Donna Summer, the undisputed Queen of Disco, was
born LaDonna Adrian Gaines, on December 31, 1948 in Boston Mass.
Donna Summer had a string of dance hits in the 1970s and is probably one of, if not the most enduring artist of the disco era. She had hits well into
the 80's, long after the all too late "Death of Disco".
One reason she has endured for so long is the fact that she actually has talent as a singer and songwriter. She also has a powerful and broad vocal range
that has allowed her to successfully perform traditional R&B, rock, mainstream pop and even gospel. She had three consecutive double albums go to the
top of the album charts and is the first female artist to have three number-one singles in a year's time.
Donna was one of seven children and as a teenager she sang in a local rock group called The Crow. The band took the name because Donna was the only black
She had a supporting role in the Broadway musical "Hair" and when the show went to Germany she went along. Donna soon moved to Munich, Germany permanently
and became a German citizen. She performed in various German renditions of "Godspell", "Showboat" and other germanized versions of Broadway plays.
Donna even sang with the Viennese Folk Opera for a time.
At the age of 23, Donna released the single "Sally Go Round The Roses" in Europe, but it didn't go anywhere. In 1972, she met and married an Austrian actor,
Helmut Sommer, and daughter Mimi was born the following year. For the next several years Donna worked as a studio singer and did theater performances. From 1974
through 1975, she performed as part of the pop group Family Tree.
Donna met producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte through a gig singing back-up for the Australian band Three Dog Night. They were impressed by her vocal
abilities and stage presence. They convinced her to sign a contract and travel to the Netherlands. There, her first album, Lady of the Night, was
released. The album included "The Hostage", which made #1 in France and Belgium and #2 in the Netherlands. The title track of the album was also a big hit in
By the summer of 1975, the new disco sound was becoming more and more popular and that year proved to be the turning point in Donna's career. She had written
lyrics for a song she called "Love to Love You Baby". Giorgio Moroder liked the lyrics and decided to use them as the base for a rather raunchy sounding number.
He wanted Donna to moan and groan as if having an orgasm. She wasn't too keen on the idea but agreed to do just a demo to make the concept available for another
artist. The artist she wanted to perform the song was Penny McLean, but that never came about.
Donna had not completed all the lyrics and thus did much improvising during the recording. She has said that during that recording session, she pictured herself as
Marilyn Monroe acting out the part of a person in sexual ecstasy.
Moroder thought Donna's moans were
so incredible that no other artist could do the song with the passion her rendition evoked. He convinced Donna to release the single herself which she finally agreed
to do. The song was modestly successful in Europe, and eventually reached America. Casablanca Records president, Neil Bogart, got his hands on a demo and was
immediately ga-ga over the song. He contacted Moroder and asked him to cut a 20 minute version for play in the disco dance scenes springing up all around the
Donna and her producers cut a seventeen-minute version and renamed it "Love to Love You Baby". In November, 1975, Casablanca signed Summer and issued the single.
Casablanca distributed Summer's work in the U.S. but in other countries the record was distributed by various labels.
This was Donna's first big hit in America. "Love to Love You Baby" reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart by early 1976 and it became her first
number-one Hot Dance Club Play chart hit. The 17 minute single started or at least gave traction to the trend of, side-long single song disco plays.
Soon other disco artists such as Cerrone, Love And Kisses and many others followed suit.
The song was then released on the same titled album with side one the full-length version of the title track in 1975. The album was quickly certified gold.
Some music critics called the song raunchy and some radio stations even banned it, feeling it to be too "graphic".
Time magazine later erroneously reported that during the making of the song, 22 orgasms were achieved. And, according to them, that in itself was a record!
Since that first big rush of success, Donna had many ups and downs. Throughout the 70's and into the early eighties, this Queen of Disco or "The First Lady of
Love" as some referred to her had many more top hits and gold records. She even released a disco version of "MacArthur Park", originally recorded and made famous
by actor Richard Harris. (You know the song. It has maybe some of the silliest lyrics of all time: "Someone left the cake out in the rain and I don't know if
I can take it. It took so long to bake it and I'll never have that recipe a-gain!")
She was the first artist to
sign with David Geffen on his Geffen Records. She appeared in several motion pictures and worked with notables such as Barbra Steisand, Michael Jackson and producer Quincy Jones. In 1983 her "She Works Hard For The Money" was released both as a single and an album. The song became
a feminist's anthem and the album achieved gold status, but it was her last big hit.
She became a born again Christian and has worked on many humanitarian and political endeavors.
One of her two daughters by second husband, Bruce Sudano, Amanda and oldest daughter Mimi, now sing alongside Donna at performances. Her other daughter by Sudano,
Brooklyn, is an actress who appeared on the Wayans show My Wife and Kids.
Over the years, Donna has been the center of several controversies. First with "Love To Love You Baby" and it's suggestive moans. In 1991, during the Gulf War, her
song "State Of Independence" was banned from U.S. radio play being deemed to have an inflammatory effect on the population.
Now a grandmother of three, Donna still performs around the world and because of her hugely successful and enduring career is highly sought after by event