Donna Summer: The Queen of Disco
Yesterday morning (17/5/12), Donna Summer died after a long battle with lung Cancer.
LaDonna Adrian Gaines or better known by her stage name Donna Summer was born on December 31st, 1948 in Boston, Massachusetts, she was a multi platinum, five time Grammy Award winner with a Mezzo-soprano vocal range, Donna found great ease transitioning from pop to disco to contemporary.
Donna was one of seven children and in her young adult years, she became fluent in German. Summer’s mother was asked about her daughter’s love of singing she was quoted saying “She literally loved to sing. She used to go through the house singing, singing. She sang for breakfast and for lunch and for supper.” At just 10, Summer’s public vocal debut was at her local church, becoming the replacement of a tardy performer, her priest had previously assumed that the performance would be amusing, thinking very little of the traditional slim ten year old girl stature, until she sang, everyone realised that she had a voice that far surpassed her tender age. Summer herself recalled that as she sang, “I started crying, everybody else started crying. It was quite an amazing moment in my life and at some point after I heard my voice came out I felt like God was saying to me ‘Donna, you’re going to be very, very famous’ and I knew from that day on that I would be famous.”. She may have been the church angel, but during her teenage years, she became rebellious, skipping going home to attend parties instead, riding against her parents’ strict curfew. In 1967, weeks
before graduation, Summer left for New York where she was a member of the blues-rock band, Crow. After they were turned down by every record label going, Crow agreed to break up. Summer stayed in NY and auditioned for a role in the musical, Hair. Summer didn’t get the NY role, but was offered a role in the same production, but in Munich so with her parents’ reluctant approval she moved to Germany. Whilst in Germany, she participated in the musicals Ich Bin Ich, Godspell and Show Boat. Within three years, she moved to Vienna, Austria and joined the Viennese Folk Opera. She briefly toured with an ensemble musician group called FamilyTree, the brainchild of producer Guenter “Yogi” Lauke. Summer released her first single, in 1971, which was a cover of The Jaynetts’ “Sally Go ‘Round the
Roses”. In 1975, the magical Love to Love You Baby was created, Donna explained that she had thought of how the song might sound if Marilyn Monroe had sung it and began cooing the lyrics. By early 1976, “Love To Love You Baby” reached #2 on the US Billboard Hot 100, but the song had started controversy due to Summer’s moans and groans and some American and European radio stations, including the BBC, refused to play it. Yet”Love to Love You Baby” found chart success in several European countries, and made the Top 5 in the UK despite the BBC ban.
Awkwardly, Summer was misunderstood and in the 80’s a hate campaign had been launched after her, because she was misquoted and came across as homophobic, being guarded from the hate, Donna eventually found out about the controversy and explained how her words were taken out of context, and that she supported same sex relationships as many of the people she had worked with were homosexual.
During her musical career, Donna had also realised many a Christmas song.
It was claimed that Summer had a sixth sense and that she had known one month before the September 11 Attacks had happened, that she had a premonition revealing that they would fall. Summer who was living in Manhattan she was unable to leave her bedroom after the attacks, and she had blamed her lung cancer on inhaling toxic dust from the fallen towers.
Donna was married twice and had 3 daughters, one from her first marriage and then 2 from her second marriage, Summer also, got her last name from the English translate of Sommer, which was her first husbands last name.
Summer had regularly talked about her early fast paced successful years as a period of confusion and anxiety. By mid-1977, struggling with the media’s crowning her “the first lady of love”, she began suffering from depression and anxiety attacks. Summer mentioned in her memoirs that she had attempted suicide several times. This was all brought on because of her rapid rise to success combined with some big regrets about mistakes in her personal life. During her hard times, she self-medicated on prescription meds, resulting in an addiction. Following a nervous
breakdown at her home in 1979,
Summer went to a local church with her sister and declared herself a born-again Christian. Summer then decided that from then on, she would no longer perform the song that had won her international fame and recognition, ” Love to Love You
Baby”. A quarter of a century later, however, she began performing the song again.
Some famous Donna Summer quotes are listed —
“A friend of mine called and said they’re interested in having you do a song for the new Pokemon. All my kids are grown up, so I’d heard of it, but I didn’t really know what it was.”
“And I mean, I’m established. So I’m not worried about having a hit at this point in my career.”
“Because I’m just an ordinary person that did some extraordinary things.”
“But I like to know that someone is stronger than I am. I want to be able to know that if I get tired, somebody is there to hold up the fort. I like knowing that I can’t pick a refrigerator alone. God did not make me strong enough to do that.”
The Queen of Disco, may be gone too soon, but she will most defiantly not be forgotten.