Donna Summer is one of the artists you’re likely to hear more than just a few songs from on THE BEAT.
Today we invite you to check out a great concert and more from this amazing talent who left us too early
ABOUT DONNA SUMMER
LaDonna Adrian Gaines (December 31, 1948 – May 17, 2012), widely known by her stage name based on her married name Donna Summer, was an American singer, songwriter and actress. She gained prominence during the disco era of the late 1970s. A five-time Grammy Award winner, Summer was the first artist to have three consecutive double albums reach No. 1 on the United States Billboard 200 chart and charted four number-one singles in the U.S. within a 12-month period. Summer has reportedly sold over 230 million records worldwide, making her one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time. She also charted two number-one singles on the R&B charts in the U.S. and a number-one in the U.K.
Summer earned a total of 42 hit singles on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in her lifetime, with 14 of those reaching the top ten. She claimed a top 40 hit every year between 1975 and 1984, and from her first top ten hit in 1976, to the end of 1982, she had 12 top ten hits (10 were top five hits), more than any other act during that time period. She returned to the Hot 100’s top five in 1983, and claimed her final top ten hit in 1989 with “This Time I Know It’s for Real”. Her most recent Hot 100 hit came in 1999 with “I Will Go With You (Con Te Partiro)”. While her fortunes on the Hot 100 waned through those decades, Summer remained a force on the U.S. Dance/Club Play Songs chart over her entire career.
While influenced by the counterculture of the 1960s, Summer became the lead singer of a psychedelic rock band named Black Crow and moved to New York City. Joining a touring version of the musical Hair, she left New York and spent several years living, acting, and singing in Europe, where she met music producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte.
Summer returned to the U.S., in 1975 after the commercial success of the song “Love to Love You Baby”, which was followed by a string of other hits, such as “I Feel Love”, “Last Dance”, “MacArthur Park”, “Heaven Knows”, “Hot Stuff”, “Bad Girls”, “Dim All the Lights”, “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)” (duet with Barbra Streisand), and “On the Radio”. She became known as the Queen of Disco, while her music gained a global following.
Summer died on May 17, 2012, from lung cancer, at her home in Naples, Florida. In her obituary in The Times, she was described as the “undisputed queen of the Seventies disco boom” who reached the status of “one of the world’s leading female singers.”
Giorgio Moroder described Summer’s work with him on the song “I Feel Love” as “really the start of electronic dance” music. In 2013, Summer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In December 2016, Billboard ranked her as the 6th most successful dance artist of all-time.
Born on December 31, 1948 in Boston, Massachusetts, to Andrew and Mary Gaines, and was one of seven children. She was raised in the Boston neighborhood of Mission Hill. Her father was a butcher, and her mother was a schoolteacher.
Summer’s performance debut occurred at church when she was ten years old, replacing a vocalist who failed to appear.
She attended Boston’s Jeremiah E. Burke High School where she performed in school musicals and was considered popular. In 1967, just weeks before graduation, Donna left for New York City where she joined the blues rock band Black Crow. After a record label passed on signing the group since it was only interested in the band’s lead singer, the group agreed to dissolve.
Summer stayed in New York and auditioned for a role in the counterculture musical, Hair. She landed the part of Sheila and agreed to take the role in the Munich production of the show, moving there after getting her parents’ reluctant approval. She eventually became fluent in German, singing various songs in that language, and participated in the musicals Ich bin ich (the German version of The Me Nobody Knows), Godspell, and Show Boat. Within three years, she moved to Vienna, Austria, and joined the Vienna Volksoper. She briefly toured with an ensemble vocal group called FamilyTree, the creation of producer Günter “Yogi” Lauke.
In 1968, Summer released (as Donna Gaines) on Polydor her first single, a German version of the title “Aquarius” from the musical Hair, followed in 1971 by a second single, a remake of the Jaynetts’ 1963 hit, “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses”, from a one-off European deal with Decca Records. In 1969, she issued the single “If You Walkin’ Alone” on Philips Records.
