Donna Summer

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Donna Summer
Nobel Peace Price Concert 2009 Donna Summer3.jpg
Summer in December 2009
Background information
Birth name LaDonna Adrian Gaines
Also known as Queen of Disco
Donna Gaines
Born (1948-12-31)December 31, 1948
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died May 17, 2012(2012-05-17) (aged 63)
Naples, Florida
Genres Pop, disco, dance, rock, R&B, gospel
Occupations Singer, songwriter, painter
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1968–2012
Labels Oasis, Casablanca, Geffen, Atlantic, Mercury, WEA, Epic, Burgundy
Associated acts Giorgio Moroder, Brooklyn Dreams

LaDonna Adrian Gaines (December 31, 1948 – May 17, 2012),[1] known by her stage name, Donna Sommer, later Donna Summer, was an American singer, songwriter, and painter. She gained prominence during the disco era of the late 1970s. A five-time Grammy Award winner, she was the first artist to have three consecutive double albums reach No. 1 on the United States Billboard album chart and charted four number-one singles in the United States within a 12-month period. Summer has reportedly sold over 130 million records, making her one of the world's best-selling artists of all time.[2]

Born into a devoutly Christian middle-class family in Boston, Massachusetts, Summer first became involved with singing through church choir groups before joining a number of bands influenced by the Motown Sound. Also influenced by the counterculture of the 1960s, she became the front singer of a psychedelic rock band named Crow and moved to New York City. Joining a touring version of the musical Hair, she left New York and spent several years living, acting, and singing in West Germany, where she met music producers, Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. Also while in Europe, she married Helmut Sommer. After their divorce, she would keep his surname for her stage name; dropping the "o" and replacing it with a "u" for "Summer".[citation needed]

After returning to the United States, Summer co-wrote the song "Love to Love You Baby" with Pete Bellotte. The song was released in 1975 to mass commercial success. Over the following years Summer followed this success with a string of other hits, such as "I Feel Love", "Last Dance", "MacArthur Park", "Hot Stuff", "Bad Girls", "Dim All the Lights", "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)", and "On the Radio". She became known as the "Queen of Disco" and regularly appeared at the Studio 54 nightclub in New York City, while her music gained a global following. She struggled with depression and addiction, and subsequently she became a born-again Christian in 1980.[3]

Diagnosed with lung cancer, Summer died on May 17, 2012, at her home in Naples, Florida.[4] She has been described[by whom?] as the "undisputed queen of the Seventies disco boom" who reached the status of "one of the world's leading female singers."[3] Moroder described Summer's work with him on the song "I Feel Love" as "really the start of electronic dance" music.[5] In 2013, Summer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[6]

Early life[edit]

Summer was born on December 31, 1948, in Boston, Massachusetts, to Andrew and Mary Gaines, and was one of seven children.[7] She was raised in the Boston neighborhood of Mission Hill. Her father was a butcher and her mother a schoolteacher.[8] Summer's mother later recalled that from the time Donna could talk, she would often sing. "She literally loved to sing. She used to go through the house singing, singing. She sang for breakfast and for lunch and for supper."[8]

Summer's performance debut occurred at church when she was eight years old when she replaced a vocalist who failed to show up.[8] 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.[8] Summer recalled that as she sang, "I started crying, everybody else started crying. It was quite an amazing moment in my life and at some point after I heard my voice came out I felt like God was saying to me 'Donna, you're going to be very, very famous' and I knew from that day on that I would be famous."[8]

Summer later attended Boston's Jeremiah E. Burke High School where she performed in school musicals and was considered popular.[8] She was also something of a troublemaker, skipping home to attend parties, circumventing her parents' strict curfew.[8] 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 the counterculture 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.[8]

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 the Vienna 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.[9] In 1972, she issued the single "If You Walkin' Alone" on Philips Records.[9]

She married Austrian actor Helmuth Sommer in 1973 and had their daughter (called Mimi) Natalia Pia Melanie Sommer,[10] 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.[9]

Music career[edit]

1974–79: Initial success[edit]

