Donna Summer, queen of disco, dies at 63

 

The BBC's David Sillito looks back at Donna Summer's contribution to music

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US singer Donna Summer, famous for disco classics including I Feel Love and Love To Love You Baby, has died at the age of 63.

Summer was one of disco's biggest stars and also had a huge influence on the synth pop and dance music scenes.

Her family said they were "at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy".

Stars including Kylie Minogue, Sir Elton John and Mary J Blige have paid tribute.

R&B singer Blige said on Twitter that Summer was "truly a game changer", while producer Quincy Jones said her voice "was the heartbeat and soundtrack of a decade".

Donna Summer Summer's is known for the global hit I Feel Love

Minogue described her as "one of my earliest musical inspirations", while Dionne Warwick said she was sad to lose a great performer and "dear friend".

Summer, who was reported to have had cancer, had been living in Florida with her husband Bruce Sudano.

A statement from her family said: "Early this morning, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith.

"While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy. Words truly can't express how much we appreciate your prayers and love for our family at this sensitive time."

Elton John said Summer was more than the "queen of disco", adding: "Her records sound as good today as they ever did.

"That she has never been inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame is a total disgrace, especially when I see the second-rate talent that has been inducted."

Duran Duran keyboardist Nick Rhodes said: "It's extremely rare that you hear one song that completely changes the way you perceive music. I Feel Love achieved that."

Singer Marc Almond recalled how Summer's work with Italian synthesiser pioneer Giorgio Moroder had "changed the face of music and changed my life".

Donna Summer on American Idol Summer performed on American Idol in 2008

"I Feel Love was a truly original and barrier breaking record, and Now I Need You and Working The Midnight Shift are simply some of the best euphoric electronic tracks ever," he said.

BBC Radio 2 presenter Paul Gambaccini said I Feel Love was "one of the key records in the history of electronic dance music and will always be recognised as such".

Summer grew up in Boston and started singing in her church's gospel choir. Her stage career began in musicals, prompting a move to Germany where she appeared in Hair and Porgy and Bess.

But it was her work with the Moroder that led to her pop breakthrough with Love To Love You Baby in 1975 - the first of 29 UK top 40 singles.

Her expressive vocal style, coupled with Moroder's pulsating rhythms, made the song a big club and chart hit - as well as leading it to be banned by several radio stations for its suggestive overtones.

Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer Giorgio Moroder (right) produced some of Summer's biggest hits

Between 1978-80, her career hit its commercial peak with a string of US hit singles including Last Dance, MacArthur Park, Bad Girls and Hot Stuff.

She won five Grammy Awards and had a further 12 nominations, becoming the first black artist to win a Grammy in a rock category - taking best rock vocal performance for Hot Stuff in 1979.

Her influence stretched across musical boundaries, with Madonna, Whitney Houston and David Guetta among the artists who sampled her, while Bruce Springsteen wrote songs for her.

Producer Pete Waterman, who worked with the singer on tracks including This Time I Know It's for Real in the 1980s, told BBC News: "She was the icing on the cake. We were at the top of our game when we worked with her. She was just fantastic.

"Donna was unique," he added. "Donna did things Donna's way. One of the first things she said to me was, when you work with me, you work on Donna timeā€¦ She wasn't a diva, she was inspirational. Her talent came from God, she knew she couldn't just turn it on."

 

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