Donna Summer on the cover of her 1993 collection The Donna Summer Anthology
Birth name LaDonna Adrian Gaines
Born December 31, 1948
Origin Boston, Massachusetts
Occupation(s) Singer-songwrite r, artist, actress
Instrument(s) Vocals, piano/keyboard
Years active 1974 – present
Geffen Epic Associated
acts Giorgio Moroder
For other people with the same name, see Donna Summer (disambiguation).
Donna Summer (born LaDonna Adrian Gaines on December 31, 1948) is an American Grammy Award-winning singer best known for a string of disco music hits in the 1970s that earned her the title “Queen of Disco” and also one of the few disco artists to have longevity on the charts into the late-1980s. Summer was a rarity in the 1970s disco scene because her career began before the disco explosion and continued afterward. Even though she is one of the best-known artists of the disco era, Summer has covered different genres including R&B, rock and roll and gospel music, earning her Grammy Awards in those categories. Her work is still critically acclaimed, and she remains one of the few disco artists accepted by modern rock critics.Contents [hide]
Early life and career
Born in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, Summer began performing in her church’s choir at the age of ten. She later joined a rock group called Crow. A few months before graduating from high school, Summer dropped out and joined the German productions of Hair, Godspell, and Show Boat over the next few years. She eventually settled in Europe, joining the Viennese Folk Opera and participating in numerous musicals.
In 1971, Summer released “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses”, her first solo recording. The single was unsuccessful, however, and Summer had to wait until 1974 to launch a solo career. After resettling in Munich, Germany, Summer married Helmut Sommer (“Summer” is an anglicization of his last name) and did various musical jobs in studios and theaters for several years, including the pop group FamilyTree from 1974-75.
Success and notoriety
While singing back-up for groups such as Three Dog Night demo, she met producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Belotte. With these producers, Summer signed a contract overseas and issued her first album, Lady of the Night, which included the overseas hit, “The Hostage”, which hit #1 in France, Belgium, and Holland and #2 in Germany. In the late summer of 1975, Summer penned a song that was being shopped around to various German pop singers notably Penny McLean. Moroder was astounded with Summer’s orgasmic vocals and her imaginative moans and groans and told Summer to release the single as her own. Summer reluctanly agreed and the song, titled “Love To Love You Baby”, was released. While originally a modest success in Europe, it was reached in America and to the hands of Casablanca president Neil Bogart, who was so ecstatic over the demo that he requested Moroder to produce a twenty-minute version of the song. Summer and Moroder cut a seventeen-minute version and with that, Casablanca signed Summer and issued the single in November, 1975.
The single would become Summer’s first big hit in America reaching #2 on the pop singles chart in February, 1976 and becoming her first #1 dance single. The seventeen-minute version gave birth to the so-called “maxi-single”. The album was also released in 1975 and was soon certified gold. The song and subsequent others were branded “raunchy” by some rock critics and was even banned by some radio stations (“Love to Love You” in particular) for its graphic content. Between 1976 and 1977, Summer released a variety of albums that focused on concepts rather than singles-ready albums. Albums like A Love Trilogy, I Remember Yesterday and Four Seasons of Love set Summer, Moroder and Belotte apart from other disco producing teams at the time. Her 1977 hit, “I Feel Love” became a landmark recording for Summer, reaching #6 on the US pop chart and #1 in the UK. The song was arguably the first song to use techno and electronic sounds in dance music; however, more importantly, the song’s modern, trance-like sound engaged an entire generation to experiment with synthesizers. In 1978, Summer acted in the marginal disco flick, Thank God It’s Friday, and released the hit single, “Last Dance”. Written by Paul Jabara, the song became another monumental hit for Summer reaching #3 and resulted in her first Grammy win while Jabara took home the Oscar after the song was nominated for Song of the Year. That same year, she released her first live album, Live and More. A double-album, it was also Summer’s first #1 album and included her first #1 pop single, “MacArthur Park”.
In 1979, she released the landmark album, Bad Girls. Unlike other disco albums, the LP mixed rock, blues, and soul into electronic dance beats. The album yielded three top ten singles and two number-one hits including “Hot Stuff” and “Bad Girls”. The former track won Summer a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. It was also Summer’s second #1 album and was also her most successful album, selling over 7 million copies worldwide. Once again, Summer’s music was years ahead of its time, and elements of Bad Girls would surface in the 1980′s from artists such as the Eurythmics, New Order, Depeche Mode, Madonna, Bronski Beat, and a slew of other new wave and techno bands. Her second compilation, Greatest Hits On the Radio, Vol. I & II, was her third #1 U.S. album. With this, Summer became the first artist to have three consecutive #1 double-albums. In 1980, she left Casablanca after suing the company for “undue influence, misrepresentation and “fraud”. Neil Bogart resigned that year, allowing Summer to sign withGeffen Records.
