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 time… 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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  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    3 Minutes ago

    So all we can coment on this evening is this (sorry Donna, no disrespect intended and RIP) and Camerons re-arrangement of words to make sentences that sound political and make him look good?"

    What's your pathetic, mean and self centred rant got to do with the death of Donna Summer?

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    @Paul #109 #115,

    "Allegedly" - and incorrect at that. Check out what Elton John stated tonight about her support of his AIDs foundation.

    "I won't mourn" - don't worry, your feelings are no great loss.

    The gay lobby assault towards a dead woman is sickening.

    If people want to use their bodies in a different way to which evolution (or God) made them, that doesn't make it preferable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    So all we can coment on this evening is this (sorry Donna, no disrespect intended and RIP) and Camerons re-arrangement of words to make sentences that sound political and make him look good?

    I would like to talk about the French gov't cutting their own salaries by 30% or the Met's latest triumph.

    Why don't you show some guts bbc and let us comment on all the "stories" that you present.

  • Comment number 121.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    I mainly listen to rock, traditional R&B, & classical music. Yet I'm also a big fan of Donna summer, who is outside the rock and classical group.

    Donna Summer is one of the very few disco/pop artists who appealed to music listeners across all genres. Her voice, stage presence and musical talent was undeniable.

    She will be sadly missed, but her songs will be remembered for a long time to come.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    Sad news for a 68 years man lives his glorious love days, with her deep emotional songs, so sorry

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    I am shocked to hear the news of her passing. I was listening to her album 'Another Place & Time' released in 1989 just the other day. I love the song 'Breakaway' on that album. RIP Donna and thank you for the music and memories.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    Donna Summer was a *real* musical artist from the days when the recording industry was actually about music and when the word 'diva' actually carried weight. She may have left us before her time, but her wonderful music will always be with us. I can barely remember anyone who's been in the charts over the last decade, but I will never forget Donna Summer. She *was* the Hot Stuff.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    @99 Well I don't know any of that, some of the other commentaters seem to be disputing the validity of those comments. Maybe you should find a more appropriate hys to discuss this bette noir of yours

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    "she didn't claim to have said that
    Please show some RESPECT, a great artist has died, keep the Gay comments tucked away, since as above," she didn't claim to have said that"

    BehaveShe was a born again Christian and EVERYONE knows they are the worse onesShe said those comments and we all know she said emAs a person who hates all discrimination and because I never knew her I won't mourn

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    A few months ago, Whitney Houston died and people proclaimed her to be a great singer. Let me tell you something, Donna Summer was ten times the singer that Whitney Houston was. Donna Summer could actually sing and wasn't just about hitting the high note. She will be missed.

  • Comment number 113.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 112.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    I feel love takes me back to my teenage years. Loved all her songs. Sad news today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    I Feel Love

    A Game Changer

    RIP Good Lady

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    In the mid 1980s, Summer was embroiled in a controversy. She had allegedly made anti-gay remarks regarding the then-relatively new disease, AIDS, which saw thousands of her records being returned to her record company by angered fans. Summer, by this time a born-again Christian, was alleged to have said that AIDS was a punishment from God for the immoral lifestyles of homosexuals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    I was very sad to hear this news.
    Donna Summer is a music legend in her own right.
    She made a big mark on the 20th century.
    - She will always be remembered. RIP x.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    I remember "I Feel Love" as the constant sound of the summer of 1977 and it was sensational. Never tired of it. Genuinely shocked to learn of Donna Summer's death. She was part of my youth. Very sad news.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    PAUL Post 82 I never understood her hatred? of gay people?"

    She never said this. Wikipedia: """she denied that she had ever made any such comment and, in a letter to the AIDS campaign group ACT UP in 1989, she said that it was "a terrible misunderstanding""

    Please show some RESPECT, a great artist has died, keep the Gay comments tucked away, since as above, she didn't claim to have said that

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    RIP Donna Summer, I Feel Love and the beautiful MacArthur Park will stay with me for all time.

    Surely this is not the place for the gay lobby to spread their agenda?


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