Journal article Open Access

'I Will Survive': musical mappings of queer social space in a disco anthem

Hubbs, Nadine

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    <subfield code="a">This essay reconsiders the constituencies of fans and detractors present at disco's 1970s
prime and subsequent bursting. It argues for a more gender-inclusive conception of
disco's multiracial 'gay' revelers and for a particular convoluted conception of
'homophobia' as this applies to the Middle-American youths who raged against disco in
midsummer 1979. Their historic eruption at Chicago's Comiskey Park came just weeks
after the chart reign of Gloria Gaynor's 'I Will Survive', today a classic emblem of gay
culture in the post-Stonewall and AIDS eras and arguably disco's greatest anthem. Disco
inspired fans and detractors, too, among music critics. Critical adulation and vitriol are
conjoined in the present reading of musical rhetoric, which explores disco's celebrated
power to induce rapture in devotees at the social margins while granting antidisco
critics' charge of inexpressivity in its vocals. In 'Survive' musical expressivity is
relocated in the high-production instrumentals, where troping of learned and vernacular,
European and Pan-American, sacred and profane timbres and idioms defines a euphoric
space of difference and transcendence. The use of minor mode for triumphant purposes is
also a striking marker of difference in 'Survive' and is among the factors at work in the
song's prodigious afterlife.</subfield>
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    <subfield code="a">10.1017/s0261143007001250</subfield>
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    <subfield code="a">'I Will Survive': musical mappings of queer social space in a disco anthem</subfield>
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