Tribute to the late, Great Queen of Disco Donna Summer

DonnaS

Best known for energetic pulsating dance hits such as “Hot Stuff”, “ I Feel Love, Bad Girls” and “Last Dance”. Donna Summer was born LaDonna Adrian Gaines on 31st December 1948 in Boston, Massachusetts. Summer’s performance debut occurred at church when she was ten years old when she replaced a vocalist who failed to show up.Summer’s pastor invited her to perform, judging from her small frame and speaking voice that she would be an “amusing spectacle”, but instead Summer’s voice recalled a voice older than her years and frame. Summer later attended Boston’s Jeremiah E. Burke High School where she performed in school musicals and was considered popular. She was also something of a troublemaker, skipping home to attend parties, circumventing her parents’ strict curfew. In 1967, just weeks before graduation, Summer left for New York where she was a member of the blues rock band Crow. After they were passed by every record label, the band agreed to break up. Summer stayed in New York and auditioned for a role in thecounterculture musical, Hair. When Melba Moore was cast in the part, Summer agreed to take the role in the Munich production of the show. She moved to Munich, Germany after getting her parents’ reluctant approval. She achieved fame after signing as a solo artist to the pioneering disco label, Casablanca, in 1975 and her soaring voice and effervescent stage presence  helped to propel her first single “Love to Love You Baby” to No 4 in the UK charts and ignited the disco craze of the 1970s,  providing the soundtrack to a dance movement defined by sex, drugs and extravagant clothes summer eventually became fluent in German, singing various songs in German. She participated in the musicals Ich bin ich (the German version of The Me Nobody Knows), Godspell and Show Boat. Within three years she moved to Vienna, Austria and joined theVienna Volksoper. She briefly toured with an ensemble vocal group called FamilyTree, the creation of producer Guenter “Yogi” Lauke. In 1968, Summer released (as Donna Gaines) on Polydor her first single, a German version of the title “Aquarius” from the musical “Hair,” followed in 1971 by a second single, a cover of The Jaynetts’ “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses”, from a one-off European deal with Decca Records. In 1972, she issued the single “If You Walkin’ Alone” on Philips Records.She married Austrian actor Helmuth Sommer in 1973 and had a daughter, Mimi, the same year. Citing marital problems caused by her affair with German artist (and future live-in boyfriend), Peter Mühldorfer, she divorced Sommer. She kept his last name, but anglicized it to “Summer”. She provided backing vocals on producer-keyboardist, Veit Marvos, on his 1972 Ariola Records release Nice to See You, credited as “Gayn Pierre”. Several subsequent singles included Summer performing with the group, but she often denied singing on any of the Marvos releases. The name “Gayn Pierre” also was used by Donna while performing in Godspell with Helmuth Sommer during 1972.

While singing background in a recording session at Munich’s Musicland Studios forThree Dog Night, Summer met German-based producers, Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. The trio  began collaborating on songs together starting in 1974.  Summer’s first album, Lady of the Night became a hit success in selected countries with two songs, “The Hostage” and “Lady of the Night”, reaching the top of the charts in countries such as the Netherlands and Belgium.In mid-1975, while working on another album, Summer passed on an idea for a song that Moroder was working on labeling it as “Love to Love You”. Moroder liked what he heard The song was then sent to Casablanca in hopes of getting an American releaser and they 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 song generated controversy due to Summer’s moans and groans and some American and European radio stations, including the BBC, refused to play it “Love to Love You Baby” found chart success in several European countries and made the Top 5 in the United Kingdom despite the BBC ban. Other upcoming singles included “Try Me, I Know We Can Make It”, “Could It Be Magic”, “Spring Affair”, and “Winter Melody”, The subsequent albumsLove Trilogy and Four Seasons of Love both went gold in the U.S.In 1977, Summer released the concept album I Remember Yesterday. This album, again co-produced by Moroder and Bellotte, included her second top ten single, “I Feel Love”, which reached number six in the U.S. and number one in the UK.

She released Another concept album,   Once Upon a Time and In 1978,  released  “MacArthur Park”,”Heaven Knows” In 1978 She  married Bruce Sudano & 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, titled “Last Dance”, reached number three on the Hot 100 and resulted in Summer winning her first Grammy Award. In 1979, Summer performed at the world-televised Music for UNICEF Concert, joining  ABBA, Olivia Newton-John, the Bee Gees, Andy Gibb, Rod Stewart, John Denver, Earth, Wind & Fire, Rita Coolidge and Kris Kristofferson for a TV special that raised funds and awareness for the world’s children. Summer began work on her next project with Moroder and Bellotte, Bad Girls. Summer based the whole concept on prostitution (revisiting the theme for 1974’s Lady of the Night), even dressing as a hooker herself on the cover art.The album became a huge success, spawning the number one hits “Hot Stuff” and the title track and the number two “Dim All the Lights”. With “MacArthur Park”, “Hot Stuff”, “Bad Girls” and the Barbra Streisand duet “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)”, Summer achieved four number one hits within a thirteen-month period. Those songs, along with “Heaven Knows”, “Last Dance”, “Dim All the Lights” and “On the Radio” (from her upcoming double-album), would give her eight U.S. Top 5 singles within a two-year period. “Hot Stuff” later won her a second Grammy in the Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.Summer released On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II, her first (international) greatest hits set, in 1979 featuring A new song  “On the Radio.

