Dead, LaDonna Adrian Gaines, born December 31, 1948 and died May 17, 2012 of lung cancer, known by her stage name, Donna Summer, was an American singer, songwriter, and painter. She gained prominence during the disco era of the late 1970s.
A five-time Grammy Award winner, she was the first artist to have three consecutive double albums reach No. 1 on the United States Billboard album chart and charted four number-one singles in the United States within a 12-month period.
She returned to the United States, in 1975 with mass commercial success of the song Love to Love You Baby. Over the following years Summer followed this success with a string of other hits, such as “I Feel Love”, “Last Dance”, “MacArthur Park”, “Heaven Knows”, “Hot Stuff”, “Bad Girls”, “Dim All the Lights”, “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)”, and “On the Radio”. “Last Dance” won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Original Song on the “Thank God It’s Friday” movie soundtrack.
She became known as the “Queen of Disco”, while her music gained a global following. In 1967 Donna left for New York where she was a member of the blues rock band Crow.
After they were passed on by a record label, which was only interesting in the bands lead singer, the band agreed to break up.
Summer stayed in New York and auditioned for a role in the counterculture musical, Hair. She landed the part of Sheila, and agreed to take the role in the Munich production of the show. She moved to Munich, Germany after getting her parents’ reluctant approval.
In 1975, Summer passed on an idea for a song to Moroder who was working with another artist; a song that would be called “Love to Love You”. Summer and Moroder wrote the song together, and together they worked on a demo version with Summer singing the song.
Moroder decided that Summer’s version should be released. Moroder then sought an American release for the song and it was sent to Casablanca Records president Neil Bogart.
Bogart played the song at one of his extravagant industry parties. The song was successful with the crowd and they insisted that it be played over and over each time it ended. Bogart requested that Moroder produce a longer version for discothèques.
Moroder, Bellotte, and Summer returned with a 17-minute version. Bogart tweeked the title to “Love to Love You Baby”, and Casablanca signed Summer and released the single in November 1975.
The shorter version of the single was promoted to radio stations while clubs regularly played the 17-minute version (the longer version would also appear on the album). Over the years, a few of the tracks would be released.
The song “Highway Runner” appears on the soundtrack for the film Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Romeo appears on the Flashdance soundtrack. Both, “I’m a Rainbow” and “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” would be on her 1993 Anthology album.
Geffen hired top R&B and pop producer Quincy Jones to produce Summer’s next album, the eponymously titled Donna Summer.
The album took over six months to record as Summer, who was pregnant at the time, found it hard to sing. During the recording of the project, Neil Bogart died of cancer in May 1982 at age 39. Summer would sing at his funeral.
The album included the top ten hit “Love Is in Control (Finger on the Trigger)”; for which she received a Grammy nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. Donna was also nominated for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for Protection, penned for her by Bruce Springsteen.
In 2007, she signed a new deal with Burgundy Records (an imprint of Sony/BMG) and in 2008 she released her first album of all newly written and recorded material in 17 years.
The album is called Crayons and with it came the number one dance single; I’m a Fire – making Donna the only artist to ever have a number one dance single in every decade since the 70s.
Over three decades after her first success, Donna was poised to start a whole new chapter in her career – showing the world that the Queen was indeed back. But unfortunately, that was not meant to be. She passed away on May 17, 2012 from cancer.