The Wanderer and She Works Hard for the Money
Her first Geffen release, 1980′s The Wanderer, was a full-fledged rock release. Though two of the songs were hits on the dance charts, songs like the title track, the accompanying singles “Who Do You Think You’re Foolin’?” and “Cold Love” saw Summer reaching the same audience that contemporaries like Blondie and Pat Benatar were dominating. A second release, I’m A Rainbow, was halted mid-way by Geffen because he believed Summer needed fresh production. Reluctantly, Summer left Moroder and released her self-titled 1982 album with production from Quincy Jones, who got her back in the top ten of the pop, R&B, and dance charts with “Love’s In Control (Finger on the Trigger)”. A second single, “State of Independence” (one of the main inspirations for “We Are the World”), became hit. In 1983, she scored her biggest triumph since Bad Girls with the release of the She Works Hard for the Money single and album. Both songs focused on a pro-feminist anthem and was a staple on BET and MTV, making her the first black female artist to have a video air in heavy rotation by the latter channel. A second single, “Unconditional Love”, was also an early MTV favorite. Her subsequent Geffen releases, however, didn’t fare as well. 1984′s Cats Without Claws and 1987′s All Systems Go stalled with only minor hit singles. Summer left Geffen in 1988 to sign with Atlantic.
Summer regained her hit luster one last time in 1989 with her Another Place and Time album. The album went platinum based on the success of the single, “This Time I Know It’s For Real”, which became her fourteenth top ten US pop hit. It would also be Summer’s last Top 40 Pop single in the United States. In 1991, she released Mistaken Identity, which was an attempt at incorporating new jack swing and urban adult contemporary R&B into her music. The album failed to chart. In 1994, Summer received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1995, a re-release of “I Feel Love” as a dance remix, became a hit again in the UK reaching #8 there. In 1998, Summer was the first artist to receive a Grammy award for Best Dance Recording for her first Giorgio Moroder collaboration in over a decade, “Carry On”. In 1999, Summer starred a televised live concert on the VH1 network entitled ‘Donna Summer – Live and More Encore. The special earned the network their highest ratings of the year, second only to their their annual Divas concert. Performing a string of her classics and new ingles, she also sung “Dim All the Lights” as a tribute to Rod Stewart. Summer acknowledges that she wrote the song for Stewart but recorded it herself. A CD and DVD of the special was released, returning the singer back to the US albums chart. Summer scored two #1 dance hits that year with “I Will Go With You” and “Love Is the Healer”. In 2003, Donna Summer released a greatest-hits compilation called The Journey, which rocketed into the UK Top 10 in the following year, thanks to her appearance on ITV1 show Discomania – in which she co-presented & sang a number of her hits: a medley of “Hot Stuff” & “Bad Girls”, “MacArthur Park”, “Last Dance” & a duet with Westlife on “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)” – which appeared on the Discomania soundtrack album.
On September 20, 2004, Donna was among the first artists to be inducted into the newly formed Dance Music Hall of Fame in New York City. She was inducted in two categories: 1) Artist Inductees, along with fellow disco legends The Bee Gees and Barry White and 2) Record Inductees for her classic hit “I Feel Love”. Summer added to her credits in October 2004, when she performed “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch at Game 2 of the 2004 World Series at Boston’s Fenway Park. Today, Summer and her family make their home in Nashville, Tennessee. Recent reports from news sources suggest that Summer is returning soon with a new studio album (her first in a decade). She is touring extensively in mid-2006.
In 1972, she married her first husband, Helmut Sommer, and permanently moved to Germany after settling there to do plays there. With Helmuth, Donna gave birth to her first child, Mimi. The couple divorced in 1976 but before then, Donna anglicized Sommer into Summer and began her professional singing career in 1974 as Donna Summer. In 1979, she collaborated with the disco group Brooklyn Dreams for the hit, “Heaven Knows”. While at the session recording the single, she met their frontman Bruce Sudano. The duo began a romance that culminated in their July 16, 1980 marriage and later the birth of daughters Brooklyn and Amanda. Today, Mimi and Amanda sing alongside their mother while Brooklyn has been seen acting in TV shows, including the since-canceled My Wife and Kids. Summer is still married to Sudano. Today, she is a grandmother of three.
