Last year, Gloria Gaynor's disco anthem “I Will Survive” became one of 25 new additions to the National Recording Registry, a collection of sound recordings considered “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States” and kept at the Library of Congress. The wide-ranging registry includes Thomas Edison's early cylinders, Martin Luther King Jr.'s “I Have a Dream” speech, Abbott and Costello's “Who's on First?” routine and singles by Bing Crosby, Chuck Berry, George Jones and Tupac Shakur.
In May, Gaynor is coming to the Library of Congress, where she'll perform in the Great Hall as part of the Library's “Bibliodiscotheque,” a series of films, lectures and events celebrating the disco era, capped with — what else? — a late-night dance party in the historic Jefferson Building. All events are free and open to the public. Tickets will be available beginning at 10 a.m. on March 30.
This is the first time the library has honored one particular music genre with this sort of programming, says Bryonna Head, a public affairs assistant in the library's office of communication. “This is a celebration of an era that changed American culture forever," Head said. "This celebration is not just for her, but disco culture in general, and Ms. Gaynor just so happens to be the perfect partner for us to bring this popular era to life at the library.”
The centerpiece is a May 6 symposium that includes Gaynor being interviewed by “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts; a demonstration on “the craft of making disco balls”; and lectures on “Beyonce's African Dance References” and “Disco and the Remaking of American Culture.” From 7 p.m. until 12:30 a.m., the library's Great Hall will be open for a performance by Gaynor and her band, dancing to DJs and tours of the Reading Room and special disco-related exhibitions.
The full series runs from April 12 to May 6. Highlights include “Project Runway” host Tim Gunn discussing disco fashion on May 2; James Wintle of the Library of Congress music division talking about disco's influence on European dance music on May 3, followed by a screening of “Abba: The Movie”; a 40th-anniversary showing of “Saturday Night Fever” at the Library's Mary Pickford Theatre on April 27; and a seven-and-a-half-hour marathon of the British “Queer as Folk” television series on April 15. Some of the choices are tenuous at best — what does Kid 'n Play's 1990 film “House Party” have to do with disco culture? — but it's hard to say no to free movies.
“The disco era has left a lasting mark on our culture,” librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said in a news release. “The music, the clothes, those fantastic disco balls — they are a part of Americana that new generations are still discovering and embracing.”