This is sort of a sad milestone, as on this day 17 years ago, Laura Branigan passed away, leaving as part of her legacy a song that’s been used everywhere from TV shows to movies to the victory anthem of the St. Louis Blues hockey team. Unfortunately, I learned while digging into this piece that our former president played it at his absurd, dangerous rally of lies on January 6, and Laura Branigan’s estate quickly clarified that it was used without their blessing or permission. I say we take it back from the jaws of jerks. It deserves better. It’s an incredibly catchy earworm, and if you somehow have not ever heard it — or perhaps don’t know whether you have — then allow me to help:
“Gloria” is a rewritten and reimagined version of an Italian song. Reportedly they almost changed it to “Mario,” which of course now has me imagining her belting it out at a tiny mustachioed plumber in a red cap. The song morphed from a love ballad into the story of a woman for whom things don’t seem to be going that well — it’s one of those songs whose tune is so upbeat, and whose vocals are so soaring, that you forget to listen to the words. In fact, I’m pretty sure no one at Camp Trump did, or else they might not have played a song that people theorize might be about an aging star who doesn’t realize her time has passed, and in which Branigan croons, “Are the voices in your head calling, Gloria? Gloria, don’t you think you’re fallin’? If everybody wants you, why isn’t anybody callin’?” Other theories about the story range from “Gloria is a young girl who’s full of herself,” to “she’s falling in love too fast,” and I like that you can make sense of any of them. But what I enjoy about the video, made in the early days of the format, is that Branigan is just standing out there and singing. No bells and whistles, no expensive extras or sets, just a Nightclub Aerobics costume and a grin.
And in addition to her other hit “Self Control,” did you know Branigan also was the first to record “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You,” co-written by Michael Bolton, who later became famous for it himself? Or that she once played Janis Joplin in a musical? So let us remember the good times, the random bandannas, and the toe-tapping jam that is “Gloria.”