people who have survived tragedy.
Known for her charitable works, Gaynor is very involved with nonprofits concerning diabetes, cancer and arthritis.
“All of the charities I have chosen because I feel that they are worthy and some of them are charities that help people who have been affected by things my family has been affected by like diabetes and cancer. I myself have had arthritis,” said Gaynor, who was named Woman of the Year in 2011 by the Arthritis Foundation for struggling with osteoarthritis for more than 25 years. “You can’t help all of the charities so you have to have some kind of process of elimination so I chose all of them that are worthy and those that have affected people that I know and care about.”
On October 19 at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, Gaynor will hold a benefit concert for Hurricane Sandy Victims. She felt a need to help.
“Whenever people are affected by disaster I feel like I should do whatever I can,” she said.
Gaynor closed the concert in Burns Park with “I Will Survive,” prompting the audience to erupt in applause and jump out of their seats, singing along and dancing in the aisles. After the concert, hundreds of fans lined up to meet and be photographed with the singer.
Her popularity spans many generations, evidenced by the age range of her audience on this night. Revelers from 3 years old to 80-plus thrilled by the music.