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Queen of Disco Donna Summer passes away

Updated on July 29, 2013
Donna Summer at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert, 2009
Donna Summer at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert, 2009 | Source

The music world is mourning the loss of The Queen of Disco.

Donna Summer died today in Florida from cancer. She was 63. Summer was a five time Grammy and three time American Music Award winner.

Summer's songs received heavy U.S. Top 40 station airplay "On The Radio" during the late 1970’s. She dominated the charts with such hits as “I Feel Love” (covered in 1984 by the UK trio, Bronski Beat), “MacArthur Park”, “Hot Stuff”, and “Bad Girls".

She was born LaDonna Adrian Gaines on December 31, 1948 in Boston. Her professional singing career started at age 18 in a Munich production of the musical, “Hair”. She remained in Europe after the show’s run, performing in such shows as “The Me Nobody Knows” “Godspell”, and “ Show Boat”. She married Austrian actor Helmuth Sommer in 1974, divorcing him two years later. During this time she began using an Anglicized version of Sommer for her stage name.

In Germany she linked up with producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, and her debut album, “Lady of the Night” was released in 1974. A year later Summer recorded the 16 minute erotic themed single, “Love to Love You Baby”. An edited version of the song was released in the U.S. on Neil Bogart’s Casablanca Records label. “Love to Love You Baby” became her first U.S. hit.

Summer’s career was red hot in the final two years of the 70’s. In 1978, her concert album, “Live and More” hit the top of the U.S. charts. Actually, “Live and More” featured one side of studio material, including her first U.S. number one single, “MacArthur Park”.“Live and More” was followed by two more back to back U.S. number one albums,“ Bad Girls” and “On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I and II”. Summer became the first artist to reach number one on the U.S. chart with three double albums in a row. She also had three number one U.S. singles in 1979 with “Bad Girls”, “Hot Stuff”, and “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)” a duet with Barbra Streisand.

In 1980, Summer left Casablanca Records and became the first artist signed to the new Geffen label. That November, Geffen would release the first album from John Lennon in five years, “Double Fantasy”. Summer’s initial Geffen album, “The Wanderer”,went gold and the title track was a top five U.S. hit. Before his murder at the end of the year, Lennon raved to L.A. Times rock critic Robert Hilburn about "The Wanderer" single. The ex-Beatle felt there was an Elvis Presley influence in the song.

Summer split with the Moroder and Bellotte production team after “The Wanderer” album. Moroder went on to win Academy Awards in the Best Song category for co-writing and producing “Flashdance…What a Feeling” and “Take My Breath Away” from the film,“Top Gun”. He previously won an Oscar for Best Original Score for “Midnight Express”.

Summer would have two more major hits in the 1980’s. “She Works Hard for the Money” was a number one R& B and number three U.S. hit in the summer of 1983. She got the idea for the song while attending a Grammys party at the fancy Los Angeles restaurant, Chasens. At the gathering,Summer went to use the ladies room. On the way in, she saw an exhausted woman attendant tucked in the corner asleep. The idea of this fatigued worker amidst the rich, ritzy customers struck a chord in Summer. She went on to co-write the song with producer Michael Omartian (known for his work with Christopher Cross).The attendant, named Onetta, appeared with Summer in the back cover photo of the “She Works Hard for the Money” album. The song’s music video became the first from a black female artist to receive regular airplay on MTV.

Her last major success was 1989’s catchy single,“This Time I Know It’s For Real”, written and produced by the UK trio of Stock Aitken & Waterman. The SAW team was enjoying great success at the time for their work with Rick Astley, Kylie Minogue, and Bananarama. “This Time” reached number seven on the U.S. singles chart and number three in the U.K.

"Crayons",her first album of new studio material in 17 years, was released in 2008. That same year, she was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. One of her last TV appearances came in 2010 on NBC's "America's Got Talent" series.


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    • MarshFish profile image

      Marshall Fish 5 years ago


      Thanks for the comment on the article. I appreciate it.


    • Anjili profile image

      Anjili 5 years ago from planet earth, a humanoid

      She made quite an impression in her life. We literaly grew up under her music

    • MarshFish profile image

      Marshall Fish 5 years ago

      Thanks so much for the compliment about the hub. Donna Summer was a tremendous talent, and will definitely be missed.


    • supercibor profile image

      Hector Herrera 5 years ago from Dominican Republic

      What a great talent ! Great hub!