On the runway of the “Warhol Ball” on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3, Brooklyn’s own Aja got read the house down by RuPaul for not polishing up her disco knowledge. While there were multiple problems Mama Ru had with Aja’s statements, her major gripe came when Aja mispronounced the name of disco star France Joli.
The name may be unfamiliar to some, but upon hearing a few bars of her smash hit 1979 song “Come to Me,” audiences will recognize the diva’s stunning voice, still played on radio stations across America. While Joli was unable to repeat Billboard Hot 100 success with her follow-ups, her catalog remained popular within the disco scene. Four decades later, Joli is still performing, an icon in her own right.
Yet still, many people don’t know much about the disco legend. Here are five things that you ought to know.
She was 15 years old when she recorded her debut hit album.
A natural performer since a young age, Joli was adamant about breaking into the music industry. The opportunity presented itself when a young Joli met musician and producer Tony Green. She auditioned for him at age 15, and three days later, Green already had her hit song “Come to Me” written for her. They recorded her self-titled album in 1978, and it was released in 1979, when Joli was 16.
Her performance at Fire Island in 1979 is the stuff of legend.
After the release of her album, Joli was presented with an opportunity that would go on to effectively change the course of her career. Donna Summer — the disco legend and Joli’s personal hero — had suddenly canceled a performance at a beach concert in Fire Island. The promoters reached out to Joli to see if she could stand in for Summer. Joli agreed.
Now famously known as the “Beach ‘79” concert, Joli performed for a crowd of 5,000 cheering gay men. Her performance was so strong and so good, that her song “Come to Me” began to skyrocket. After this performance, Joli became an overnight sensation.
“Come to Me” peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart
On the heels of her massively popular Fire Island performance, Joli saw her song reach a peak position of No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. While Joli went on to have a prosperous career with several popular songs, none of them were ever the sensation that was “Come to Me.”
She still performs across America today
After 40 years in the music industry, Joli is still performing. She travels around the country performing at clubs, benefits and festivals, still singing her hit songs from the height of disco. In a 2017 interview with Instinct magazine, Joli said “If someone had told me in 1979, when I was just 16 years old, that I would still be singing my first and biggest hit almost 40 years later, I would have thought they were crazy.”
She has always been an ally to the gay community.
Joli, to this day, still recognizes that her career would never have been the same without the thousands of gay men on Fire Island who catapulted her into the spotlight. She was an active voice during the AIDS crisis of the ‘80s, and still supports and raises awareness for LGBTQ issues today. Not to mention that many of her shows to this day are at gay events and clubs.