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Disco Queen Donna Summer dies

Rest in peace, Donna Summer

Donna Summer, who was music industry’s long-reigning Queen of Disco hits, succumbs to cancer, May 17. She was 61. The entire entertainment industry, including music legends Aretha Franklin and Barbara, as well as President Barack Obama, were saddened by the demise of one of most revered figures in the world music.

Donna Summer was perhaps the most memorable figure of the Disco era, with hits that include Love to Love You Baby, I Feel Love, Hot Stuff and Bad Girls, and a record sales that reached more than 20 million albums. She also holds the distinction of being one of the first performers to score three consecutive double-disc albums reach No. 1 on the charts.

She was known for her up-front sexuality and husky voice made her a watershed image among singers who came later, including Madonna, Lady Gaga and Rihanna.

Summer dominated the 1970s with her hits, thus earning her the distinction as Queen of Disco. Nevertheless, Summer showed her discomfort with that moniker, telling New York Times in a 1996 interview: “It’s nice to be the queen of something. They can call me what they want as long as they pay me.”
Summer was trained as a gospel singer. Her incredible range made her a five-time Grammy winner for a variety of genres: rock, rhythm and blues, gospel and dance music, co-writing many of her songs.
Summer “made some of the freshest, most substantial dance records of a period noted for its froth and foolishness,” said Robert Palmer in 1984, New York Time’s pop music critic.

In the 1960s, Summer moved to Europe to launch her career, where she sang in Hair, a rock music production. She would stay abroad for another seven years to performing in a variety of stagings, before hitting initial success by singing The Hostage and Lady of the Night.

She shoot to superstardom 17-minute opus Love to Love You Baby, a rendition of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin’s erotic duet in the 1960s. The song became an instant hit and was a staple in discotheques and underground clubs. She returned to US in 1975, where she shone so bright as one of Disco era’s legends. She retained her popularity way until the end of her life thanks to her legions of fans that included Latins, blacks, and gays. Her lively performance was never paled by time and her many concerts remained sold-out.

But Summer’s life was not without lows. In the 70’s, she fell under depression and attempted suicide. She found renewal in the mid-80s, and since then much of her songs had religious themes.

Born LaDonna Adrienne Gaines on Dec. 31, 1948, Summer was married to Austrian actor Helmut Sommer, later changing her surname to Summer. They were divorced and she then married Bruce Sudano. She was survived by Sudano and her daughter by her first marriage and two daughters from her second.  


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