Donna Summer, responsible for super disco breaks like ‘I Feel Love,’ ‘Hot Stuff’ and ‘She Works Hard For The Money’ has died at her Florida home at the age of 63.
TMZ was the first to publicly report of Summer’s passing after a long battle with lung cancer. TMZ’s sources also reported that the singer was trying to keep her illness a secret while she focussed on finishing a new studio album.
Following Summer’s death on Thursday morning, her family released a press statement saying they “are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy”.
The five-time Grammy Award-winning singer was best-known for her sultry vocals and smouldering looks across an impressive string of No. 1 hits over the course of the burgeoning disco boom, with three multi-platinum albums and twelve gold albums to her credit.
The woman born LaDonna Adrian Gaines in Boston, Massachusetts began her singing career in local gospel groups before moving on stage with high school musical productions. Later relocating to New York, Summer became a member of the blues-rock outfit Crow but it wasn’t until the late 1970s, when Summer was singing back-up vocals for hit-making trio Three Dog Night, that she the men who would go on to be her most fruitful collaborators. Namely, Italian producer Giorgio Moroder and British songwriter Peter Bellotte.
Moroder and Bellotte helped Summer harness her glamorous diva personality and powerful creativity on her breakthrough single, “Love To Love You Baby,” popularised as much through the discotheques that were flaunting the seventeen-minute version as much as any radio airplay. Pioneering a mix of squelching electro-funk and a hypnotic pulse that served as the bedrock for Summer’s ecstatic crooning, it established a template that they pushed even further for the 1977 follow-up single, “I Feel Love.”
Surfing on the insistent repetition of its dotted synth and Summer’s slurred, syrupy vocals, “I Feel Love” became a mega-hit that kick-started, if not defined, the disco era and as one of the first recordings to use an entirely synthesized backing, remains her most highly influential track. Its effect spawning countless imitators as well as inspiring UK’s dance-pop revolution several years later.
Summer would continue her creative partnership with Moroder and Bellotte for the rest of the seventies, churning out an impressive number of chart-storming classics including “Hot Stuff,” “Our Love,” “Last Dance,” and “Sunset People.”
However, the early ’80s – and disco’s death knell – found Summer parting with Moroder and moving away from the genre that catapulted her to fame towards what we now know as electro-rock, intersecting genres like rock, dance and pop, all while capitalising on the star appeal of her dramatic, swooping voice. She Continued to crank out hits including 1982’s Quincy Jones-produced “Love Is In Control (Finger on the Trigger)” and 1983’s “She Works Hard For The Money” and “This Time I Know It’s For Real” two years later.
Though she never reclaimed the staggering success of her earlier output, Summer continued to record, perform and tour well into the turn of the century, including her latest album 2008’s Crayons, which peaked at #17 on the US Top 200 Album Chart, her highest charting album since 1983.