“I love you, baby…” in 1975, Donna Summer sang, almost single-handedly kicking off the disco craze. Famous all over the world today, the song caused some scandal when it was originally released. Many radio stations refused to play it, not because it ran for more than 16 minutes, but because of the erotic nature of the song, and Summer imitated (by an estimate 23) the sound of the climax.
Perhaps because of its lively nature, the song, written by veteran producer George Morod, went on to become a global hit. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included the song on its “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll” list, and even Germany’s renowned Goethe-Institut recognized its groundbreaking qualities, calling it a pioneer of electronic music and house music.
But while the song propelled Donna Summer to the pinnacle of international fame, her origins were more humble. LaDonna Adrian Gaines was born on December 31, 1948, in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of a butcher and a factory worker, one of seven children. Almost as long as she can speak, she has always been a keen singer. As her mother later recalled, “She really loved singing. She sang at breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
Start your career in Germany
At 17, Summer dropped out of school and led the psychedelic rock band Crow, with which he moved to New York after cutting his performance teeth in a local gospel choir. There, she learned that an audition was being held for the German version of the hippie musical “Hair.” She applied, and on October 24, 1968, the 19-year-old summer found herself on stage in Munich. Her first single, taken from the show and released under the name Donna Gaines, was “Aquarius”. She toured Europe in other musicals, such as “Show Boat” and “Porgy and Bess,” and along the way met her first husband, the Austrian dentist Helmut Sommer, from whom she took her stage name.
1973 was a turning point in her career, when she met producers and songwriters Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. They quickly became a successful and prolific team. They made music history in 1977 with the recording of the classic disco hit “I Feel Love” in their Munich studio. The story goes that David Bowie, working some 600 kilometers away in Berlin, was surprised one day when Iggy Pop stormed into the studio claiming “I hear the future!” before playing a single.
At the insistence of Casablanca Records president Neil Bogart, Summer moved back to the United States in 1976. Her 1979 album Bad Girls is widely regarded as the pivotal and commercial peak of Summer Disco music, becoming the definitive record for a generation of club members. Summer was the first solo artist to have four No. 1 singles in one year, and was the most successful female artist in America in 1979 and 1980.
the dream shatters……
The 1980s wouldn’t be as summer-friendly as the 70s. While she continued to shine, behind the scenes, she contracted alcohol and drug addiction and suffered from depression, partly due to tensions with her brand, Casablanca, which wanted her to stick to the tried-and-true disco model, while Summer himself wanted to expand into other genres. An unsuccessful suicide attempt followed.
In the summer of the mid-’80s, a born-again Christian was accused of AIDS as God’s punishment for the immoral lifestyle of homosexuals. The remarks alienated her large gay fan base; thousands of her albums were returned to her record label. Summer has publicly denied making such a comment, saying in an open letter to the AIDS campaign group ACT UP that the incident was “a terrible misunderstanding… If I have caused you pain, please forgive me.”
After the dust had settled and her life in the summer had calmed down, she devoted herself to her family and her hobby of painting. She raised three daughters with her second husband, Bruce Sultano. However, music has always been cherished in her heart. In 2009, Summer returned to the stage for a sold-out solo concert in Berlin by Deutsche Telekom’s Electronic Beats brand. Six months later, she performed in Oslo as President Barack Obama presented the Nobel Peace Prize.
death of a legend
Donna Summer died at her home in Florida on May 17, 2012 at the age of 63. She was diagnosed with lung cancer, which she attributed to inhaling toxic particles after the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York’s World Trade Center.
After her death, some of the biggest names in entertainment paid tribute to her. Producer Quincy Jones said her voice “was the heartbeat and soundtrack of the decade,” while country star Dolly Parton said “Donna is one of the greatest voices ever.” Aretha Franklin called her “A great performer and a very nice person,” actress Lisa Minnelli calls her “the queen of disco,” as many have put it.
During her career, Donna Summer has sold more than 130 million albums, won five Grammy Awards, released three consecutive platinum albums, and was on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with one The stars are immortal together.