On Thursday, May 17th, at the age of 63, five-time Grammy award winner Donna Summer, lovingly nicknamed “The Queen of Disco,” passed away in her home in Key West, Florida after a long battle with lung cancer.  Donna Summer was born LaDonna Adrian Gaines to a devout Christian household in Boston in 1948. Summer began singing as a young girl in her local church. As a teenager, she was inspired by Motown girl groups like the Supremes, and later became a huge fan of Janis Joplin. In 1968, she moved to Germany for several years, struggling to advance her career, and was married and quickly divorced to actor Helmuth Sommer, the inspiration for her stage name.  It was not until 1975 that Summer had her first international hit with her song “Love to Love You.” At first, the song had a difficult time getting radio play, with many stations firmly opposed to Summer’s suggestive moans and groans over the track.  However, by 1976, “Love to Love You” was at No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and Summer had rocketed to fame. She also made a seventeen-minute-long version of the song to be played at discothèques, which cemented her core gay audience. By 1979, Summer had released eight records in total, with many more billboard hits including “Bad Girls,” “MacArthur Park,” “Hot Stuff,” and “She Works Hard for the Money.”  However, despite Summer’s international disco fame, by 1980 she was suffering from extreme anxiety and depression and decided to move away from disco into other musical genres.  Summer continued to sing right up to the end, recording a track with her nephew, rapper O’Mega Red, just last year and, according to TMZ, working on a new album at the time of her death.  Summer is an inspiration to all modern day pop stars, not only in the way she combined her amazing singing voice with theatrical performances and ensembles, but as someone who capitalized on their fleeting musical fame, turning it into a lifelong career.  Billboard editor Joe Levy told ABCNews.com, “When you talk about Beyonce, who wants to be known for several things, Donna Summer made that possible. She was a dance artist and a disco artist, but she also wanted to do rock songs and Broadway-like ballads. She continued to work well beyond her prime and remained relatively active throughout her life. She started as a sensation and became a career artist.” Proving this point, it was just announced that Summer’s 1971 hit, “I Feel Love,” will be inducted into the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress as one of twenty-five sounds that have “shaped the American cultural landscape.”

Donna Summers is survived by three daughters and her husband Bruce Sudano. In an official statement, her family said they “are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy.”

-Emily Kirkpatrick for The Untitled Magazine

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