During her lengthy career, Summer has dealt with controversy both professionally and personally. Her first hit, “The Hostage” was banned in Germany, and other radio stations banned her music for being sexually suggestive, with “Love to Love You Baby” being the obvious example. Rumors persisted that Summer was in fact a man in drag and not a woman. A far more painful incident came in the early 1980′s when rumors surfaced that she had made anti-gay remarks associated with the AIDS epidemic. Summer has long denied such allegations, and finally taking legal action against a newspaper who had printed the rumors during a review of a concert. Summer announced tearfully, “I never said anything that was written about me in that article”. To make amends, Summer has since played for AIDS benefits and has donated proceeds to AIDS research. Even in 2006, she is still asked about the rumors, recently by a Canadian newspaper. Summer responded, “So many people in my audiences are gay. I can’t live my life trying to assure people of anything. You have to live knowing who you are. I think that my actions and the person that I am speak louder than somebody else’s misgivings or lies about me,” says Summer now. “They print all kinds of things about people all the time but you can’t run after every single lie. You tell people the truth and if they choose to believe you, they do.”
Summer briefly experimented with recreational drugs as a teenager in Boston.
Summer’s influence for recording Love to Love You, Baby was Marilyn Monroe.
Due to her living in Germany for the better half of the early 1970s, Summer speaks fluent German.
Summer wrote the song, “Mimi’s Song”, for her eldest daughter and later donated proceeds to UNICEF.
As a child and teenager, Summer was influenced by Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and Janis Joplin.
Summer was the only black member of her first band The Crow.
Michael Jackson sang background and Eric Clapton played guitar in Summer’s “State of Independence”.
Summer stated she tried to commit suicide a couple of times during her career heyday.
Summer guest-starred in several episodes of [[Family Matters] playing the role of Steve Urkel’s (Jaleel White) relative, Aunt Oona.
While recording for the hit, “No More Tears” with Barbra Streisand, Summer fell out of her stool after hitting a high note along Streisand who continued singing until stopping in time to ask a conscious Summer if she was alright. Summer stated she had partied the night before.
Summer’s “Love To Love You Baby” is one of the most covered and sampled lines used in R&B and hip hop, most notably in Beyoncé’s “Naughty Girl”.
In addition to her Grammy win for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, Summer also won several Grammy’s for her inspirational/gospel work.
Summer was the first African-American artist to win a Grammy for rock music with “Hot Stuff”.
Summer has been eligible for induction to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame since 2000.
Summer didn’t perform “Love to Love You Baby” after her born-again conversion for 26 years and has since revived the song performing it at several venues.
Summer’s penned “Starting Over” would become a #1 country hit for Dolly Parton in 1981.
Summer became the first African-American female artist to be played on MTV and was also one of the first to be played on heavy rotation following Michael Jackson and Prince.
John Frusciante, guitarist of the rock group the Red Hot Chili Peppers covered the song ‘I Feel Love’ on the Chili Peppers’ 2003 greatest hits tour.
For a detailed listing of albums and singles, see: Donna Summer discography.
U.S. and UK Top Ten Singles
The following singles reached the Top Ten of either the United States pop singles chart or the United Kingdom pop singles chart. Also included are the singles that hit the top ten on the US R&B charts and hit #1 on the US dance charts.Year Song title U.S. Top 10 chart UK Top
1975: “Love To Love You Baby”
1976: “Could It Be Magic”
1976: “Try Me, I Know We Can Make It”
1976: “Come With Me/Wasted”
1976: “Spring Affair”
1977: “Take Me”
1977: “I Feel Love”
1977: “Love’s Unkind”
1977: “I Love You”
1977: “Once Upon A Time (Selected Cuts)”
1977: “Rumor Has It”
1978: “Last Dance”
1978: “MacArthur Park Suite”
1978: “MacArthur Park”
1979: “Heaven Knows”
1979: “Hot Stuff”
1979: “Bad Girls”
1979: “Dim All the Lights”
1979: “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)”, (featuring Barbra Streisand)
1979: “On The Radio”
1980: “The Wanderer”
1982: “Love Is In Control (Finger on the Trigger)”
1983: “She Works Hard for the Money”
1983: “Unconditional Love”
1987: “Dinner With Gershwin”
1989: “This Time I Know It’s For Real”
1994: “Melody of Love”
1995: “I Feel Love (remix)”
1999: “I Will Go With You”
1999: “Love Is The Healer”
Top Ten Albums
The following albums reached the Top Ten on either the United States pop albums chart or the Untied Kingdom pop albums chart.
1975: Love to Love You Baby (#8 US)
1977: I Remember Yesterday (#9 US; #3 UK)
1978: Live and More (#1 US)
1978: Greatest Hits (#4 UK)
1979: Bad Girls (#1 US)
1979: Greatest Hits: On the Radio, Volumes I & II (#1 US)
1983: She Works Hard for the Money (#9 US)