French-Canadian diva France Joli is best known for her quintessential disco classic “Come to Me”, which was a runaway hit in 1979. Joli was just 16 at the time. She debuted the song on Fire Island at a now-legendary concert on July 17 of that year, when the rising star stepped in at the last minute for Donna Summer. Gay men quickly became among Joli’s most loyal fans. Thirty-two years later, the singer’s love affair with the gay community continues. After countless appearances on TV and on magazine covers, six albums, and many dance floor hits through the years, Ms. Joli is still performing to her loyal fans as well as making new ones across the country. New York and Miami are among her favorite places to take the stage. On Saturday, March 17, Joli will be singing her best-loved songs as well as unveiling her highly anticipated new single to men in leather and their allies at the 20th Anniversary Celebration of The Long Island Ravens MC, Long Island’s gay Leather fraternity. Ms. Joli spoke with Jed Ryan about what she’s planned for us!
JR: Hello, Ms. Joli! Thanks so much for speaking with me. So, what surprises do you have in store for us at the Long Island Ravens MC Anniversary Celebration on March 17th?
FJ: Many little ones. The most important to me is that I will be performing my new single, a remake of the iconic Leonard Cohen ballad “Hallelujah.” I’m thrilled about that.
JR: I can’t wait to hear it! So, one of your most emblematic performances was when you sang “Come to Me” at a Fire Island concert in 1979, in front of thousands of guys (shirtless, no doubt!) under a hot July sun. That sounds like it was a LOT of fun… but what was that really like for you, as a girl of just sixteen?
FJ: Well, I was very nervous because it was my very first American performance--plus I was singing my very first single for the very first time. I also had never been exposed to the gay community before. I had been to gay clubs but nothing like Fire Island. It was quite the experience. What I remember the most was how free everyone was about being themselves. It was so nice to see and feel. Secondly, the immediate love and acceptance they had for me was unbelievable. They embraced me right away and the rest is history.
JR: While we’re on the subject: Where does your affinity for the gay guys come?
FJ: My best, best friend in the world came out to me when I was young and I always felt privileged to be part of that very special time in his life. I realized that I loved him more for it. (MUAH!) It made me want the world to be in that non-judgmental state-- just to love and accept and celebrate who you really are.
JR: Yeah! The late 70’s and early ‘80’s was a really wild and crazy time, especially in the world of nightlife. As a performer, you must have some amazing stories. Do you want to share one with us?!
FJ: I wish I could but I was soooo sheltered and protected that I never really saw anything crazy. Yes I was in all the happening clubs at the time, but I was in and out very quickly. I was there to work! I performed, said a quick hello to the DJ, and I was gone.
JR: “Come to Me” has become a truly timeless classic … but what other album and/or songs are you especially proud of? Put another way, what music should your new fans go and download immediately after they finish reading this interview?
FJ: I have to say that I am especially proud of “Hallelujah,” my new single. The very first time I sang it, in its original format, was at my father’s funeral. I remember feeling something out of the ordinary. Then the flash came to me! I wanted “Hallelujah” to dance. I decided I was going to produce it myself and got Giuseppe D. to collaborate with me. And so there it is.
JR: Very cool! So, do you ever get tired of always being labeled a “Disco Diva” by the press?
FJ: Absolutely not! I am proud of the music that made me famous and also proud of all the productions behind my voice. Disco made me shine! So how can I not appreciate it?!
JR: I agree! So, when you’re not performing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
FJ: I love playing golf. It’s my favourite sport. I also love swimming. Living in Montreal doesn’t give me a chance to do it all year long, but I do travel a lot, and so I take the time to treat myself once in a while.
JR: And, to leave us off: What does France Joli have in the works for the future? Where can we see you perform next?
FJ: I am writing new songs for an album that I hope will be in the making very shortly. And I will be performing at the White Party in Palm Springs in April for my LGBT friends. How lucky am I?
France Joli performs at The Historic Thatched Cottage in Centerport, Long Island, on Saturday March 17. Her show is the pinnacle of the Long Island Ravens M.C. 20 Year Anniversary Run and Celebration from Friday, March 16 through Sunday March 18. The weekend also includes cocktail parties, dinner, a silent auction, Sunday Brunch, and much more. For tickets, check out http://www.LIRavensMC.org/Anniversary2008/anniv19.html. France Joli’s new single “Hallelujah” is now available on CD Baby, Amazon Music, and I-Tunes. Stay posted for Joli’s new official website, www.FranceJoli.com, making its big debut soon!
(All photos are by David A. Lee. The production shot is of France in the High Desert of Southern California shooting her video for "Hallelujah." Also pictured are Director of Photography Alex Atkinson and Director David Rothmiller.)