This Day In History: December 31st
The proclaimed “Queen of Disco,” Donna Summer, captivated music lovers around the world with hits such as “Love to Love You Baby,” “I Feel Love” and “Last Dance.” Her wide vocal range and unprecedented talent helped her to become the mother of modern dance music.
Donna Adrian Gaines was born on December 31, 1948, in Boston, Massachusetts. Since a young age, Summer had a love for singing. She gave her debut performance at 10 years old when she had to fill-in for a singer who was scheduled to perform but did not show up. Her powerful performance shocked many of the church-goers in attendance.
From her first church performance, Summer began to make appearances in school musicals and gained local popularity. Just a few weeks before graduating from high school, she auditioned and received a role in the production of Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical in Munich, Germany. Despite being reluctant, her parents gave their approval and she flew to Germany to work in the show, but she decided to stay in Germany once the production ended.
She recorded her first solo album, Lady of the Night, in 1974 and found slight success in Europe but none in the American market. During this time she also married German singer Helmuth Sommer and used an anglicized version of his last name as her stage name. In 1975, she recorded a demo version of “Love to Love You Baby,” which was seductive and 17 minutes long. The suggestive nature of the song caused many radio stations to refuse to play it, but the song still became a top hit.
Summer capitalized on her newfound fame and released two albums which were both successful. successes. In 1978, she won the Academy Award for Best Original Song with her single “Last Dance.”She made the decision to release two R&B albums, but soon returned to dance music again in 1983.
By the end of the 1980s, the “Queen of Disco,” found herself in the midst of change and her popularity was also on the decline. Summer continued to release albums, but they did not obtain the same level of success as her previous works. She stepped back from music to focus on other areas of the arts like painting. Donna Summer died on May 17, 2012, after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the following year.