After the release of the On the Radio hits album, Summer wanted to branch out into other musical styles in addition to disco, which led to tensions between her and Casablanca Records , so Summer and the label parted ways in 1980 and she signed withGeffen Records, Summer’s first Geffen album, The Wanderer, featured an eclectic mixture of sounds similar to Bad Girls but with little emphasis on Summer’s past disco success, instead bringing elements of rock, rockabilly, new wave and gospel music. featuring the Singles The Wanderer, “Cold Love” and “Who Do You Think You’re Foolin’,” were only modestly received.When Summer presented Geffen with her projected second album, I’m a Rainbow, the label disapproved of its production, sensing Moroder’s sound had grown stale (in spite of his present success with Blondie (Call Me), and immediate future success with Phil Oakey (Together in Electric Dreams) and Melissa Manchester (Thief of Hearts)), and advised Summer to change producers, leading to an argument between the artist and the label. Eventually, Moroder and Bellotte and Summer agreed to part ways with Geffen and hired top R&B and pop producer Quincy Jones to produce Summer’s next album, Donna Summer which took over six months to recordand was released in 1982. Among its releases were the top ten hit “Love Is in Control (Finger on the Trigger)”  “State of Independence”  and “The Woman in Me” .Summer’S released her next album She Works Hard for the Money & the title song became a major hit & also garnered another Grammy nomination. The album featured “Unconditional Love” & “Love Has A Mind of Its Own”,  Summer returned on Geffen Records with her next release.  Cats Without Claws which included the Song s”There Goes My Baby”,  “Eyes” and “I’m Free,” .On January 19, 1985, she sang at the nationally-televised 50th Presidential Inaugural Gala the day before the second inauguration of Ronald Reagan. She was introduced by Merv Griffin. In 1987, Summer returned with the album All Systems Go, which  featured the single “Dinner with Gershwin,” , “All Systems Go”  .For Summer’s next album, Geffen Records hired the British hit production team of Stock Aitken Waterman (or SAW), who enjoyed incredible success writing and producing for such acts as Kylie Minogue, Dead or Alive, Bananarama and Rick Astley, , entitled Another Place and Time,  The album was released in Europe in March 1989 and featured the singles “This Time I Know It’s for Real”  “I Don’t Wanna Get Hurt” (UK No. 7) and “Love’s About to Change My Heart” (UK No. 20).

In 1990, a Warner compilation, The Best of Donna Summer, was released. The album went gold in the UK after the song “State of Independence” was re-released there to promote the album. The following year, Summer emerged with the album Mistaken Identity, which included elements of R&B as well as new jack swing. While the album itself failed to become a success, the song “When Love Cries” continued her success on the R&B charts, reaching No. 18. In 1992, Summer embarked on a world tour to promote the album and later that year received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1993, Polygram issued the two-disc set The Donna Summer Anthology, which included 34 tracks of all of Summer’s material with Casablanca and Mercury and songs from her tenures with Atlantic and Geffen.Summer signed with Mercury/Polygram that same year, and in 1994 issued the Christmas album Christmas Spirit, which included renditions of classic Christmas songs such as “O Holy Night” and “Joy to the World” and Summer-penned songs. Another hits collection, Endless Summer: Greatest Hits, was released, featuring eighteen songs that were single cuts of the songs differentiating from the Anthology set, where fuller length recordings were featured. In 1992, she reunited with Giorgio Moroder, recording the dance song “Carry On”, which later won Summer the first Grammy given to anyone in its dance category. The 1995 dance tune “Melody of Love (Wanna Be Loved)” went number-one on the dance charts in the U.S. while becoming a top 30 hit in the UK, peaking at number 21.During this time, Summer was offered a guest role on the sitcom Family Matters as Steve Urkel’s (Jaleel White) Aunt Oona. She made a second appearance in 1997. In 1998, Summer received a Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording, the first to do so, after a remixed version of her 1992 collaboration with Giorgio Moroder, “Carry On”, was released in 1997. In 1999, Summer taped a live television special for VH1 titled Donna Summer – Live and More Encore, producing the second highest ratings that year for the network after their annual Divas special. A CD of the event was released by Epic Records and featured two studio recordings, “I Will Go with You (Con te partirò)” and “Love Is the Healer”, both of which reached number one on the U.S. dance charts.

