Disco legend Donna Summer passed away on Thursday May 17th at age 63, after a lengthy battle with lung cancer. Born LaDonna Adrian Gaines in Massachusetts, this musical powerhouse has influenced a generation of aspiring divas. Throughout her illustrious career, she has collaborated with artists such as Barbara Streisand, Musical Youth and Quincy Jones. Known for her formidable vocal prowess and Top 10 Hits, Mrs. Summer was one of the few artists who survived the death of disco. She even managed to have a successful career into the 80’s and beyond. Though Donna Summer will forever be associated with the disco era, she will also be remembered for her contributions to groundbreaking single, “I Feel Love”, arguably the first techno song ever created. Uber producer Giorgio Moroder utilized cutting edge technology to create a track that has withstood the test of time, in addition to being ahead of the era in which it was released (1977). If you’ve ever had the good fortune of hearing “I Feel Love” at a rave, you ‘ll know exactly what I mean. Donna Summer’s deceptively breezy vocals combined with Moroder’s creative genius detonated an explosive dancefloor bomb and chart-smasher. It reached number 6 in the U.S. and number 1 in the U.K. Summer also scandalized listeners from all over the globe with her infamously orgasmic “Love to Love you Baby”, (another Moroder production).
Summer’s phenomenal voice had its beginnings in gospel, when she stunned members of her church with her singing as a small child. Such a ginormous talent could not be confined to a small town forever; after trying out for Hair (the musical) in the late 60’s and losing the part to Melba Moore, Donna accepted the same role in the Munich production and subsequently moved there. This decision played a crucial part in her musical destiny , for she teamed up with producers Pete Bellotte and Moroder while in Europe during the 1970’s. And the rest, as they say, is history.
My childhood memories of Donna Summer include singing the bridge of “Dim All the Lights” into an oscillating fan, in an attempt to replicate the trippy reverb. And of course, trying my darndest to sustain that incredibly long note near the end of intro to said track…and always running out of breath. Summer had staying power and unbelievable control which puts many so-called singers of today in the shade by comparison. This lady had first class chops. Any doubting Thomases reading this article have only to listen to her numerous tunes on Youtube for further enlightenment on the subject…
In addition to being a kickass vocalist, Donna Summer was also a visual artist. I once saw her work on display at a gallery in Yorkville during the early 90’s, and was stunned to discover a side to her I didn’t know existed. Donna certainly believed in diversifying and expressing the multi-dimensional aspects of her creative self in every way. Rest In Peace, Donna Summer – you will be sorely missed.
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