She married Austrian actor Helmuth Sommer in 1973, and gave birth to their daughter (named Mimi) Natalia Pia Melanie Sommer, the same year. She provided backing vocals for producer-keyboardist Veit Marvos on his Ariola Records release Nice to See You, credited as “Gayn Pierre”. Several subsequent singles included Donna performing with the group, and the name “Gayn Pierre” was used while performing in Godspell with Helmuth Sommer during 1972.
While working as a model part-time and back up singer in Munich, Summer met German-based producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte during a recording session for Three Dog Night at Musicland Studios. The trio forged a working partnership, and Donna was signed to their Oasis label in 1974. A demo tape of Summer’s work with Moroder and Bellotte led to a deal with the European-distributed label Groovy Records. Due to an error on the record cover, Donna Sommer became Donna Summer; the name stuck. Summer’s first album was Lady of the Night. It became a hit in the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and Belgium on the strength of two songs, “The Hostage” and the title track “Lady of the Night”. “The Hostage” reached the top of the charts in France, but was removed from radio playlists in Germany because of the song’s subject matter; a high ranking politician had recently been kidnapped and held for ransom.
In 1975, Summer passed on an idea for a song to Moroder who was working with another artist; a song that would be called “Love to Love You”. Summer and Moroder wrote the song together, and together they worked on a demo version with Summer singing the song. Moroder decided that Summer’s version should be released. Seeking an American release for the song, it was sent to Casablanca Records president Neil Bogart. Bogart played the song at one of his extravagant industry parties, where it was so popular with the crowd, they insisted that it be played over and over, each time it ended. Bogart requested that Moroder produce a longer version for discothèques. Moroder, Bellotte, and Summer returned with a 17-minute version. Bogart tweaked the title to “Love to Love You Baby”, and Casablanca signed Summer, releasing the single in November 1975. The shorter 7″ version of the single was promoted by radio stations, while clubs regularly played the 17 minute version (the longer version would also appear on the album).
By early 1976, “Love to Love You Baby” had reached No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and had become a Gold single, while the album had sold over a million copies. The song generated controversy due to Summer’s moans and groans, and some American stations, like those in Europe with the initial release, refused to play it. Despite this, “Love to Love You Baby” found chart success in several European countries, and made the Top 5 in the United Kingdom despite the BBC ban. Casablanca wasted no time releasing the album A Love Trilogy, featuring “Try Me, I Know We Can Make It” No. 80 and Summer’s remarkable rendition of Barry Manilow’s “Could It Be Magic” No. 52, which was followed by Four Seasons of Love, which spawned the singles “Spring Affair” No. 58 and “Winter Melody”, No. 43. Both albums went Gold.
In 1977, Summer released the concept album I Remember Yesterday. The song “I Feel Love”, reached No. 6 on the Hot 100 chart. and No. 1 in the UK. She received her first American Music Award nomination for Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist. The single would attain Gold status and the album went Platinum in the U.S. Another concept album, also released in 1977, was Once Upon a Time, a double album which told of a modern-day Cinderella “rags to riches” story. This album would attain Gold status. Summer recorded the song “Down Deep Inside” as the theme song for the 1977 film The Deep.
In 1978, Summer acted in the film Thank God It’s Friday, the film met with modest success; the song “Last Dance”, reached No. 3 on the Hot 100. The soundtrack and single both went Gold and resulted in Summer winning her first Grammy Award, for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. Its writer, Paul Jabara, won both an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for the composition. Summer also had “With Your Love” and “Je t’aime… moi non plus”, on the soundtrack. Her version of the Jimmy Webb ballad, “MacArthur Park”, became her first No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 chart. It was also the only No. 1 hit for songwriter Jimmy Webb; the single went Gold and topped the charts for three weeks. She received a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. The song was featured on Summer’s first live album, Live and More, which also became her first album to hit number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and went double-Platinum, selling over 2 million copies. The week of November 11, 1978, Summer became the first female artist of the modern rock era to have the No. 1 single on the Hot 100] and album on the Billboard 200 charts, simultaneously. The song “Heaven Knows”, which featured Brooklyn Dreams singer Joe “Bean” Esposito; reached No. 4 on the Hot 100 and became another Gold single.
