Saturday Songs and Stories

Let’s talk about I Will Survive.

It’s a B-Side–Gloria Gaynor experienced some failure to launch with Never Can Say Goodbye, and when she was called back in to record… I can’t remember the name of the song, she was asked what kind of B-Side she wanted to do, and she wanted something memorable.

Gaynor also lobbied DJs to play the songs at clubs, it got traction, restarted her career, and became, I’d argue, one of the best examples of good disco there are. (Last Dance, Pick Up the Pieces and Boogie Shoes are the other three.)

But that wasn’t my first exposure to the song. I attended the strangest summer camp growing up, in the middle of Missouri. It was ostensibly a church camp–but we usually limited Bible study and devotions to a boring hour in the morning. (At least, that’s how I remember it.)

The counselors were awesome, the coolest teenagers an eight year old could imagine. It was where I was exposed to They Might Be Giants in excess (there will be another long post someday about Flood, released thirty years ago somehow?), and of course, Fashion Nugget, by CAKE, an album with no bad songs.

It is a loving and yet ironic tribute. A lot of their stuff is; there are layers, like a disenchanted, Gen X onion, in this song. And this song, somehow, takes me back to a muggy camp in desperate need of updating, wherein I was free, for a week, from struggles and challenges kids shouldn’t have to live in, but so many do.

But then, picking up the trumpet (because I had to), there was hope of learning the descant, the string-part-turned-brass by CAKE. If John McCrea could sing (he can sing, don’t get me wrong) with, “Aaaah! Yeeeah,” so too could I. And perhaps, seeds were planted where I began to believe I could save all my loving for someone who loved me.

I needed survival, and found it with Ms. Gaynor and with CAKE. Perhaps though, too, I found some thriving as well.