Summer in a recording studio in 1977

While working as a model part-time and back up singer, it was during a recording session at Munich's Musicland Studios for Three Dog Night, Summer met German-based producers, Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. The trio forged a working partnership and Donna was signed to their "Oasis" label in 1974. A demo tape of Summer's work with Moroder and Bellotte led to a deal with the European-distributed label Groovy Records. The distributing label made an error on record cover, instead of Donna Sommer, it read Donna Summer; the name stuck. The label issued Summer's first album, Lady of the Night. The album became a hit in the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and Belgium with two songs, "The Hostage" and "Lady of the Night". "The Hostage" reached the top of the charts in France, but was removed from radio playlists in Germany because of the songs subject matter. A high ranking politician had recently been kidnapped and held for ransom. There was no U.S. release of the album.[11]

In mid-1975, while working on another album, Summer passed on an idea for a song to Moroder who was working with another artist in the then-nascent disco sound. Summer believed she had a good idea for a song for Moroder to use with the other artist; a song that would be called "Love to Love You". Summer and Moroder wrote the song together, and together they worked on a demo version with Summer singing the song. Summer would later say that she had imagined how Marilyn Monroe would sing this song and that is how she approached it. Prior to recording the song and to get into the mood, she requested Moroder to turn off the lights while they sat on a sofa with him inducing her moans and groans. Moroder liked what he heard after hearing its playback and felt that Summer's version should be released. The song got a European release and performed modestly on the charts there. Moroder then sought an American release for the song and it was sent to Casablanca Records president Neil Bogart. Bogart was unsure about giving it a release. Bogart and his Casablanca Records were known in the industry for throwing lavish and extravagant parties. At one such party, Bogart, who was still undecided about releasing the song, decided to gauge its reaction with the crowd. He had the DJ play the four minute song. The song was successful with the crowd and they insisted that it be played over and over each time it ended. Bogart knew he had a potential hit on his hands and later informed Summer and Moroder he would release the song, but he requested that Moroder produce a longer version for discothèques. Moroder, Bellotte, and Summer returned with a 17-minute version. Bogart tweeked the title to "Love to Love You Baby", and Casablanca signed Summer and released the single in November 1975. The shorter version of the single was promoted to radio stations while clubs regularly played the 17-minute version (the longer version would also appear on the album). With this 17-minute version, Casablanca became one of the first record labels to popularize the 12" single format.[citation needed]

By early 1976, "Love to Love You Baby" had reached No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and became a platinum single, 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 stations, like those in Europe with the initial release, refused to play it.[12] Despite this, "Love to Love You Baby" climbed its way to number 2 on the US Hot 100 and found chart success in several European countries, and made the Top 5 in the United Kingdom despite the BBC ban. Two subsequent albums (both of which went gold), Love Trilogy and Four Seasons of Love, produced singles such as "Try Me, I Know We Can Make It", US No. 80; "Could It Be Magic", US No. 52; "Spring Affair", US No. 58; and "Winter Melody", US No. 43.

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. Both the single and album would attain gold status in the US. 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. Donna recorded the song "Deep Down Inside", which was the theme song for the 1977 film The Deep. 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 with modest success, but a song from the film, titled "Last Dance", reached number three on the Hot 100 chart. The soundtrack and single both went gold and resulted in Summer winning her first Grammy Award, which was for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. Its writer, Paul Jabara, won both a Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for the composition. Donna also had the tracks "With Your Love" and "Je t'aime..moi non plus", on the soundtrack of Thank God It's Friday. Also in 1978, Summer released her version of the Jimmy Webb ballad, "MacArthur Park", which became her first U.S. number one hit. It was also the only number one hit for songwriter Jimmy Webb, and the single went gold, staying on the top of the charts for three weeks. She received a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. 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 U.S. Billboard 200 chart and went double platinum, selling over 2 million copies. The week of November 11, 1978, Summer became the first female artist to have the number single [13] and album on the pop charts simultaneously. 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 verse; reached number four and became another gold single. Summer would later be romantically involved with Brooklyn Dreams singer Bruce Sudano and the couple married two years after the song's release.

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 & Fire, Rita Coolidge and Kris Kristofferson for a 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. Summer began work on her next project with Moroder and Bellotte, Bad Girls. Summer based the cover concept on prostitution (revisiting the theme for 1974's Lady of the Night), even dressing as a hooker herself on the cover art. Moroder brought in Harold Faltermeyer who he had collaborated on the soundtrack of film Midnight Express with, to be the albums arranger. It turn out that Donna had remembered Harold from her days in Germany when she was doing the musical Hair. He had played in a band of one of the bars the performers use to frequent after the show. She had jammed with him a couple of times. As it happened, Faltermeyer's role would significantly increase from arranger, as he played keyboards and wrote songs with Summer.[14]

