Donna Summer, born on December 31, 1948, was an American singer, songwriter, and pianist. She was known for being one of the best female singers in the world and for having recorded her disco-style music in the 1970s, and later dance music in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. This pop star still is a force to be reckoned with, and we will help you celebrate her birthday today!
Born into a devout Christian family in Boston, Massachusetts, Summer became involved with music through singing in church choirs and later became involved with bands influenced by Motown Sound. Driven by the 1960s counterculture, she became the singer in a band called Crow and moved to New York. She was a rare gem in the disco scene, as her career began before the style’s explosion. Although she was one of the most well-known artists of the Disco Era, her repertoire included other genres such as R&B and rock, having won Grammys in these categories.
After moving to Munich, Germany, she married Helmut Sommer and worked in various theaters performing in musicals such as the German version of “Hair.” In 1971, she released her first solo effort, ‘Sally Go Round the Roses,’ but to no avail. After meeting Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, she released her first L.P., “Lady of the Night” in 1975, with some success in Europe. Her song ‘Love to Love You Baby’ was a big hit there. Casablanca Records began distributing the L.P. in the U.S., making her a sensation there too. This was followed by a critically acclaimed 17-minute version of ‘Love to Love You Baby’ that set a standard now known as the ‘extended mix:’ extended versions aimed at the dance floor. Summer left Casablanca Records and signed with Geffen Records. Her first Geffen album in 1980 was “The Wanderer,” which included both R&B and rock influences. The next album, “I’m a Rainbow,” wasn’t released until 1996 because Geffen didn’t believe it was any good. Instead, Geffen had Summer leave Moroder and Bellotte, her longtime songwriters, and produce Quincy Jones on the follow-up album, “Donna Summer,” which featured the hits ‘Love is in Control (Finger on the Trigger)’ and the ballad ‘The Woman in Me.’ She also had the song ‘State of Independence’ with a New Age style.
In 1983, as part of the legal agreement signed with Casablanca Records, Summer released the album “She Works Hard For the Money,” produced by Michael Omartian, and what should have been just an obligation turned into a resounding success. Somewhat ostracized, Summer would return to dance music diva status through the album “Another Place and Time,” under production by Stock, Aitken, and Waterman, mentors to artists such as Rick Astley and Kylie Minogue. In 1991, “Mistaken Identity” was released, heavily influenced by R&B and to little acclaim. Only in 2008, Summer released a new album only of unreleased songs, titled “Crayons.” In between, the singer remained active, releasing several singles resulting from participation in soundtracks, compilations, and special projects such as ‘Carry On,’ ‘Melody of Love,’ ‘Whenever There is Love,’ ‘The Power of One’ and ‘I Will Go With You.’ In addition, in 1996, she participated in Liza Minnelli’s album “Gently,” in the duet ‘Does He Love You.’ After a successful life, Donna Summer died on May 17, 2012, on Manasota Key in Englewood, Florida from lung cancer.
Donna releases the L.P. “Lady of The Night,” which is a huge hit in the Netherlands and Belgium.
Donna releases ‘Love to Love You,' inspired by Marilyn Monroe, and starts the songs in the extended disco version.
Summer performs at the world-televised Music for UNICEF Concert, joining contemporaries such as ABBA, Olivia Newton-John, the Bee Gees, and Rod Stewart.
She releases “The Wanderer,” featuring an eclectic mixture of sounds similar to “Bad Girls” but with little emphasis on her past disco success, bringing elements of rock, rockabilly, new wave, and gospel music.
Summer embarks on a world tour to promote the album and receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Donna Summer works with her nephew, the rapper, and producer O’Mega Red, on a track titled ‘Angel.’
Why We Love Donna Summer
She was in love when she wrote ‘I Feel Love’
Summer was a big astrology fan — when Belotte turned up at Summer’s house ready to write the song’s lyrics, she was on the phone with her astrologer. They were in the process of working out if Summer’s new boyfriend, guitarist and singer Bruce Sudano, was the right man for her. Donna came downstairs to meet Belotte after just being told that Sudano was the one. It turned out that he really was, and they stayed together until she died in 2012.
She was incredibly talented
Donna Summer recorded her vocal for ‘I Feel Love’ in one take! She is famous for her disco and pop career, but before she hit the big time she was already an accomplished singer who sang in musicals, folk opera, and in the studio as a session musician. With such a career, it’s no wonder she nailed her ethereal vocals in a single take.
She inspired Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen wrote two songs for her. He decided to use the first one, ‘Cover Me,’ in his “Born in the U.S.A.” L.P. The second song, ‘Protection,’ was recorded by Summer, and Springsteen and his band supplied the music track. Summer and Springsteen actually recorded the song as a duet, but that version has never been released.
5 Surprising Facts
She made her debut at 10
Young Summer made her stage debut at age 10, filling in for another vocalist and reportedly wowing the congregation at her church.
She’s a high school dropout
She was just a few weeks away from graduating when she auditioned for a production of “Hair” taking place in Germany, and when word came that she’d been cast, she dropped out of high school and headed for Munich.
Summer was inspired by Birkin and Gainsbourg
‘Love to Love You Baby’ was inspired by Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Je t’aime … Moi non plus,’ which was released in 1967, but found its way back to the charts in the mid-’70s.
She inspired other big stars
Summer has influenced many artists, and her songs have been sampled by stars such as the Pet Shop Boys, Nas, and Beyoncé.
Summer was bilingual
She was also fluent in German.
Donna Summer FAQs
What ethnicity is Donna Summer?
She is African American.
How old was Donna Summer when she passed away?
She was 63 years old.
Was Donna Summer a smoker?
Lung cancer’s sticky stigma as a primarily self-inflicted disease prompted Summer’s publicist to release a terse statement to emphasize that the singer was a non-smoker.
Donna Summer’s birthday dates