R.I.P. Legendary “Queen of Disco” Donna Summer

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(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

This morning “Queen of Disco” Donna Summer passed away. Her iconic voice is and ever shall be the definitive voice of an era.

In a familiar narrative, Summer (born LaDonna Adrian Gaines) was raised in a devout Christian family and sang in church as a teen until she got the theater bug and decided to move to New York City.

Where the narrative takes it’s legendary turn is that she performed in the Broadway production of Hair (which traveled to Germany,) sang back-up vocals on a Three Dog Night record, met young producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte and ended up playing a foundational role in a sound and scene that changed popular music forever.

Post-Flower-Power and punch-drunk from Vietnam and a brutal economy, the country was primed for a cultural explosion. There was a need for release and this so-called “Disco Music” was gonna give it to us.

Like Delacriox’s painting of “Liberty Leading the People“, Summer was raising the flag. The combination of Euro-synthesized syncopation and brazen sexuality of “Love to Love You” (particularly it’s definitive, epic 17 minute version) was a clarion call for liberation right in time for our country’s Bicentennial.

A year after “Love To Love You” hit the top of the charts, Saturday Night Fever was released and the whole world was for all intents and purposes a massive disco ball.

Summer’s gorgeous voice and Moroder’s icy production produced a steady stream of undeniable hits,I Feel Love“, “Heaven Knows,” “Hot Stuff, “On the Radio”, “Bad Girlsto name a few.

Given the level of her immense talent, through the late 80s and 90s her popularity may have waned but it never, ever faltered as she contributed tracks to film soundtracks and continued recording and changing with the times, all the while being consistently rediscovered and lauded by every new generation of dancers. As to be expected with any world class diva, there were controversies and dramas, regrets and redemption…but she aged gracefully, fabulously and will forever be remembered for her “…Love.”

— Mario Cotto