The album eventually went triple platinum, spawning the number one hits "Hot Stuff" and "Bad Girls", that went platinum, and the number two "Dim All the Lights" which went gold. The week of June 16, 1979 Summer would again have the number single and the number album on the Billboards charts, when "Hot Stuff" regain the top spot on the Hot 100 chart[15] The following week, Bad Girls would be on top of Billboard R&B album charts, "Hot Stuff" remained at number one, "Bad Girls" the single would climb into the top 5 on the Hot 100. It would mark the first time a solo artist have two songs in the top 5. In the week to follow, Summer would be the first solo artist to have two songs in the Billboard top 3 at the same time. The week of July 14, 1979, "Bad Girls", the single would climbed to the top on the charts, the album would regain the top spot. The single would stay there for five weeks and the album would be there for four more weeks. This would mark the third occasion that Donna would be on top of both charts simultaneously. The following week "Bad Girls" the single would top Billboards R&B single chart. Thus, she was on the top of three major charts at the same time. On the week of November 10, 1979 "Dim All The Lights" would peak at the number 2 spot for two weeks; the following week "No More Tears (Enough is Enough)" would get to number three, and once again Donna Summer would have two songs in the top 3. The week of the November 24, 1979 "No More Tears (Enough is Enough)" would reached the top spot, and spend two weeks there; with "Dim All The Lights" at number 4, it would again mark the second time Summer would two songs in the top 5.[16] In the short span of eight months Donna had topped both the singles and albums chart simultaneously three times. She became the first Female Artist to have three number one singles in a calendar year. 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 twelve-month period. Including Heaven Knows and "Dim All The Lights" she had achieved six top 4 singles in twelve-month period. Those songs, along with "Last Dance", "On the Radio", and the "The Wanderer", from her first album for her new label Geffen, would give her nine US Top 5 singles just over a two-year period. "No More Tears (Enough is Enough)" the single would sell over 2 million copies becoming a platinum success. "Hot Stuff" later won her a second Grammy Award in the Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, the first time the category was included. She received a total of five Grammy nominations, including Album of the Year. That year, Summer played eight sold-out nights at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles.

The song "On the Radio" would be the inspiration for Casablanca to released On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II, her first (international) greatest hits set, in 1979. The album was mixed differently than the original songs issued on it, with each song segueing into the next, and included two new songs "On the Radio" and "No More Tears(Enough is Enough)". It would be the first time that such an album package would be made. The double album reached number one in the United States, becoming her third consecutive number one album and gaining double platinum status. A new song from the compilation, "On the Radio", reached the U.S. top five, selling over a million copies in the United States alone, which made it a gold single. Summer would again receive a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

1980–85[edit]

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. Casablanca wanted her to continue to record disco only while Summer wanted to sing more rock and pop-based music. Summer was upset with President Neil Bogart over the early release of the single "No More Tears (Enough is Enough)", he had promised to wait longer than he did. She had penned "Dim All The Lights" on her own, and was hoping for a number one song as a songwriter. Not waiting until "Dim All The Lights" had peaked or a least another month as promised; Summer felt it had detracted from the singles chart momentum (which she discussed in the book Ordinary Girl – The Journey released in 2003). Sensing that they could no longer come to terms, Summer and the label parted ways in 1980 and she signed with Geffen Records, the new label started by David Geffen. Summer had filed a 10 million dollar suit against Casablanca, the label countersued. In the end, she did not receive any money, but won the rights to her own lucrative song publishing.[17]

Summer's first Geffen album, The Wanderer, featured an eclectic mixture of sounds but with little emphasis on Summer's past disco success, instead bringing elements of rock, rockabilly, new wave and gospel music. Unfortunately, The Wanderer was rushed to market. Geffen was concerned about Casablanca Records releasing another greatest hits package, and wanted to get the new material out. The producers of the album wanted more production time, and were looking to tweak the album more. The album continued Summer's streak of gold albums with the title track peaking at No. 3 in the U.S. Its follow-up singles, "Cold Love" No.33 and "Who Do You Think You're Foolin'," No.40 were only modest hits.[18]

On January 5, 1981, Summer gave birth to her daughter Brooklyn Sudano. She would soon be back in the studio working on her next album for Geffen. It was to be another double album set. In the studio things were not going well, and when Geffen stop by for a preview; he was warned that it was a work in progress, but it was almost done. That was a mistake, because only a few track had been finished, and most of the tracks were in demo phase. He heard enough, to tell producers that it was not good enough, the project was canceled. It would be released years later in 1996, under the title "I'm A Rainbow".[18]

