Thursday, May 17, 2012

May 17: Donna Summer died on this date in 2012...

She was 63-years-old when she passed away due to complications from cancer. 

Donna Summer was very popular in the 1970s earning the title "The Queen of Disco." She is a 5 time Grammy winner and has sold over 130 million records to date.

Summer was the first artist to have three consecutive double albums reach number one on the US Billboard chart and she had four number-one singles within a thirteen-month period.

Born on New Year's Eve 1948 in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, LaDonna Adrian Gaines biggest influence was Mahalia Jackson. Singing in church at a young age, in her teens, she formed several musical groups including one with her sister and a cousin, imitating Motown girl groups such as The Supremes and Martha and the Vandellas.

In the late 1960s, Summer was influenced by Janis Joplin and joined the psychedelic rock group the Crow as lead singer. She had dropped out of school convinced that music was her way out of Boston, where she felt she was not accepted. The group didn't last long.

In 1968, Summer auditioned for a role in the Broadway musical, Hair. (She lost the part of Sheila to Melba Moore.) When the musical moved to Europe, Summer was offered the role. She took it and moved to Germany for several years. While in Germany, she also appeared in the musicals Godspell and Show Boat.

After settling in Munich, she began performing in several ensembles including the Viennese Folk Opera and even sang as a member of the pop group FamilyTree. She came to the group in 1973 and toured with the 11-people pop group throughout Europe. She also sang backup in studio sessions.

(Continued below video and Amazon portals ...)

(Press album cover for direct link to the Amazon Website):

The Journey: The Very Best of Donna Summer

In 1971, while still using her birth name Donna Gaines, she released her first single, a cover of "Sally Go 'Round the Roses," which did not sell well. In 1972, she married Austrian actor Helmuth Sommer and gave birth to their daughter Mimi Sommer in 1973. Citing marital problems caused by Sommer's frequent absences, she divorced him but kept his last name, changing the "o" to a "u."

While singing background for the 1970s trio Three Dog Night that Summer met producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. She eventually made a deal with the European label Groovy Records and in 1984, released her first album, Lady of the Night. Though not a hit in the U.S., the album was successful in Europe, particularly the song "The Hostage," which reached number one in France and Belgium and number two in the Netherlands.

In 1975, Summer approached Moroder with an idea for a song he and Bellotte were working on for another singer. She had come up with the lyric "love to love you, baby" as the possible title. Moroder was interested in developing the new sound that was becoming popular and used Summer's lyric to develop the song.

Moroder persuaded Summer to record what she thought would be a demo track for another performer. To make herself feel comfortable recording the song, she requested the producers turn off the lights while she sat on the sofa inducing fake moans and groans. The original track was only three minutes. Moroder heard the playback of the song and felt Summer's version should be released. Released as "Love to Love You" in Europe, the song found modest chart success.

The song was sent to Casablanca Records president Neil Bogart, who asked Moroder to produce a longer version of the song. Summer, Moroder, and Bellotte returned with a 17 minute version, including a soulful chorus and an instrumental break while Summer invoked more moans. Casablanca signed Summer in 1975 and the label released the song, now titled "Love to Love You Baby," in November. By early 1976, the song had reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100. The parent album of the same name sold over a million copies.  

The song generated some controversy for its graphic nature of Summer's moans and was even banned from some radio stations. Several news magazines, including Time reported that 22 orgasms were simulated in the making of the song. After several more modest singles and subsequent albums, including the concept albums Love Trilogy and Four Seasons of Love, which also went gold, Summer was deemed in the press as "The First Lady of Love," a title with which Summer was not totally comfortable. Her single "Love's Unkind" reached number 3 in the UK during 1977.

In 1977, Summer released her album, I Remember Yesterday. It included her second top ten single, "I Feel Love," which reached number six in America and number one in the UK. Another concept album, also released in 1977, was the double album, Once Upon a Time, which told of a modern-day Cinderella "rags to riches" story through the elements of orchestral disco and ballads.

In 1978, Summer released a disco version of the Richard Harris ballad, "MacArthur Park," which became her first number one US hit. 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 US Billboard 200 chart, and went platinum selling over a million copies. Other studio tracks included the top ten hit, "Heaven Knows," which featured the group Brooklyn Dreams accompanying her on background and Joe "Bean" Esposito singing alongside her on the verses.

Also in 1978, Summer acted in the film, Thank God It's Friday, playing a singer determined to perform at a hot disco club. The song, "Last Dance," written by Paul Jabara, reached the top three in the U.S. and resulted in Donna winning her first Grammy Award.  Despite this success, Summer was struggling with anxiety and depression and became enthralled in a prescription drug addiction, which nearly consumed her in early 1979.

Following her recovery, Summer, Moroder and Bellotte worked on their next disco project. The result was Bad Girls, an album that had been in production for nearly two years.

Summer based the concept of the album on a prostitute, as was made clear in the lyrics. The album became a success, spawning the number one hits "Hot Stuff" and Bad Girls. The ballad "Dim All the Lights" reached number two. With the Barbra Streisand duet "No More Tears (Enough is Enough)," Summer achieved four number one hits in a single year. "Hot Stuff" later won her a second Grammy in the Best Female Rock Vocal Performance,

In 1989, Summer released the album Another Place and Time on Atlantic Records. Summer had a top 10 pop hit with "This Time I Know It's For Real," which became her fourteenth and final gold hit to register on the Billboard Hot 100. It was also a number 3 chart hit in the U.K., her highest placed single there since "No More Tears (Enough is Enough)" ten years earlier.


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