Remembering the Incomparable Music Legacy of Donna Summer

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Remembering the Incomparable Music Legacy of Donna Summer

Remembering Donna Summer

December 31, 1948 - May 17, 2012

Donna Summer‘s title as the “Queen of Disco” wasn’t just hype. She was a gifted vocalist trained as a fierce gospel belter. Still, she set herself apart with her songwriting skills, compelling stage presence, and astute studio collaborators, leading to her long-term success.

Donna Summer
Donna Summer was born Donna Adrian Gaines in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 31. She has constantly been singing since she was nearly able to speak. Donna gave her first performance at age ten when a singer who was supposed to play at her church failed to show up. The priest, who knew her parents’ love of singing, requested that she perform instead. But, much to everyone’s surprise, Donna Summer’s tiny body gave out a voice that Sunday morning that was incredibly powerful and stunning.
In 1967, Donna auditioned for and was cast in a performance of Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical slated to run in Munich, Germany, only weeks before her high school graduation. Despite her father’s initial concerns, she accepted the part and traveled to Germany with her parents’ reluctant approval. Within a few months, Donna became fluent in and opted to stay in Munich after Hair’s run ended. She appeared in numerous additional musicals and worked in a recording studio, singing backing vocals and producing demo tapes.
Donna Summer rose to international superstardom in the mid-1970s when her innovative fusion of R & B, soul, pop, funk, rock, disco, and avant-garde electronica catapulted underground dance from Europe’s clubs to the top of sales and radio charts worldwide. She topped the club chart 11 times during the 1970s, with songs including “Love to Love You Baby” (1975), “I Feel Love” (1977), “MacArthur Park” (1978), and “Hot Stuff” (1979), one of her five -winning recordings. These crossover singles encapsulated the disco era with daring music and unrestrained eroticism.
Donna was a crucial component of the evolution of dance after her subgenre was pronounced extinct. She holds the record for the most consecutive double albums to achieve #1 on the charts and is the first female to have four #1 singles in 12 months; three as a solo artist and one as a duo with Barbra Streisand. Donna Summer was also the first woman to win the for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female (1979, “Hot Stuff”) and the first woman to win the Grammy for Best Dance Recording (1997, “Carry On”).
Donna then got a deal with Sony, which set her up for a comeback with Presents: Live and More Encore! in 1999. Another number one club smash was “I Will Go With You (Con Te Partiro).” Next, she launched the vibrant and eclectic “Crayons” after a few non-album singles. Four of the album’s hits reached the top of the dance charts. Donna remained busy in concert and on television for the following several years, and in 2010 she recorded “To with Love,” her final chart-topping hit.
Donna’s voice maintained an upbeat attitude and a desire to flourish throughout it all. Unfortunately, she passed away on May 17, 2012, at age 63, following a long fight with cancer. Donna will be known as the “Queen of Disco” and possibly the finest singer in disco history. But she was so much more: a powerful and versatile vocalist who could sing -language show tunes, racy disco dance tracks, and powerful gospel ballads.
Donna stated shortly before her death that her main goal in life was unrelated to music. “What I aspire to in my life, truly, is to be loving,” she said. “And I don’t always achieve that, but that’s my aspiration.”

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