Over the years, a few of the tracks from the their final project would be released. The song "Highway Runner" appears on the soundtrack for the film Fast Times at Ridgemont High. "Romeo" appears on the Flashdance soundtrack. Both, "I'm a Rainbow" and "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" would be on her 1993 Anthology album. Geffen hired top R&B and pop producer Quincy Jones to produce Summer's next album, the eponymously titled Donna Summer. The album took over six months to record as Summer and Jones did not get along. After the recording of the album, Summer said she felt like she was invited to sing on a Quincy Jones album. Summer, who was pregnant at the time, found it hard to sing. During the recording of the project, Neil Bogart died of cancer in May 1982 at age 39. Summer would sing at his funeral. The album was released July 19, 1982 and included the top ten hit "Love Is in Control (Finger on the Trigger)". Other modest performing singles included "State of Independence" (No. 41 pop) and "The Woman in Me" (No. 33 pop). Problems then arose between Summer and Geffen Records after they were notified by Polygram Records, Summer's former label (Casablanca was by then a wholly owned subsidiary of Polygram), that she needed to deliver them one more album to fulfill her contract with them. On August 11, 1982, Summer gave birth to her daughter Amanda Sudano.

Summer recorded and delivered the album She Works Hard for the Money and Polygram released it on its Mercury imprint in 1983. The title song became a major hit, reaching No. 3 on the US Hot 100, as well as No. 1 on Billboard's R&B chart for three weeks. It also garnered Summer another Grammy nomination, for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance . The album also featured the reggae-flavored UK Top 20 hit "Unconditional Love", which featured the British group Musical Youth. The third U.S. single, "Love Has A Mind of Its Own", reached the top forty of the Billboard R&B chart. The album itself was certified gold. The single "She Works Hard for the Money" became her fifth platinum single selling over two million copies. The song "He's a Rebel" would win Summer her third Grammy Award, this time for Best Inspirational Performance. Media reports were that David Geffen, owner of the label Summer was currently recording for, was not happy that the album had performed well.[citation needed]

British director Brain Grant was hired to direct Summer's video for "She Works Hard for the Money". Grant was happily excited because he liked her music. The video was a success, being nominated for MTV Awards for Best Female Video and Best Choreography, and Summer became one of the first black artists and the first Afro American Female artist to have her video played in heavy rotation. Grant would also be hired to direct Summer's Costa Mesa HBO Concert Special "A Hot Summers Night". Grant who was a fan of the song "State of Independence" had an idea for a grand finale. He though of song as an anthem with a big build, and wanted a large chorus of children to join Summer on stage at the ending of the song. His team looked for local school children in Orange County to assemble 500 students. On the final day of rehearsals the kids turned up, and they had a full rehearsal...according to Grant "It looked and sounded amazing. It was a very emotional, very tearful experience for everyone who was there." He thought if this was the reaction in rehearsal, what an impact it will have in the concert. Unfortunately, after the rehearsal he was informed that he couldn't have the kids; because the concert would end around 10:15 pm or so at night. Children could not be license'd to be out on stage at such a late hour (California had strict child labour laws in 1983). "It's a moment that I regret immensely: a grand finale concept I came up with that couldn't be filmed in the end".[19] When the final sequence was filmed, Summer's daughter Mimi and her family members joined her on stage for "State of Independence".

In late 1984, with her contract to Polygram Records now fulfilled, Summer returned with her next release on Geffen Records. Geffen, wanting to keep the momentum going, enlisted She Works Hard for the Money's producer Michael Omartian to produce Cats Without Claws. Donna was happy that the Geffen and his executives stayed out of the studio for the recording, and thanked him in the albums liner notes, but her request for the lead single would be rejected. The album, was not as successful as She Works Hard for the Money, and failed to attain gold status in the US, becoming her first album in America not to do so.[20] It would be the first album since 1977's Once Upon a Time, not to yield a top ten hit. It did include a moderate hit in The Drifters cover "There Goes My Baby", which peaked at No. 21 and "Supernatural Love" at No. 75. Jellybean Benitez remixed two of the album's songs, "Eyes" and "I'm Free," which were released as 12" singles for club play. Summer would win another Grammy Award for Best Inspirational Performance, for the song "Forgive Me" from the album Cats Without Claws.

