Long before Broadway turned founding father Alexander Hamilton into a hip-hop star, Gloria Gaynor delivered a disco version of the Declaration of Independence, "I Will Survive."
Exactly 39 years ago this week, the dance anthem of wronged lovers worldwide toppled—ironically—Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" from its month-long reign at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. "I Will Survive" ruled the pop charts for two weeks.
Gaynor's signature song wasn't her first dance with success. She had already charted with covers of "Walk On By," "Reach Out, I'll Be There" and "Never Can Say Goodbye," which peaked at No. 9 in 1974.
Lyricist Dino Fekaris, whose previous biggest hit was Rare Earth's "I Just Want to Celebrate" in 1971, said "I Will Survive" was his own personal affirmation after getting laid off by Motown Records. He collaborated with composer Freddie Perren, whose credits included the Jackson 5's first three No. 1 singles, "I Want You Back," "ABC" and "The Love You Save."
The duo would score again three months later when the feel-good ballad "Reunited" by Peaches & Herb settled in at No. 1 for the month of May.
Gaynor, now 68, has never tired of the song that she knows will inevitably be cited in the first line of her obituary. "From the beginning, I recognized it was a timeless lyric that everyone could relate to," she told Billboard.
The ultimate fight-back song boasts one more distinction: It won the 1979 Grammy Award for Best Disco Recording, the one and only time that category existed.