Donna Summer (December 31, 1948 - May 17, 2012) was a highly acclaimed and influential R&B singer, songwriter, actress, and cultural icon (a.k.a. the Queen of Disco) with powerful mezzo-soprano vocals who became internationally famous beginning in the mid 1970s. Born LaDonna Adrian Gaines in Boston, Massachusetts, she began singing gospel music as a child and gave her first public performance when she was ten. In 1967, just weeks before her high school graduation, Summer moved to New York City to pursue a music career and became the lead singer of a local blues rock band, Crow (not to be confused with the same-named band of "Evil Woman" fame). She auditioned for the musical, "Hair," and after landing the part of Sheila, moved to Germany and took that role in the Munich production of the show. In 1973, she married Austrian actor Helmuth Sommer and adopted an anglicized version of his surname as her stage name. The following year, she released her debut album, "Lady Of The Night," and had her first hit with that album's lead single, "The Hostage," which topped the Belgian charts and reached #2 in the Netherlands.
Summer returned to the U.S. in 1975 and made her debut that year on both the R&B and Pop/Rock charts with the sizzling, steamy, and lengthy "Love To Love You Baby," the title song from her second album which became a Top 5 hit on both charts the following year as well as a top hit in many countries worldwide. This gold-certified smash, which she co-wrote with producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, became the first in a long string of hits that also included the chart-topping "MacArthur Park" (1978), "Hot Stuff" (1979), "Bad Girls" (1979), and "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" (1979, duet with Barbra Streisand). Other top hits that also brought Summers a huge international following during the late 1970s and beyond, most of which she co-wrote, included "I Feel Love" (1977), "Last Dance" (1978), "Heaven Knows" (1979), "Dim All The Lights" (1979), "On The Radio" (1980), "The Wanderer" (1980), the fiery "She Works Hard For The Money" (1983), and "This Time I Know It's For Real" (1989). Her long string of hits continued on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart to well into the 21st century with such chart-toppers as "Melody Of Love (Wanna Be Loved)" (1994), "Love Is The Healer" (1999), "I'm A Fire" (2008), "Fame (The Game)" (2009), and "Hot Stuff 2018" (2018).
Donna Summer's numerous honors and accolades included five Grammys, six American Music Awards, an NAACP Image Award, and being inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. She was the first to have three consecutive double albums top the Billboard 200 chart. With over 230 million records sold worldwide, including twelve gold singles, eleven gold albums, and three albums that are certified multi-platinum, Summer was one of the world's top-selling performing artists of all time.
- The New York Times remembers Queen of Disco Donna Summer.
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