The queen of disco, Donna Summer has passed of Cancer at age 63
Donna Summer has succumbed to cancer while in Florida at the age of 63. She had wanted to keep the illness quiet. She had been focusing on finishing up her new album. Donna got her break performing in the German production of Hair with Giorgio Moroder who would go on to not only produce Donna Summer’s biggest hits (aside from working with Quincy Jones for ‘Love’s In Control (Finger On The Trigger), Michael Omartian (She Works Hard For The Money, Unconditional Love (With Musical Youth) and the Stock, Aitken & Waterman produced “This Time I Know Its For Real) but have a huge career of his own as one of the most influential producers of the 20th Century. Donna Summer was a 5-time Grammy winner.
Donna Summer holds the record for most consecutive double albums to hit number one on the Billboard charts (three) and was the first female to have four number one singles in a 12-month period: three as a solo artist and one as a duo with Barbra Streisand. She released her last album, “Crayons,” in 2008. She also performed on “American Idol” that year with its top female contestants.
We’ll be doing a tribute to Donna Summer all day long on our Studio 54 channel, click here to tune in
For a great story of how the synthesizer revolutionized music and dance music, click here. GREAT INSIGHT!
Donna Summer was born on New Year’s Eve 1948 in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. She was one of seven children raised by devout Christian parents. Influenced by Mahalia Jackson, Summer began singing in the church at a young age. In her teens, she formed several musical groups including one with her sister and a cousin, imitating Motown girl groups such as The Supremes and Martha and the Vandellas in Boston.
In the late 1960s, Summer was influenced by Janis Joplin after listening to her albums as a member of Big Brother and the Holding Company, and dropped out of school convinced that music was her way out of Boston, where she had always felt herself to be an outsider, even among her own family who ridiculed her for her voice and her looks. She joined the psychedelic rock group the Crow as lead singer, but the group was short-lived as they split upon their arrival in New York. In 1968, Summer auditioned for a role in the Broadway musical, Hair, but she lost the part of Sheila to Melba Moore. When the musical moved to Europe, Summer was offered the role. She took it and moved to Germany for several years. While in Germany, where she learned to speak German fluently, she participated in the musicals Ich Bin Ich (the German version of The Me Nobody Knows), Godspell and Show Boat. After settling in Munich, she began performing in several ensembles including the Viennese Folk Opera and also sang as a member of the pop group FamilyTree (created by the German music producer Guenter “Yogi” Lauke). She joined the group in 1973 and toured with them throughout Europe.
She also sang as a studio session singer and in theaters. In 1971, while still using her birth name Donna Gaines, she released her first single, a cover of “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses”, though it was not a hit. In 1972, she married Austrian actor Helmuth Sommer and gave birth to their daughter Mimi Sommer in 1973. Citing marital problems caused by her affair with German artist (and future live-in boyfriend) Peter Mühldorfer, she divorced Helmuth but kept his last name, anglicising it to ‘Summer’. She also worked on an album with keyboardist/producer Veit Marvos in 1972, providing backing vocals on his Ariola records release Nice To See You (where she was credited under the pseudonym Gayn Pierre). Several single releases over the years have included a young Donna performing with the group, even though she often denied ever singing on any of the Marvos releases. The name ‘Gayn Pierre’ was also used by Donna in ‘Godspell’ with Helmuth Sommer during 1972
While doing background vocals for Three Dog Night she met producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte with whom she signed a deal with the European label Groovy Records and issued her first album, Lady of the Night, in 1974. The album was not released in America, but found some limited European success on the strength of the song “The Hostage”, which reached number one in Belgium and number
two in the Netherlands.
In 1975, Summer approached Moroder with an idea for a song she and Bellotte were working on for another singer. She had come up with the lyric “love to love you, baby”. Moroder was interested in developing the new sound that was becoming popular and used Summer’s lyric to develop the song. Moroder persuaded Summer to record what was to be a demo track for another performer. She later said that she had thought of how the song might sound if Marilyn Monroe had sung it and began cooing the lyrics. To get into the mood of recording the song, she requested Moroder turn off the lights while they sat on a sofa with him inducing her moans and groans. After hearing playback of the song, Moroder felt Summer’s version should actually be released. Although some radio stations refused to play it due to its suggestive style, “Love to Love You” found chart success in several European countries, and made the Top 5 in the United Kingdom.
The song was then sent to Casablanca Records president Neil Bogart in hopes of getting an American release. Bogart informed Summer and Moroder he would release the song (now called “Love to Love You Baby”) but requested that Moroder produce a longer version for discothèques. Moroder, Bellotte, and Summer returned with a 17 minute version and Casablanca signed Summer and released the single in November 1975. The shorter version of the single was promoted to radio stations whilst clubs (mostly gay) regularly played the 17 minute version (the longer version would also appear on the album). Casablanca became one of the first record labels to popularize the 12″ single format. By early 1976, “Love To Love You Baby” had reached #2 on the US Billboard Hot 100, while the parent album of the same name sold over a million copies. The song generated controversy due to Summer’s moans and groans and some American radio stations, like several in Europe, refused to play it. Time magazine would report that 22 orgasms were simulated in the making of the song. Other upcoming singles included “Try Me, I Know We can Make It”, US #80; “Could It Be Magic”, US #52; “Spring Affair”, US #58; and “Winter Melody”, US #43. The subsequent albums Love Trilogy and Four Seasons of Love both went gold in the US.
In 1977, Summer released the concept album I Remember Yesterday. This album included her second top ten single, “I Feel Love”, which reached number six in the US and number one in the UK. Another concept album, also released in 1977, was Once Upon a Time, a double album which told of a modern-day Cinderella “rags to riches” story through the elements of orchestral disco and ballads. This album would also attain gold status. In 1978, Summer released her version of the Richard Harris ballad, “MacArthur Park”, which became her first US number one hit. The song was featured on Summer’s first live album, Live and More, which also became her first album to hit number one on the US Billboard 200 chart, and went platinum selling over a million copies. Other studio tracks included the top ten hit, “Heaven Knows”, which featured the group Brooklyn Dreams accompanying her on background and Joe “Bean” Esposito singing alongside her on the verses. Summer would later be romantically involved with Brooklyn Dreams singer Bruce Sudano and the couple married two years after the song’s release. Also in 1978, Summer acted in the film, Thank God It’s Friday, playing a singer determined to perform at a hot disco club. The film met modest success, but a song from the film, entitled “Last Dance”, reached number three on the Hot 100 and resulted in Summer winning her first Grammy Award. Its writer, Paul Jabara, won an Academy Award for the composition. Despite her musical success, Summer was struggling with anxiety and depression and became dependent on prescription drugs for several years.
In 1979, Summer performed at the world-televised Music for UNICEF Concert, joining contemporaries such as Abba, Olivia Newton-John, the Bee Gees, Andy Gibb, Rod Stewart, John Denver, Earth, Wind and Fire, Rita Coolidge and Kris Kristofferson for an hour’s TV special that raised funds and awareness for the world’s children. Artists donated royalties of certain songs, some in perpetuity, to benefit the cause.
More details to come… For the time being, let’s follow Donna Summer’s career in video form, throughout her career
I Will Go With You
Bad Girls / Hot Stuff
Love To Love You Baby
This Time I Know It’s For Real
Unconditional Love (With Musical Youth)
The Woman In Me
State Of Independence
Fairy Tale High/Faster And Faster To Nowhere
No More Tears (Enough Is Enough) (With Barbra Streisand)