On January 19, 1985, she sang at the nationally-televised 50th Presidential Inaugural Gala the day before the second inauguration of Ronald Reagan.[21]

Controversy over alleged anti-gay comments[edit]

In the mid-1980s, Summer was embroiled in a controversy. She allegedly had made anti-gay remarks regarding the then-relatively new disease, AIDS, which as a result had a significantly negative impact on her career. Summer, by this time a born-again Christian, was alleged to have said that AIDS was a punishment from God for the immoral lifestyles of homosexuals.[22][23] Because of this alleged statement, thousands of her records were returned to her record company.[24] Summer publicly denied that she had ever made any such comment, and in a letter to the AIDS campaign group ACT UP in 1989 said it was "a terrible misunderstanding. In explaining why she did not respond to the controversy sooner, Summer stated "I was unknowingly protected by those around me from the bad press and hate letters. If I have caused you pain, forgive me." She apologized for the delay in her response and closed her letter with Bible quotes (from Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians).[25]

Also in 1989, Summer told The Advocate magazine that "a couple of the people I write with are gay, and they have been ever since I met them. What people want to do with their bodies is their personal preference."[26] A couple of years later, she filed a lawsuit against New York magazine when it reprinted the rumors as fact just as she was about to release her album Mistaken Identity in 1991.[27] According to a Biography television program dedicated to Summer in which she participated in 1995, the lawsuit was settled out of court, though neither side was able to divulge any details.[28][29]

1987–89[edit]

In 1986 Harold Faltermeyer wrote the title song for a German ski movie called Fire and Ice, and thought Summer would be ideal to sing the song. The two had not been in touch since David Geffen canceled their last project together. He decided to reach out to Summer, although she was not interested in singing the song he had written, she was very much interested in working with Faltermeyer again. They started writing together, to to get a feel for how well they would work together. Then Summer asked Faltermeyer to produce the new album, Harold called Giorgio Moroder to see if he had any objections, which he did not, so Harold accepted. A meeting with Geffen was scheduled to discuss the album, and he was onboard with the project. Summer's main objective for the album was to have stronger R&B influences, and Harold who had just finished doing the soundtracks to Top Gun and Fletch was after a tough FM-oriented sound. After the album was completed, Geffen liked what he heard but his executives did not think there were enough songs that could be deemed "singles". They had a song that they wanted Harold to produce (Dinner with Gershwin), but he was already busy with another project; so another producer was found, and the song was recorded. They also substituted Bad Reputation which had been recorded earlier. Some songs, like "Fascination" were recorded with the expectation of breaking Summer into a more R&B oriented market, fell by the wayside. Geffen had shared the vision of moving Summer into the R&B market as a veteran artist. Harold Faltermeyer in a 2012 interview with Deadia Magazine: "She was an older artist by then and the label's priority may have been on the youth market. The decision was made afterward by executives who were looking for a radio hit for 1987 and not something the would perhaps last beyond then." [30] The labels President Ed Rosenblatt would later admit: "The company never intended to focus on established superstars".[31] The album All Systems Go, did not sell well and was her second consecutive album not to achieve gold status. It featured the single "Dinner with Gershwin," (written by Brenda Russell), which was only a minor U.S. hit; though it became a hit in the UK, peaking at No. 13. The album's title track, "All Systems Go", was released only in the UK, where it peaked at No. 54.[32]

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 among others. The "SAW" team describe the working experience as a labour of love, and said it was their favourite album that they had recorded. However, Geffen decided not to release the album, entitled Another Place and Time, upon its completion and Summer and Geffen Records parted ways in 1988. The album, however, was released in Europe in March 1989 on Warner Bros. Records, which had been Summer's label in Europe since 1982. The single "This Time I Know It's for Real" had become a top ten hit in several countries in Europe, prompting the Warner Bros. sister company Atlantic Records to sign Summer in the U.S. and pick up the album for a North American release soon after. The single peaked at No. 7 on the US Hot 100 and became her 12th gold single in America. It was also Summer's final Top 40 hit on the American pop charts, though she scored two more UK hits from the album, "I Don't Wanna Get Hurt" (UK No. 7) and "Love's About to Change My Heart" (UK No. 20).[32][33]

