By Karen Kennedy
The opening piano arpeggio is enough to silence every mouth in a crowded room. People will stop a conversation, mid-word, and place their right hand up, ready to testify. Those with a flair for the dramatic may even take the opportunity to do a prepatory spin. Everyone waits for their cue and everyone is on time:
“At first I was afraid. I was petrified. Just thinkin’ I could never live without you by my side…”
And soon the whole room is singing. It’s impossible not to sing along. The appeal is universal and the message is clear: I will survive.
Gloria Gaynor has dazzled us for more than 35 years with powerhouse vocals, grace and legendary beauty. She is a Grammy award winner and a philanthropist, but the song written by Freddie Perren and Dino Ferakis that she recorded in 1976 has immortalized her.
Anyone who has had their heart broken can relate to the song, but it also has taken on a special meaning to those who face cancer.
On Oct. 18, Gaynor will grace the stage of the Palladium to sing “I Will Survive,” and a vibrant group of local cancer survivors will stand by their seats and sing it with her. It is their anthem.
“The first time I heard the song, I thought it was fantastic and I knew it would be a hit,” said Gaynor in a phone interview from her home in New Jersey. “After all this time, it’s still my favorite song to sing. It’s always the last song in the show. It gives people something to take home with them. The energy that comes back to me from the audience is awesome. No matter how well I sing it, or how well my band plays it, there’s nothing I can do that will give the audience more than they give me.”
Gaynor has a niece who is a two-year breast cancer survivor and a sister-in-law who is a 20-year survivor.
“The song gives an outer voice to their inner journey,” said Dwayne Kniola, clinical manager of survivorship at St.Vincent Cancer Care. “Singing that song gives survivors a way to express themselves and feel empowered. I have seen a room of otherwise quiet people start rocking the minute that song is played.”
St.Vincent’s had six tickets to the upcoming concert and held a drawing for them amongst their survivor group. One of the six drawing winners is Carmel resident Nancy Mercante, who has recently gone through a battle with stage four endometrial cancer.
“The support I received from the others in my support group was invaluable to me,” said Mercante, “And the song is definitely a rallying cry for many cancer survivors. I’m so excited to be going to this concert. I’ve been a fan of Gloria Gaynor since the ‘70s, and I used to usher at the Palladium prior to my illness, so it’s particularly special for me to go there.”
Learning of the interest in tickets, the Palladium has offered a 40 percent discount on tickets to cancer survivors and their families. They can receive the discount by using the promo code “alive” when purchasing tickets.
Gaynor has recently written a book entitled “We Will Survive,” in which she tells the stories from some of the thousands of people whose lives have been touched by the power of the song, and it’s accompanied by an inspirational CD. It is currently available on Amazon and will officially be released Dec. 1.
“The only thing more powerful than the song is the stories behind it,” said Gaynor of her book. “To know that someone else has gone through what you’re going through and emerged victorious is the ultimate inspiration.”