incomparable range and power, Donna Summer
defined the '70s pop music generation. And
while others languished in the wake of the
infamous "death of disco" in 1979,
Summer boldly outlived those now-hallowed days
and carved a niche among the world's leading
song stylists, with a sterling string of hits
that range from the rhythmically dynamic to
the warmly spiritual.
all the songs from those days, I probably
still feel most connected to "Last
Dance," says the singer. "Sing it
and it brings tears to my eyes. For me, it's
become a poignant song. There were a lot of
people in my life who are not with us anymore.
It's like I'm singing to the memory of people
who are special to me."
1980, Donna Summer became the first artist
signed to David Geffen's new label, Geffen
Records, storming into the next phase of her
career with "The Wanderer." That set
was followed by I'm A Rainbow, a lyrically
incisive and musically innovative two-disc
opus which was her final collaboration with
Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. Years ahead
of its time in terms of context and conceptual
reach, I'm A Rainbow was never released
commercially by Geffen but was issued by
Polygram in 1996.
the years that followed, Donna Summer
collaborated with an illustrious line-up of
writers and producers including Quincy Jones,
Michael Omartian, and England's Stock Aitken
& Waterman. Her stream of hits never
stopped, from the richly uplifting "State
of Independence" to the anthems "She
Works Hard For The Money" and "This
Time I Know It's For Real."
Summer (1994) was not just a greatest hits
retrospective, but an invaluable primer for
any student of a vital era in pop music
history. The album included a joyous new
track, "Melody Of Love," which
became Billboard's Number One dance record of
the year. Nineteen ninety-four closed with the
critically acclaimed Christmas Spirit, a
collection of holiday standards and
Summer-penned originals recorded with the
Nashville Symphony Orchestra.
1995, Donna Summer returned to the road for
successful tours of the US and Brazil; these
shows brought out legions of fans in both
countries and earned critical raves. The tour
continued in 1996, as the four-time Grammy
Award winning singer headlined a cross-country
summer package which made stops at many of the
major amphitheaters and "sheds"
including New York's Jones Beach, Detroit's
Pine Knob, and Chastain Park in Atlanta.
Robert Hilburn noted in an August, 1995 Los
Angeles Times review of her sold-out heading
show at the Universal Amphitheater.
"Donna Summer's name was a powerful
magnet on the marquee in the late 1970's, when
she turned out some of the most appealing and
well crafted dance-minded records of the era.
But is there still an audience for the
one-time "Queen of Disco" at a time
when pop music is dominated by grunge and
late 1996, Donna Summer joined a cast of
fellow superstars in the ABC network special
celebrating the 25th anniversary of Disney
World. She also recorded the theme from The
Hunchback of Notre Dame for the Disney
children's album Mouse House. In December,
Donna and duet partner Bruce Roberts sang the
title song from the Universal motion picture
Daylight, starring Sylvester Stallone.
1997, when NARAS created a new Grammy award
category for Best Dance Recording, the first
winner was "Carry On" by Donna
Summer-the singer's fifth career Grammy. Once
she was the Queen of Disco, but today Donna
Summer's realm is the whole world of pop
20 years as a singer and songwriter, Donna
Summer remains an inspiration and influence.
To cite just one example: Her Top Ten Pop hit
of 1977. "I Feel Love," became a Top
10 Billboard Dance chart hit all over again in
October 1995. This updated version, recorded
in London with new vocals by Summer and a
remix by Rollo and Sister Bliss, also topped
The UK dance chart for five weeks and became a
Top 5 UK pop hit.
her recording and performing career, Donna
Summer is an accomplished visual artist whose
work has been shown at exhibitions and
galleries in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago,
Nashville, and Miami. In 1999, the art of
Donna Summer is being shown in Japan in a
special exhibition sponsored by filmmaker
Donna Summer story began on New Year's Eve,
when Donna Adrian Gaines was born in the
Dorchester section of Boston. Growing up in a
family of five sisters and one brother, she
created a unique identity by exploring an
early interest in music. A young follower of
gospel legend Mahalla Jackson, Donna first
tested her voice at the age of eight,
performing with church choirs. "It was
then that I knew I had been given a very
special gift from God," she recalls.
"It was just a matter of how to best use
the age of 18, Summer moved to New York in
search of a career in entertainment. An
audition to replace Melba Moore in the
Broadway hit Hair led to a prime spot in the
show's road company, which eventually landed
the young singer in a German production of
this classic musical theater work. After a
year, she switched to the Viennese cast of the
show. "That led to my joining the Vienna
Folk Opera," Donna recalls. "While I
was with them, I appeared in productions of
Showboat and Porgy And Bess."
Summer returned to Germany and continued her
budding musical theater career, performing in
productions of Godspell and The Me Nobody
Knows. She also began doing studio work
singing background on records and cutting
demos. During a demo session for a Three Dog
Night song, Donna met producers Giorgio
Moroder and Pete Bellotte. Her first single
with the duo was called "Hostage,"
and became a sizable hit in the Netherlands,
France and Belgium. At around this time Donna
married actor Helmut Sommor, a union which
later ended in divorce. She kept the name,
however, anglicizing its spelling. Several
other European hits followed, though none were
released in the US.
1975, Bellotte, Moroder and Donna Summer
created the epic song "Love To Love You
Baby." When the track began stirring up
club reaction in France, American record
executive Neil Bogart took notice and licensed
it to his fledgling Casablanca label. When
edited down to the length of a seven-inch
single from its original 16-plus minutes,
"Love To Love You Baby" rose to No.
2 on the Billboard Hot 100 The creative
credibility of a new musical genre and the
career of its key figure took flight.
success of "Love To Love You Baby"
triggered a series of Donna Summer albums that
would brilliantly blend the primal groove
urgency of disco and funk with symphonic
strings and soaring, dramatic vocals. Hardcore
club DJs took delight in expansive epics like
"Spring Affair," "Try Me (I
Know We Can Make It)," and "Could It
Be Magic," while pop radio programmers
indulged in less lengthy but equally
compelling odes like "I Love You,"
"MacArthur Park," and "Hot
Stuff." And "Last Dance," the
Academy Award-winning theme of the film Thank
God It's Friday, remains a shining moment of