In 1979, Summer won three American Music Awards for Single, Album and Female Artist, in the Disco category at the awards held in January. Summer performed at the world-televised Music for UNICEF Concert, joining contemporaries such as ABBA, Olivia Newton-John, the Bee Gees, Andy Gibb, Rod Stewart, John Denver, Earth, Wind & Fire, Rita Coolidge and Kris Kristofferson for a TV special that raised funds and awareness for the world’s children. Artists donated royalties of certain songs, some in perpetuity, to benefit the cause. Summer began work on her next project with Moroder and Bellotte, Bad Girls. Mororder brought in Harold Faltermeyer, with whom he had collaborated on the soundtrack of film Midnight Express, to be the album’s arranger. Faltermeyer’s role would significantly increase from arranger, as he played keyboards and wrote songs with Summer.
The album went triple-Platinum, spawning the number-one hits “Hot Stuff” and “Bad Girls”, that went Platinum, and the number-two “Dim All the Lights” which went Gold. The week of June 16, 1979, Summer would again have the number-one single on the Hot 100 chart, and the number-one album on the Billboard 200 chart; when “Hot Stuff” regained the top spot on the Hot 100 chart. The following week, “Bad Girls” would be on top of the U.S. Top R&B albums chart, “Hot Stuff” remained at No. 1, and “Bad Girls”, the single, would climb into the top five on the Hot 100. The following week, Summer was the first solo artist to have two songs in the Hot 100 top three at the same time. In July 1979, Summer topped the Hot 100 singles chart, and the Billboard 200 albums chart, and the Soul singles chart simultaneously. In the week of November 10, 1979, “Dim All the Lights” peaked at No. 2 for two weeks; the following week “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)” would get to No. 3; and once again Summer would have two songs in the top 3, on the Hot 100. One week later, “No More Tears” climbed to No. 1 spot on the Hot 100 chart, and “Dim All the Lights” went to No. 4; she again had two songs in the top 5 of the Hot 100 chart.
In the span of eight months, Summer had topped both the singles and albums charts simultaneously, three times. She became the first Female Artist to have three number-one singles in a calendar year. With “Mac Arthur Park”, “Hot Stuff”, “Bad Girls”, and the Barbra Streisand-duet “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)”, Summer achieved four number-one hits on the Hot 100 chart within a 12-month period. Including “Heaven Knows” and “Dim All the Lights” she had achieved six top 4 singles on the Hot 100 chart in the same 12-month period. Those songs, along with “Last Dance”, “On the Radio”, and “The Wanderer”, would give her nine Top 5 singles on the Hot 100 chart in just over a two-year period. The single, “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)” would sell over 2 million copies becoming a Platinum success. “Hot Stuff” won her a Grammy Award in the Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, the first time the category was included. She was nominated for the Grammy Award for Album of the Year and both Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, as well as Best Disco Recording. That year, Summer played eight sold-out nights at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles.
Casablanca then released On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II, her first (international) greatest hits set, in 1979. The album was mixed differently than the original songs issued on it, with each song segueing into the next, and included two new songs “On the Radio” and “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)”. It would be the first time that such an album package would be made. The album went No. 1, her third consecutive No. 1 album on the Billboard 200, and gained double-Platinum status. “On the Radio”, reached No. 5, selling over a million copies in the U.S. alone, making it a Gold single. Summer would again receive a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
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Source: WikiPedia and The Beat Staff
Find Donna Summer’s music playing in many of the mixes we feature each weekend on our Friday Night Jams and Saturday Night Live Ain’t No Jive Chicago Dance Party. Click here for mixes