The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

News

Donna Summer Obituary
Mof Gimmers , May 18th, 2012 09:06

Mof Gimmers pays tribute to the late Donna Summer

Maligned as it is, disco is one of the most important – if not THE most important – genres ever conjured up by the twisted brain that is music. Enabling young, impoverished people to become something akin to royalty, disco didn't acknowledge the slums it came from, rather, acted as a living daydream, inviting you to get Lost In Music and be a queen for a night.

And while there are many challengers to the throne of disco, one of the biggest shouts for the top of the deity tree is Donna Summer, a woman who is partly responsible for some of the most outrageous, futuristic records ever cut to wax.

While Chic were disco's sophisticates and Sylvester the daring glamourpuss, Donna Summer was the brass-knuckle cool. Streetwise, tough and impossibly beautiful, Summer was the ruling monarch and everyone would assemble at her feet while she looked straight through you, cold-as-ice.

Where Donna trod, Diana Ross would soon follow with her dizzyingly great Diana LP. However, there's nothing quite like Donna Summer at her finest. No-one pulled off her unique take on dance records. Her mezzo-soprano was the only thing that was huge enough to tackle Giorgio Moroder's insane production wizardry. Quite simply, in the hands of anyone else, 'I Feel Love' would have been half a record.

Cutting her teeth in psychedelic outfit Crow after dropping out of school, mocked for her weird voice by the gospel set, Summer ended up touring with Hair and worked as a jobbing session singer. During this period, she met Moroder who would forever be entwined with Donna Summer's history.

The first gigantic footprint she made was with the super-erotic 'Love To Love You Baby', 17 minutes of cosmic, orgasmic funk that sounded like the dirtiest dreams of Barbarella come to life. Later, of course, came the gigantic synth monster of 'I Feel Love', oft-copied and never bettered. Donna and Giorgio's music was even given a royal seal of approval via the beatified John Lennon who, on initial exposure, excitedly locked himself away for days, saying "I have heard the future!"

With 'Bad Girls', the excellent 'Spring Affair', 'Heaven Knows and the gigantic 'Hot Stuff', Summer created some of the most invigorating work of the 70s, as well as a dicky cover of 'MacArthur Park,' but who's counting? Of course, Summer's career wasn't all roses. Her break from disco saw the hits dry-up, saved only by a brief flirtation in the UK charts with a song featuring Musical Youth.

Then, along came the controversy. Becoming a born-again Christian, Donna Summer allegedly made anti-gay remarks, effectively saying that AIDS was God's way of punishing the immoral lives of homosexuals. The fanbase that held her in such high esteem deserted her overnight, leaving her apology of it all being a "terrible misunderstanding" falling on deaf ears.

Only a flirtation with the UK charts again ('Dinner With Gershwin') would remind pop-fans that Donna was still around. Her career may have faded, but regardless of the controversy, the rumours, the anxiety attacks, the cries for help, The First Lady Of Love should always be remembered for the incredible rush of excitement caused by a listener's first encounter with 'I Feel Love, and the rest of her astonishing disco work. Her talent, like her voice, is one of music's most unique gifts. For that, we should all be incredibly grateful.

Donna Summer, rest-in-peace.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.