Donna Summer (1948 - 2012): A Smart Beautiful Woman To Remember
Updated: Oct 20
Described worldwide as the undisputed Queen of Disco, Donna summer was an American music artist, actress, and philanthropist. She was born LaDonna Adrian Gaines in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, on December 31, 1948, and died in Naples, Florida, USA, on May 17, 2012.
Donna summer music career is said to have commenced in 1967 when joined a blues rock band called Crow in New York City as a lead vocalist, after ditching her high school education at Burke High School in Boston just some weeks prior to graduation. However, her journey to global success and fame as a music artist was to become long and gruesome, taking her from America to Europe. Her music career journey could be summarized as thus.
Crow was dissolved the same year she joined it. After the dissolvement, Donna Summer joined a touring musical called Hair also in New York City. Playing the role of the show’s Sheila, she agreed to move to Munich, Germany, reportedly amidst parental reluctancy, for production of the show there.
While in Germany, Donna Summer released her first single in 1968 under the Polydor label. The single was a German version of a song called Aquarius from the musical Hair. Two more singles followed in 1969 and 1971 under Philips Records and Decca Records respectively.
Despite release of the singles and her role in Hair, Donna Summer had to work as backup singer and even part-time model to make ends meet in Munich. But that was about to be history when she met music producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte in the Germany city in 1974. She and the two producers agreed a business partnership by which Donna Summer was signed to the latter’s music label Oasis.
The signing with Oasis was a gamer changer to Donna Summer’s music career, releasing her first album Lady Of The Night under the label and distributed in Europe by Groovy Records. The album was fairly a commercial success, becoming a hit in some European countries including Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands, and Belgium.
Notwithstanding, the real sustained breakthrough by Donna Summer to the global music stage came in 1975 after she signed a recording contract with Casablanca Records and released her second studio album Love To Love You Baby the same year. The album was a commercial success, selling over 1 million copies worldwide.
However, the album’s title single, i.e. Love To Love You Baby, received massive criticisms from some conservative radio stations in USA and Europe at its release, that refused to play it on silly moral grounds that it was too sexy. They cited, among others, the song’s constant moans and groans from Donna Summer! Despite the criticisms, the single became popular, reaching No. 2 on Billboard Hot 100 in USA and Top 5 in the UK. Popularity of both the single and album continued to increase worldwide over the years, as society became increasingly free and liberal.
After the release of Love To Love You Baby album, Donna Summer continued delivering great studio albums at an incredible rate of almost one album per year for over two decades until 1996. After that, there was about twelve year pause in her musical activity until 2008 when she delivered her last studio album.
In total, Donna Summer delivered 17 studio albums. The albums are as follows.
1) Lady Of The Night (1974, Oasis/Goovy Records)
2) Love To Love You Baby (1975, Casablanca Records)
3) A Love Trilogy (1976, Casablanca Records)
4) Four Seasons Of Love (1976, Casablanca Records)
5) I Remember Yesterday (1977, Casablanca Records)
6) Once Upon A Time (1977, Casablanca Records)
7) Bad Girls (1979, Casablanca Records)
8) The Wanderer (1980, Geffen Records)
9) Donna Summer (1982, Geffen Records)
10) She Works Hard For The Money (1983, Mercury Records)
11) Cats Without Claws (1984, Geffen Records)
12) All Systems Go (1987, Geffen Records)
13) Another Place And Time (1989, Atlantic Records)
14) Mistaken Identity (1991, Atlantic Records)
15) Christmas Spirit (1994, Mercury Records)
16) I’m A Rainbow (1996, AllMusic)
17) Crayons (2008, Burgundy Records)
She also delivered several compilation albums that include the following:
1) On The Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II (1979, Casablanca Records)
2) The Best Of Donna Summer (1990, Atlantic Records)
3) Endless Summer Greatest Hits (1994, Mercury Records)
With over 20 studio and compilation albums as shown above, and having sold over 100 million records worldwide, Donna Summer is definitely one of the greatest and best selling music artist of all time. For this immense contribution to the music industry, she has been honored with numerous awards that include the following.
· 6 American Music Awards
· 5 Grammy Awards
· 2 Dance Music Hall Of Fame Awards
· 1 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Award
· 1 NAACP Image Award
As an actress, Donna Summer played roles in several movies and television series. The former include Thank God It’s Friday (1978), while the latter include Family Matters (1994 – 97).
As regards philanthropy, Donna Summer reportedly supported consistently The Salvation Army and was staunch campaigner for women’s rights. The latter was also advanced through some of her songs from 1980 onwards.
The foregoing notwithstanding, probably Donna Summer’s most significant contribution to society was the happiness she delivered throughout the world through her music. She defined, shaped, and directed the nature of dance music in the 1970s. Her disco hits were loved, bought, and danced by people from all social classes in almost all countries of the world.
Even after disco genre declined by the end of the 1970s, her considerable contribution to happiness continued as she successfully transcended the genre from 1980 and successfully crossed into other popular music genres including rock/pop/soul, R&B, and gospel, among others.
Furthermore, Donna Summer consolidated the notion pioneered earlier by the legendary Marilyn Monroe, that beauty and attractiveness alias sexiness are social capital assets that could be helpful for commercializing and promoting personal talents and career in different fields.
Particularly, Donna Summer together with some other iconic divas like Cher, triggered public recognition of the role and significance of beauty and attractiveness on success of those aspiring to make some milestones in the music and other industries of the entertainment world, after decades of silly objections and criticisms by those who breach the human right for individual freedom hence suppress individual creativity and innovation.
As such, Donna Summer was a powerful influence on music artists during the 1980s and beyond. Artists said to have been influenced by her include the undisputed Queen of Pop Madonna and later diva Beyoncé.
As an individual person, Donna Summer who was extra-ordinarily beautiful and above all God fearing and a truly woman of faith, is said to have been humble, devoted to her family, loyal to her friends and fans, extremely talented, inspirational, very sweet, empathetic, very friendly, charismatic, extremely likable, intelligent, and strong, among many other great personal qualities.
The contribution of Donna Summer to the music industry and society at large is, indeed, invaluable. As such, she was absolutely one of the most outstanding smart beautiful women the world has ever seen.
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