In 2000, Summer participated in VH1’s third annual Divas special, dedicated to Diana Ross, though Summer sang mostly her own material for the show. In 2003, Summer issued her autobiography, Ordinary Girl: The Journey, and released a best-of set titledThe Journey: The Very Best of Donna Summer. In 2004, Summer was inducted into theDance Music Hall of Fame alongside the Bee Gees and Barry Gibb as an artist. Her classic song, “I Feel Love”, was also inducted that night. In 2004 and 2005, Summer’s success on the dance charts continued with the songs “You’re So Beautiful” and “I Got Your Love”.In a 2008 interview with The Daily Telegraph, Summer claimed that one month before theSeptember 11 attacks she had a premonition that they would occur. She was living in Manhattan at the time of the attacks. In the same interview she said for a period of time after the attacks she was so depressed she was unable to leave her bedroom and left her blinds closed.[19]In 2008, Summer released her first studio album of fully original material in 17 years, entitled Crayons. Released on the Sony BMG label Burgundy Records, it peaked at No. 17 on the United States Top 200 Album Chart, her highest placing on the chart since 1983. The songs “I’m a Fire”, “Stamp Your Feet” and “Fame (The Game)” reached number one on the U.S. Billboard Dance Chart. The ballad “Sand on My Feet” was released to adult contemporary stations and reached number 30 on that chart. Summer said, “I wanted this album to have a lot of different directions on it. I did not want it to be any one baby. I just wanted it to be a sampler of flavors and influences from all over the world. There’s a touch of this, a little smidgeon of that, a dash of something else, like when you’re cooking.” On the song “The Queen Is Back”, Summer reveals her wry and witty self-awareness of her musical legacy and her public persona. “I’m making fun of myself,” she admits. “There’s irony. It’s poking fun at the idea of being called a queen. That’s a title that has followed me, followed me and followed me. We were sitting and writing and that title kept popping up in my mind and I’m thinking, ‘Am I supposed to write this? Is this too arrogant to write?’ But people call me ‘the queen,’ so I guess it’s ok to refer to myself as what everybody else refers to me as. We started writing the song and thought it was kind of cute and funny.” Summer wrote “The Queen Is Back” and “Mr. Music” withJ.R. Rotem and Evan Bogart, the son of Casablanca Records founder Neil Bogart.On December 11, 2009, Summer performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway in honor of American President Barack Obama. She was backed by the Norwegian Radio Orchestra.

On July 29, 2010, Summer gave an interview with Allvoices.com wherein she was asked if she would consider doing an album of standards. She said, I actually am, probably in September. I will begin work on a standards album. I will probably do an all-out dance album and a standards album. I’m going to do both and we will release them however we’re going to release them. We are not sure which is going first. Summer’s husband, Bruce Sudano, stated during his speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction on Summer’s behalf that Donna never recorded the standards album as each time they went into the studio to record standards, she preferred to record new songs instead.In August 2010, she released the single “To Paris With Love”, co-written with Bruce Roberts and produced by Peter Stengaard. The single (her last charted single) reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Dance Chart in October 2010, Also that month Summer appeared in the PBS television special Hitman Returns: David Foster and Friends. In it Summer performed with Seal on a medley of the songs “Un-Break My Heart / Crazy / On the Radio” before closing the show with “Last Dance”.On September 15, 2010, Summer appeared as a guest celebrity singing alongside rising star Prince Poppycock on the television show America’s Got Talent.On October 16, 2010, she performed at a benefit concert at the Phoenix Symphony.On June 6, 2011, Summer was a guest judge on the show Platinum Hit in an episode entitled “Dance Floor Royalty”.In July 2011, Summer was working at Paramount Recording Studios in Los Angeles with her nephew, the rapper and producerO’Mega Red. Together they worked on a track titled “Angel”.On December 11, 2012, after four prior nominations, Donna posthumously was announced to be one of the 2013 inductees to theRock and Roll Hall of Fame and was inducted on April 18, 2013, at Los Angeles’ Nokia Theater

After having a glittering career that spanned four decades,  Donna Summer sadly passed away on 17th May 2012 in Florida, while attempting to put the finishing touches to her 24th album after having a short but acute battle with lung cancer which she beleived was the result of inhaling toxic dust from the collapsed Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in the aftermath of 9/11 terror attack. During her incredible music career Summer made 24 albums which put the disco into discography, won five Grammys and in 2012 she was a nominee for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to celebrate her extraordinary life,long-lasting career and her continuing legacy.

Donna Summer – Live & More Encore

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