By Michael Thurston
Grammy-winning disco legend Donna Summer, who topped the charts repeatedly in the 1970s and 80s with raunchy hits like ‘Love to Love You Baby’ and ‘Hot Stuff,’ died yesterday aged 63.
Known as the Queen of Disco, the singer whose hits also included ‘I Feel Love’ and ‘She Works Hard for the Money’, died in Florida from lung cancer, the TMZ celebrity news website said.
“Early this morning, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts,” said a family statement. “While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy.”
Tributes poured in within hours of her death, led by President Barack Obama who said: “Donna truly was the ‘Queen of Disco’. Her voice was unforgettable, and the music industry has lost a legend far too soon.”
“Truly that will be her legacy, she was the Disco Queen,” soul legend Aretha Franklin told CNN.
Barbra Streisand, with whom Summer duetted on 1979’s ‘No More Tears (Enough is Enough)’, said she was “shocked” at the news.
“She was so vital the last time I saw her a few months ago. I loved doing the duet with her. She had an amazing voice and was so talented. .. It’s so sad,” she said in a statement.
In Hollywood, flowers were placed on her sidewalk star on the storied Hollywood Walk of Fame, across the street from the world-famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
Summer, who also became something of an icon in the gay community, shot to fame during the disco era of the 1970s with hits like ‘MacArthur Park’, ‘Hot Stuff’ and ‘Bad Girls’.
The orgasmic-sounding ‘Love to Love You Baby’, released in 1975, was one of the first disco songs to be released in extended form, giving full vent to Summer’s erotic moans and groans.
In the 1980s her hits included ‘She Works Hard for the Money’ and ‘State of Independence’.
The disco diva was born LaDonna Adrian Gaines into a large devoutly Christian family in Boston and started singing in the local church, before performing in a number of Motown-influenced groups in her teens.
Summer took her stage name after marrying Austrian actor Helmuth Sommer in 1972, anglicising her name after divorcing him. She spoke fluent German and the couple had a daughter, Mimi Sommer.
Winner of five Grammy awards
The singer won five Grammy awards during her spectacular career, including in 1980 for best rock female vocalist for the 1979 ‘Hot Stuff’, but also as recently as 1997 for best dance recording for ‘Carry On’.
She holds the record for most consecutive double albums to top the Billboard charts – three – and first female with four No 1 singles in a 12-month period, three solo and one with Barbra Streisand, according to the IMDb website.
‘Hot Stuff’ also got a boost from being used in the 1997 hit movie ‘The Full Monty’, as the track to which a group of unemployed British steel workers performed a striptease act.
TMZ reported that she had kept her illness quiet, and didn’t appear too sick only a couple of weeks ago, citing sources as saying she was focused on trying to finish a new album she had been working on.
It cited sources as saying Summer believed she developed lung cancer after inhaling toxic particles following the Sept 11, 2001 al-Qaeda attacks in New York.
Harry Casey, lead singer and ‘KC’ of fellow disco greats KC and the Sunshine Band, said he was stunned.
“I saw her several months ago at a performance, she looked great, she sang great, her performance was amazing. We got together backstage and had some good laughs and walked down memory lane.
“I’m just in shock. I had no idea anything was wrong.” – AFP