In 1989, Donna and her husband Bruce Sudano, had been in talks to do a new kind of reality-based sitcom. It would be based on their own hectic household. At the time they lived with their children Amanda and Brooklyn, and Mimi, Donna's daughter by Helmut Sommer, two sets of in-laws, and a maid. The television network started to changed the premise, making it less funny, says Sudano, "And because we were an inter-racial couple they didn't want us to be married any more". In 1989 this was "an issue. So with that mentality we just back out of it."[34]

It was also during this period that Summer started to have gallery showings of her paintings. She was convinced by a friend, Ceil Kasha, that she had a talent for painting, and was featured on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous in 1989 for her works of art. One of her first paintings was sold for 38,000.00 dollars US. She was part of an exhibition of American artists in China, sponsored by Steven Spielberg. She sites Piscasso as someone she was influenced by, as well as Austrian artists Gustav Klimt and Ernst Fuchs. She sat for Fuchs and the two became good friends.[34] Rick Solomon chairman of Fine Circle Art who manages more than 35 galleries nation wide, was impressed by the brash colours and images of Summer's work. " I've been in business for 26 years", he said "I've been approached to handle any number of celebrity painters ...no names, please - and I've turned them all down. In every case the work was derivative - Picasso and others. But Donna has her own style. She's a very talented woman. Oh some critics have felt it necessary to knock her. It's just that old thing, I suppose - not being able to accept the idea that a singer can also be a painter. But, Donna is no Sunday painter." [35]

1990–99: Mistaken Identity, acting, and Live & More Encore[edit]

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 worked with producer Keith Diamond 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.[36] In 1993, Polygram issued the two-disc set The Donna Summer Anthology, which included 34 tracks of all of Summer's material with Casablanca Records and Mercury Records and songs from her tenures with Atlantic and Geffen.[37]

In 1992, she reunited with Giorgio Moroder, recording the dance song "Carry On", which later won Summer the first Grammy given to anyone for its dance category. Summer signed with Mercury/Polygram that same year, and in 1994 she re-teamed with producer Michael Omartian to record a Christmas album, Christmas Spirit, which included renditions of classic Christmas songs such as "O Holy Night" and "White Christmas" and three Summer-penned songs,"Christmas is Here","Lamb of God" and the album's title track. The album was recorded in Nashville and Summer was accompanied by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. 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 and there were almost double the amount of songs. There were two new tracks "Melody of Love (Wanna Be Loved)" and "Anyway at All". In 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.[37]

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 was asked to do the Divas 2 concert, when she came in to meet with producers, it was decided that they would do Donna by herself. 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.[11]

2000–09: Later recordings and Crayons[edit]

Donna Summer in 2005

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 titled The Journey: The Very Best of Donna Summer. In 2004, Summer was inducted into the Dance 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 the September 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.[38]

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." [39]

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" with J.R. Rotem and Evan Bogart, the son of Casablanca Records founder Neil Bogart.[39]

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.[20]

2010–12: Final recordings[edit]

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."[40]

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".[41]

On September 15, 2010, Summer appeared as a guest celebrity singing alongside contestant 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 producer O'Mega Red. Together they worked on a track titled "Angel".[42]

On December 11, 2012, after four prior nominations, Summer was posthumously announced to be one of the 2013 inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.,[43] and was inducted on April 18, 2013, at Los Angeles' Nokia Theater.[43]

2013: Love To Love You Donna[edit]

A remix album titled Love To Love You Donna, containing new remixes of some of Summer's classics, was released in October 2013.[44] "MacArthur Park" was remixed by Laidback Luke for the remix collection and it was also remixed by Ralphi Rosario, which was released to dance clubs all over America, having a successful peaking at No. 1, giving Summer her first number-one posthumously and her twentieth number-one on the chart.[45]

Personal life[edit]

Summer and her family moved from the Sherman Oaks district of Los Angeles to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1995,[46] when she took time out from show business to focus on painting, a hobby she began back in the 1980s. Summer was raised in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.[47] Also in 1995 Summer's mother died of pancreatic cancer;[48] her father died of natural causes in December 2004.

