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We Will Survive! Disco legend Gloria Gaynor arms us for the fight against COVID-19

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Gloria Gaynor was one of the biggest stars of the disco era. You know her hits I Am What I Am, Never Can Say Goodbye, and 1979’s Hot 100 number one song I Will Survive. Well, disco-era star Gloria Gaynor became a new star of the COVID-19 era with her #iWillSurviveChallenge that began on TikTok.

For those folks who aren’t hip to all the newest social media sites, TikTok is a platform for short-form videos popular primarily with Gen Z. Gaynor created and posted a TikTok video of herself washing her hands. A few weeks ago, that would have been the most mundane thing imaginable. In the era of novel coronavirus and COVID-19, though, handwashing is a thing — and maybe a lifesaving one.

The value of handwashing

Ask the Centers for Disease Control how to protect yourself from this virus, and they’ll tell you: “Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.” Good advice! But not exactly an earworm, and not particularly inspiring. After all, we all know that germs are everywhere. Washing your hands for 20 seconds seems easy enough, but is boring as anything… and are you sure that wasn’t just 18 seconds?

‘Happy Birthday’

Traditionalists sing Happy Birthday to themselves twice while washing their hands. At the right tempo, it clocks in at 20 seconds. It’s practical and slightly more motivational than a bulletin from the Centers for Disease Control, but it’s not exactly gonna go viral (pun intended).

‘Happy Birthday’ for the TikTok generation — disco style!

Gloria Gaynor is not a fan of Happy Birthday. She told TIME Magazine: “Personally, I think Happy Birthday is the worst song in the world. I’ve only once heard it when it sounded good.” Gaynor took it on herself to give the COVID-19 world just what it needed — an inspirational, motivational, and instructional video on hand-washing survival. Think of it as a handwashing video for the TikTok generation, borrowing heavily from the disco generation.

Check this out:


On TikTok alone, millions have viewed the #iWillSurviveChallenge hashtag. Why did Gaynor create the video of her washing her hands in her New Jersey bathroom? And why use I Will Survive? 

The songstress said, “We are all trying to survive this thing. I don’t think there’s a better song for it than this.”

If watching the video wasn’t enough, check out these lyrics. In this time of hunkering down and cocooning to survive, THIS is what we need to hear:

At first I was afraid, I was petrified
Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side
But then I spent so many nights thinking how you did me wrong
And I grew strong
And I learned how to get along
…Do you think I’d crumble
Did you think I’d lay down and die?

‘I Will Survive’

I Will Survive was written by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris, has sold over 14,000,000 world-wide and has been covered over 200 times in over 20 languages. It’s a break-up song, an anthem of female empowerment, and it has been preserved for posterity in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.

For fun, while you’re social distancing, internet surfing, and streaming, look for your favorite cover. But first, check out the original. (You know it’s disco when you see the rollerskates!)

Then go wash your hands!

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