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  Donna Summer
 

 

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Her records wreen't the tightest, but you have to give it up to Donna Summer for her extraordinary streak of success.  With eleven gold and platinum albums, she is certainly the Queen of Disco from a commercial perspective.

Summer grew up in the church and toured Europe on a tour of Hair, during which she married and adopted the last name Summer.

The song that would change her life was 1975's "Love to Love You Baby."  16 minutes of moan-and-groan set to a nascent disco beat, it was the first fruit of her relationship with Harold Faltermeyer, Pete Bellotte and Giorgio Moroder, collectively known as the Munich Machine.  After Casablanca Records head honcho Neil Bogart got a positive reaction to the song at a party, he put his promotional muscle behind it and turned the record into a huge success, making Summer the obvious challenger to Gloria Gaynor's then-undisputed status as disco's biggest star.

In some respects, "Love" was a bane to her career because the track did not require a great deal of vocal ability.  Summer possessed a strong voice but it was often hidden underneath the production.  It would take years before people would credit her as the talented singer she was.

For her willingness to allow Moroder to dominate her recordings, Summer received massive mainstream popularity: 14 top 10 pop singles and 3 straight number one double LPs,  an unprecedented achievement.  A big part of her appeal was tied to her marketing campaigns, which often had Summer portraying various characters like Marilyn Monroe and Cinderella. The signifying on gay cultural icons cemented her popularity with gay men, at least until a reported antigay comment by Summer in the 80s.  

Her artistic crescendo was reached on "I Feel Love," a futuristic glimpse at what would later be known as techno.  Her cold delivery meshed well with the driving rhythm track and the record won her a new legion of fans. The Bad Girls album knocked down the remaining barriers to her dominance, as her decision to fuse disco with rock was a real breakthrough that set the trend of the 80s.

Unfortunately, she became the biggest casualty of disco's sharp decline in popularity.  After being the first signing to Geffen Records, she struggled out of the gate before hitting with "She Works Hard for the Money" and "Unconditional Love."  Her producers, on the other hand, made an easy transition to scoring films and other opportunities.

Donna Summer's Deepest Grooves

Love To Love You Baby (Oasis, 1975)

Love Trilogy (Casablanca, 1976)

Four Seasons of Love (Casablanca, 1976)

I Remember Yesterday (Casablanca, 1977)

Once Upon A Time (Casablanca, 1977)

Live and More (Casablanca, 1977)

Bad Girls (Casablanca, 1979)

On the Radio: Greatest Hits (Casablanca, 1979)

The Wanderer (Geffen, 1980)

Anthology (Polygram, 1993)

Endless Summer: Very Best Of Donna Summer (Polygram, 1995)

Copyright 2001 B.Graff.  All rights reserved.

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