Death[edit]

Summer died on May 17, 2012, at her home in Naples, Florida at the age of 63.[49][50] She was diagnosed with lung cancer.[51][52] She believed she developed the illness by inhaling toxic particles following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York.[53][54]

Summer was survived by her husband, Bruce Sudano; and her daughters Mimi (with ex-husband Helmut Sommer), Brooklyn Sudano and Amanda Sudano. Her funeral was held in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 23, 2012. She was interred in Harpeth Hills Memory Gardens Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee.[55]

Funeral[edit]

Summer's funeral service was held in Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee on the afternoon of May 23, 2012.[55][56][57] The exact location and time of the service was kept secret.[58] Several hundred of Summer's friends and family appeared at the funeral, according to CNN.[57] The funeral was a private ceremony and cameras were not allowed inside the church.[57] TMZ obtained a copy of Summer's funeral program,[59][60] which includes a Proverb dedicated to Summer about a "wife of noble character". According to the program, Pastor Tim Johnson started the service and welcomed the guests.[60] Afterward, Ricky Gaines, her brother, gave a speech.[60] Summer's sisters, Linda Gaines Lotman, Mary Ellen Bernard, Dara Bernard and Jenette Yancey, performed "We've Come This Far By Faith". Mary Ellen Bernard performed "Because of Whose You Are".[60] Rick Dohler, a son-in-law of Summer, gave a speech and Pastor Johnson spoke again.[60] The service was closed by David Foster and Natalie Grant performing "The Prayer".[57][60] Guests left the church, entered their cars and followed the black hearse with Summer's body to the Harpeth Hills Memory Gardens cemetery in Nashville, where she was buried.[60] Other guests included Giorgio Moroder, who produced several of Summer's hits, and singer Tony Orlando.[57]

Reaction[edit]

Donna Summer's memorial made by fans in the Castro District, San Francisco

Singers and music industry professionals around the world reacted to Summer's death.[61][62] Gloria Gaynor said she was "deeply saddened" and that Summer was "a fine lady and human being".[63] Harry Wayne Casey of KC and the Sunshine Band said he and Summer "ran in the same circles and are part of the same generation."[62] Liza Minnelli said, "She was a queen, The Queen Of Disco, and we will be dancing to her music forever." She said that her "thoughts and prayers are with her family always."[62] Dolly Parton said, "Donna, like Whitney, was one of the greatest voices ever. I loved her records. She was the disco queen and will remain so. I knew her and found her to be one of the most likable and fun people ever. She will be missed and remembered."[62] Janet Jackson wrote that Summer "changed the world of music with her beautiful voice and incredible talent."[62] Barbra Streisand wrote, "I loved doing the duet with her. She had an amazing voice and was so talented. It's so sad."[62] Quincy Jones wrote that Summer's voice was "the heartbeat and soundtrack of a decade."[62] Aretha Franklin said, "It's so shocking to hear about the passing of Donna Summer. In the 70s, she reigned over the disco era and kept the disco jumping. Who will forget 'Last Dance'? A fine performer and a very nice person."[64] Chaka Khan said, "Donna and I had a friendship for over 30 years. She is one of the few black women I could speak German with and she is one of the few friends I had in this business."[64] Gloria Estefan averred that "It's the end of an era", and posted a photo of herself with Summer. Mary J. Blige tweeted "RIP Donna Summer !!!!!!!! You were truly a game changer !!!" [65] Lenny Kravitz wrote "Rest in peace Donna, You are a pioneer and you have paved the way for so many of us. You transcended race and genre. Respect.. Lenny" [65]

Beyonce penned a personal note: "Donna Summer made music that moved me both emotionally and physically to get up and dance. You could always hear the deep passion in her voice. She was so much more than the queen of disco she became known for, she was an honest and gifted singer with flawless vocal talent. I've always been a huge fan and was honoured to sample one of her songs. She touched many generations and will be sadly missed. My love goes out to her family during this difficult time. Love, B" [66]

David Foster said " My wife and I are in shock and truly devastated. Donna changed the face of pop culture forever. There is no doubt that music would sound different today if she had never graced us with her talent. She was a superdiva and a true superstar who never compromised when it came to her career or her family. She always did it with class, dignity, grace and zero attitude. She lived in rare air...She was the most spectacular, considerate, constant, giving, generous and loving friend of 35 years. I am at a total loss trying to process this tragic news.".[67]

United States President Barack Obama said, "Michelle and I were saddened to hear about the passing of Donna Summer. A five-time Grammy Award winner, Donna truly was the 'Queen of Disco.' Her voice was unforgettable and the music industry has lost a legend far too soon. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Donna's family and her dedicated fans."[62][68]

