Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Donna Summer

Today Tuesday May 22, 2012 the AWOD is Donna Summer “Queen of Disco”, born LaDonna Adrian Gaines on December 31, 1948 in Boston, Massachusetts, she passed last Thursday May 17, 2012, in Florida of breast and lung cancer.

**note: although her immense talent and accomplishments certainly qualify her for a AWOD I am disturbed by something I discovered about her…she denied that she felt that way in her heart and that her remarks were misconstrued. I however, am still offended…you be the judge…

Donna Summer was the Queen of Disco in the 1970s with a pop/dance/rock sound that was a hybrid of American soul and European synthesizer based music. She grew up in Boston's Mission Hill section. Part of a religious family, she first sang in her church's gospel choir, and as a teenager performed with a rock group called the Crow. After high school, she moved to New York to sing and act in stage productions, but her musical career was launched on stage in Munich, Germany, in productions of Hair and Porgy & Bess. She moved to Europe around 1968-1969, and spent a year in the German cast, after which she became part of the Hair company in Vienna. She joined the Viennese Folk Opera, and later returned to Germany, where she settled in Munich and met and married Helmut Sommer, adopting an Anglicized version of his last name. Summer performed in various stage musicals and worked as a studio vocalist in Munich, recording demos and background vocals.

Her first solo recording was 1971's "Sally Go 'Round the Roses," but success would not come until 1974, when she met producers/songwriters Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte while working on a Three Dog Night record. The three teamed up for the single "The Hostage," which became a hit around Western Europe, and Summer released her first album, Lady of the Night, in Europe only. In 1975, the trio recorded "Love to Love You Baby," a disco-fied reimagining of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin's lush, heavy-breathing opus "Je T'aime...Moi Non Plus." Powered by Summer's graphic moans, "Love to Love You Baby" became a massive hit in Europe, and drew the attention of Casablanca Records, which put the track out in America. It climbed to number two on the singles charts, and became a dance club sensation when Moroder remixed the track into a 17-minute, side-long epic on the LP of the same name. The orgasmic "Love to Love You Baby" brought her worldwide fame.

Her 1979 double-LP Bad Girls featured more of her songwriting contributions than ever, and went straight to number one, as did the lusty singles "Bad Girls" and the rock-oriented "Hot Stuff," which made Summer the first female artist ever to score three number one singles in the same calendar year. Her greatest-hits package On the Radio also topped the charts, the first time any artist had ever hit number one with three consecutive double LPs. Summer was the first female artist to garner back-to-back multi-platinum double albums and the first female artist to incorporate synthesizers as well as the first artist to create an extended play song.

Musically, she diversified into pop and rock, while career-wise, she appeared in the disco dud, Thank God It's Friday (1978), for which the song, "Last Dance" won an Academy Award for Best Song, as well as numerous American TV music specials.

Her career continued into the 1980s with the release of the album "The Wanderer", a diverse fusion of rock and dance. Soon afterward, Summer announced that she was a born-again Christian. Like the Queen of Disco title, Summer's status as a gay icon might not bave exactly fit her right. Her devout born-again Christian beliefs caused Summer to get into some hot water in the mid-'80s after she was reported to have made inflammatory anti-gay remarks during several of her concerts. Summer became public enemy number one among certain gay activists for, among other things, trotting out Anita Bryant's old "Not Adam and Steve" routine. Although Summer later claimed that she had been misquoted, thousands of her records were returned to her record companies by angered fans and there was a worldwide boycott of her music in dance clubs. Though Summer did issue a sincere-sounding apology, she never quite reconciled herself with perhaps the most passionate core of her fan base

However, Summer was of course more than a simple disco queen from a bygone era. At root a deeply talented mezzo-soprano who sang with symphony orchestras and rock bands alike, Summer deserves a pretty prominent place on the mantle among great music acts of her generation. She may have been the queen of the discotheques instead of the "respectable" artsy venues, but that's a pretty significant kingdom to rule.