I'm absolutely gutted reading of Donna Summer's surprise passing at the way-too-young age of 63. The undisputed Queen of Disco actually sang mainstream pop, gospel and plenty of rock, too. Her voice was amazing, and her hits are indelible—"Love to Love You Baby", "Last Dance", "MacArthur Park", "Heaven Knows", "Hot Stuff", "Bad Girls", "Dim All the Lights", "No More Tears (Enough is Enough)", "On the Radio", "Love is in Control (Finger on the Trigger)", "She Works Hard for the Money", "I Don't Wanna Get Hurt"...the list goes on.
I remember watching Thank God It's Friday as a kid and being mesmerized by this secret world I would never grow up quickly enough to enter (the golden age of disco was so brief!), became addicted to "I Feel Love" thanks to Bronski Beat's cover and then was fully behind her "This Time" comeback when I was in college.
Her reputation was severely tarnished by the popular belief that she had proselytized to gay fans that God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve at the height of AIDS hysteria, but Summer always denied the worst of the remarks, saying she felt she'd been imprisoned by them for 20 years, issuing an apology and sending a letter to ACT-UP to assert that she didn't smugly think AIDS was God's revenge.
Were any of you ever at an '80s Donna concert and heard her say this stuff? It's shocking that no bootlegged audio has ever surfaced. I've never even read any eye-/earwitness accounts outside of reports that it happened. The denial:
I just had a 40-minute conversation about her greatness as a musican and how underrated she is (was)—she was nominated for inclusion in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame multiple times, never making the cut. Disco was apparently a horsepill for the rock powers that be to swallow.
I'd heard from a fan of hers that she had been backing vocals on a family project, which turns out to be "Angel", a song by her rapper nephew about her late sister:
Much more than some other recent musical deaths (Michael Jackson excluded, that was earth-shaking), this one feels like the end of an era to me, an era I really did not want to end.
Donna Summer was only 10 years older than Madonna (Donna on Madonna here), my own favorite, younger than Debbie Harry, and very likely close in age to some of your own favorite icons...cherish your idols while you have them, be happy if they're productive and if they're happy, because nothing lasts forever.
Donna's #1 dance hit from 2010, "To Paris With Love":