Disco queen France Joli is coming to the Copa on Friday, March 9—and the singer, known for her disco hits “Gonna Get Over You” and “Come to Me,” plans on debuting a brand-new gay-anthem medley that evening.
Joli said she had just finished recording the new 10-minute-long medley, which will feature current and classic dance-club hits, when we spoke over the phone. She asked me not to reveal the songs she will be covering—but I will say there wasn’t one hit she mentioned that didn’t make me want to dance. During her show, she also plans to sing her disco hits, while showing off her vocal range with some ballads—all while telling a few stories.
This won’t be Joli’s first time in Palm Springs—in fact, the Montreal native performed last year at the Desert AIDS Walk, early in the morning with the sun in her hair. She also shot the video for her 2012 hit “Hallelujah” in the High Desert.
“This place grounds me, and I hope to move here when I am ready to slow down on my performance schedule,” she said.
A precocious child, Joli said she never had any doubts about her ability to take the world by storm. At age 15, she invited producer Tony Green to produce her first album. He took her up on it, and “Come to Me” was written for her the next day. Her fearlessness is something she attributes to her mother, who encouraged her to always “get on the bus and see where it takes you.” She was just 4 years old when she told her mother she was going to be a singer—and took on Barbra Streisand as her first vocal teacher, listening to her records, learning every song and practicing nightly.
I asked Joli if she’d ever met Streisand; she said she hadn’t, although she did get to meet another of her musical heroes: Michael Jackson, on the set of the video for “Beat It.” She said he called her over, leaned in and started singing “Come to Me” in her ear; she describes it as one of the greatest moments of her life.
Commemorated in the 2003 documentary Where Ocean Meets Sky is Joli’s breakout performance at Fire Island Pines. Donna Summer had to cancel her show due to illness, and Joli was brought on as her replacement—and so began her love affair with the gay community. In her first American performance, the 16-year-old went onstage at 2 a.m., with 5,000 gay men opening their arms and hearts to her.
Joli said she was deeply affected by the AIDS epidemic. She said, with a shaky voice, that most of the people she sang for on Fire Island were taken from her and the rest of the world. She talked wistfully about the people she lost personally—as well as the long-term survivors who are thankfully still in her life.
Although she said she didn’t want to get political, Joli said she couldn’t help but be concerned about the backward direction in which the world seems to be heading.
“My mantra is: ‘The only time it’s necessary to go backward is when you are about to jump forward,’” she said.
France Joli will perform at 8 p.m., Friday, March 9, at the Copa Palm Springs, 244 E. Amado Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $25. For tickets or more information, visit www.eventbrite.com.