Queen of Disco, Lady of Passion
by Janel Sanders
Y’all can we talk about our beautiful “Queen of Disco” for a minute. You know who we’re talking about. That’s right! Donna Summer! We found her story particularly interesting and perhaps the grooviest of them all.
Starting out in the church as LaDonna Gaines where she replaced the lead singer of a church who failed to appear. With an extraordinary passionate voice, her love of singing began to grow into needing more out of her life. Singing in the church was not enough for her talents and she knew that.
Longing for more, though her family was strongly against leaving the church, she left for New York where she joined a blues rock band called Crow. The group quickly dissolved after a record label offered her a deal separate from the group. Summer, still known as Gaines at the time, moved to Europe after gaining the role of Sheila in the musical Hair.
Fluent in German, Summer released various songs in that language with her first single “Aquarius”, derived from the musical in 1968. Later in 1973, she married an Austrian actor Helmuth Sommer whom she later divorced in 1976, keeping the name Summer. Summer’s career was only getting started.
After having multiple hits in Europe and becoming a star in the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and Belgium, Summer’s passion took to the American stages at the rise of the disco era. After her hit, “Love to Love You Baby”, Neil Bogart, CEO of Casablanca records, signed Summer in the fall of 75. The song reached No. 2 on the U.S.
Billboard Hot 100 charts.
He took her career to places she never thought she would see. Her life was changing, and we were not aware of the major effect she would have on our lives as well. Summer gave us hit albums such as A Love Trilogy and I Remember Yesterday.
Her most recognized album to hit No. 1 in the states was her live album, Live and More. She was nominated for multiple Grammys on her merit of being Best Female R&B performer and Best Female Pop vocalist. By 1979, Summer had won three American Music Awards for single, album, and female artist. To much of her surprise, Summer’s album went from Gold status to triple-Platinum.
Summer later produced hits such as “Hot Stuff”, “She Works Hard for The Money”, “Bad Girls” and many more. Donna Summer embodied the definition of sexy and disco. Combined, she was destined to reach the top. She gained television specials and roles to show all of her talents at once. Back then, we couldn’t get enough of Donna Summer.
She set fire to stages, nightclubs and our televisions. There was nonstop dancing when we heard the sounds of Summer on the radio. She worked with producer Quincy Jones, top R&B and pop producer, to produce Donna Summer. Of course, with Quincy behind the music this album topped charts as well.
Year after year, Summer gain more recognition for her influence on music. Her drive and passion for the love of music and dance provided us with a completely different outlook on sound. She was one of the most influential and inspiring of her time. After having such a magical career, Donna Summer took ill and passed from lung cancer in 2012.
Her passing touched many other musical influencers of her time. Many of the other female singers would say that Summer was one of the realest in the game and changed it and us forever.
Today, anytime we hear a Donna Summer song what else is there to do other than shaking our groove thangs! Summer lives on in all of us!