Summer was honored at the 2012 Billboard Music Awards ceremony. Singer Natasha Bedingfield honored Summer, calling her "a remarkable woman who brought so much light and who inspired many women, including myself, through her music. And if we can remember her through her music, this will never really be the last dance." After her statement, she began to sing the song "Last Dance", Summer's Academy Award-winning song.[69] As she sang the song, photos of Summer were displayed on a screen overhead.[69]

Fans paid tribute to Summer by leaving flowers and memorabilia on her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[70] A few days after her death, her album sales increased by 3,277 percent, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Billboard reported that the week before she died, Summer sold about 1,000 albums. After her death that number increased to 26,000.[71]

Cover versions of her songs[edit]

"I Feel Love" has been sampled several times by artists such as Blondie, David Guetta, 2 Unlimited, Darren Hayes, Whitney Houston, Madonna, Bette Midler, Kylie Minogue, Moby, Moloko, Mylo, Stuart Price, Diana Ross, Britney Spears and Robbie Williams. The Italian company Gucci used a special version of it in the "Flora" perfume advertising filmed by Chris Cunningham. Venus Hum with Blue Man Group also recorded the song with the Japanese singer Kumi Koda for their album, The Complex.

In 2006, Tracy Bonham stood in for "Hum" in the "Blue Man Group" tour and sang the song. Bronski Beat and Marc Almond released the track as a duet with an added bridge section and titled it "I Feel Love/Johnny Remember Me", which reached number three on the British charts in April 1985. In 1992, the British alterna-pop group Curve recorded a version for the NME's 40th anniversary compilation Ruby Trax, which became an instant underground hit.[citation needed]

Laura Branigan's cover of Summer's hit song "Dim All the Lights" appeared in 1995 and Emmylou Harris recorded a cover of Summer's "On the Radio" for her album White Shoes in 1983.[citation needed]

"Love to Love You Baby" was sampled in Beyoncé Knowles's "Naughty Girl" and by TLC in their original version of "I'm Good at Being Bad", but was removed by request of Summer on later editions. This song has been covered in portions on stage by Dionne Warwick. 1980s pop diva Sheena Easton covered Summer's "Love Is in Control (Finger on the Trigger)" for her European retro disco cover album Fabulous in 2000.[citation needed]

"Starting Over Again" was a number one hit on the Hot Country Songs chart as a single for Dolly Parton in 1980. It also was a Top 40 hit for Parton on the Billboard Hot 100. Reba McEntire named her album of 1995 after this song, and McEntire's version hit No. 17 on the country singles chart in 1996. McEntire stated in the album's liner notes that her recording of the song was intended as a tribute to Summer and Parton, both artists whom she admired. British singer and actress Martine McCutcheon recorded a version that reached number seven in the British charts in February 2001.

Legacy[edit]

According to longtime synthpop/electropop musician Marc Almond, Summer's collaboration with producer Giorgio Moroder "changed the face of music".[72] Summer was the first artist to have three double albums reach No. 1 on Billboard's album chart: Live and More, Bad Girls and On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II. She became a cultural icon and her prominence on the dance charts, for which she was referred to as "the queen of disco", made her not just one of the defining voices of that era, but also as an influence on pop artists from Madonna to Beyoncé. Unlike some other stars of disco who faded as the music became less popular in the 1980s and beyond, Summer was able to grow beyond the genre and later segued to a pop-rock sound. She had one of her biggest hits in the 1980s with "She Works Hard For the Money", which became another anthem, this time for women's rights. Summer was the first black woman to be nominated for an MTV Video Music Award. Summer remained a force on the Billboard Dance/Club Play Songs chart throughout her career and notched 19 number one singles. Her last studio album, 2008's Crayons, spun off three No. 1 dance/club hits with "I'm a Fire", "Stamp Your Feet" and "Fame (The Game)". In May 2012, it was announced that "I Feel Love" was included in the list of preserved recordings at the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry.[73] Her Rock and Roll Hall of Fame page listed Summer as "the Diva De Tutti Dive, the first true diva of the modern pop era".[74]

Concert tours[edit]

Discography[edit]

Filmography[edit]

Notable film and television appearances
Year Title Role Notes
1970 11 Uhr 20 Sängerin in Kasbah Episode: "Tod in der Kasbah"
1978 Thank God It's Friday Nicole Sims
1994–97 Family Matters Aunt Oona Episodes: "Aunt Oona" & "Pound Foolish"
2011 Platinum Hit Guest judge Episode: "Dance Floor Royalty"

Awards and recognition[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]