By the time her second big hit, "I Will Survive," sold more than 7 million copies in 1979 and became the anthem of a disco nation, Gloria Gaynor knew whereof she sang. Growing up poor and fatherless in Newark, N.J., "we took baths in a tin tub in the kitchen," remembers Gaynor, 51, "but we always had enough-to eat—because my mother believed a hungry child would steal." She was playing Newark clubs in 1975 when her first hit, "Never Can Say Goodbye," launched her into the glittery Studio 54 party scene in the company of Donna Summer and Isaac Hayes. But Gaynor tired of the high life and in 1979 married Linwood Simon, a former transit cop who has managed her career for the past 17 years. A born-again Christian since 1982, Gaynor says her faith has sustained her during her low points: Last Thanksgiving, her only sister, Irma, 45 and the mother of three, was beaten to death by a suspected drug dealer after trying to intervene in a fight on a Newark street. Gaynor now includes gospel songs in her act, which still plays to enthusiastic crowds in Europe and South America. "She never had a comeback," says Linwood, 53, "because she never went away." At Princess Grace's last Red Cross Ball in Monaco in 1982, Frank Sinatra "told me, 'You have quite a set of pipes there, young lady,' " reports Gaynor. "And I said, 'Thank you, sir. So do you.' "
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