Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b LaDonna Adrian Gaines, 31 December 1948, near Boston MA; d 17 May 2012 in Florida of cancer) U.S. pop singer. Sang in church as a child; turned pro at Boston club the Psychedelic Supermarket and got a role in a German production of Hair '67; married actor Helmut Sommer (divorced '74), sang in Vienna Folk Opera production of Porgy And Bess; sang backup in German studios, met budding disco producer Georgio Moroder (b 26 April 1940, Ortisel, Italy), had European hits; then 'Love To Love You Baby' made the U.S. pop chart '75: the no. 2 hit used Moroder's thumpa-thumpa disco beat with 17 minutes of Summer's orgasmic breathing; one of the first disco hits pulled an album of that title to no. 11.

She turned out to have more talent than that, however; A Love Trilogy and Four Seasons Of Love '76 did well; I Remember Yesterday '77 went top 20 with clever synth juke-box single 'I Feel Love' at no. 6; two-disc concept Once Upon A Time '77 with lyrics mostly by Summer was again top 30; then eight top five singles '78-80 (three at no. 1 plus duet 'No More Tears' with Barbra Streisand), three two-disc no. 1 albums: Live And More '78 included Jimmy Webb's 'MacArthur Park' (no. 1) and 'Heaven Knows'; Bad Girls '79 had no. ones 'Hot Stuff' and 'Bad Girls', no. 2 'Dim All The Lights'; On The Radio -- Greatest Hits '79 included the duet with Streisand; 'Last Dance' (from a film; the single won two Grammys, two-disc soundtrack Thank God It's Friday was top ten); 'On The Radio' (no. 5 hit written by Moroder/Summer, covered by Emmylou Harris). Moroder had his own minor U.S. chart entry with album From Here To Eternity '77 (aka Giorgio).

A lawsuit with the Casablanca label run by Neil Bogart (1943-82) freed her to switch to David Geffen's new Geffen label; sales slipped but were still good: The Wanderer '80 included a no. 3 title single, also material with a born-again Christian message (she no longer wanted the gay following which came with being a disco diva). Donna Summer '82 was produced by Quincy Jones; She Works Hard For The Money '83 on Mercury was back in the top ten with no. 3 hit title single; Cats Without Claws '84 reached top 40. 'Highway Runner' (from an album produced by Moroder, rejected by Geffen) was heard in film/soundtrack album Fast Times At Ridgemount High '82. She recorded Gene Lees's song 'Let It Live' for a video on the life of Pope John Paul II '87, arranged by H. B. Barnum; she played Lake Tahoe with sisters Dara and Mary singing backup; All Systems Go '87 still on Geffen included the minor hit single 'Dinner With Gershwin', but Another Time And Place '89 on Atlantic, produced by the then-hot London team of Stock Aitken Waterman, did much better in the album chart and included her last top 40 hit, 'This Time I Know It's For Real.' 

With 25 Hot 100 singles '75-87 and 14 hit LPs, Summer lasted longer than most who came from disco and deserved to, a hard-working pro with excellent vocal equipment who won four Grammys: 'Last Dance' '78 (R&B), 'Hot Stuff' '79 (rock), 'He's A Rebel' '83 and 'Forgive Me' '84 (inspirational). She battled depression and took up paintin, saying in an interview, 'Being on stage is a lot of stress. You have to be perfect. Look perfect, your weight has to be perfect. Painting is a lot easier. I don't have to be beautiful and skinny.' Her last album was Crayons 2008; three tracks from that reached no. 1 on Billboard's dance/club chart.