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Last Dance
May 17, 2012 9:24 AM   Subscribe

Donna Summer, the queen of disco, dies at 63. Once upon a time there was a girl who loved to love you. Sometimes she was a bad girl, but she always worked hard for the money, and she was always hot stuff. Although once she left her cake out in the rain. Now it's time to dim all the lights, and have one last dance, for the queen has gone to the disco in the sky. posted by dnash (179 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
She was an important part of the soundtrack of my youth. She'll be missed.
posted by agatha_magatha at 9:26 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm going to miss her. Makes me feel like a little kid again. My mom always put Donna Summer records on while she cleaned house.
posted by Constant Reader at 9:26 AM on May 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


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posted by PapaLobo at 9:27 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by rahnefan at 9:27 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by Trurl at 9:29 AM on May 17, 2012


This Deadhead secretly liked listening to Donna Summer.

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posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:29 AM on May 17, 2012 [12 favorites]


I was never a fan of disco per se, but Donna Summer was one of the very few who gave the music a face, and a real personality. She also sang her ass off.


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posted by Seekerofsplendor at 9:30 AM on May 17, 2012


I feel love was one of the most amazing things my young mind had ever heard. I loved that 45.

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posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:30 AM on May 17, 2012 [22 favorites]


oh no.
posted by elizardbits at 9:32 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by OmieWise at 9:33 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by jquinby at 9:34 AM on May 17, 2012


Oh, man.

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posted by tzikeh at 9:34 AM on May 17, 2012


I feel love was one of the most amazing things my young mind had ever heard. I loved that 45.

That song is considered by many to be the first "House" track. And one of my personal favorites. RIP.
posted by hellojed at 9:35 AM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


She was one of the few artists who made disco tolerable for me. Thanks for all the great tunes, Donna. Love to Love You Baby will last forever.
posted by Lynsey at 9:37 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of the most embarrassing moments of my adolescence was sitting three-abreast in the front seat of a friend's mother's pickup truck with both the friend and his mother, waiting to go through a bank drive-through, while the uncut version of "Love To Love You Baby" moaned and groaned on the radio.

Well, maybe not MOST embarrassing, but when you're 15, sitting next to someone's mom while the radio is having multiple orgasms is pretty cringe-tastic.

Sad to lose Donna Summer so young.
posted by briank at 9:37 AM on May 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


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posted by iviken at 9:37 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by Faint of Butt at 9:38 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by Elly Vortex at 9:38 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:40 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by Iridic at 9:40 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by cashman at 9:40 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by cosmac at 9:40 AM on May 17, 2012


I Feel Love was the greatest song of the 20th century.

I never took it out of my DJ bag.

RIP.
posted by empath at 9:41 AM on May 17, 2012 [11 favorites]


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posted by Flood at 9:41 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by anya32 at 9:42 AM on May 17, 2012


"I Feel Love" is the only track I can think of that can be dropped into any set of any style of dance music and still blow the place up. Much respect. .
posted by Blue Meanie at 9:42 AM on May 17, 2012 [14 favorites]


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posted by BrianJ at 9:43 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by localroger at 9:43 AM on May 17, 2012




She was an amazing performer and will be missed.
posted by Gelatin at 9:44 AM on May 17, 2012


Her awesome music is a big part of my workout mix. Dim All the Lights, indeed.
posted by dorkydancer at 9:44 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I Feel Love" is the only track I can think of that can be dropped into any set of any style of dance music

No shit, it was an absolute anthem at DC's big weekly Buzz -- by far the oldest track that anyone ever played. The lifespan of most club tracks is 6 months at most. A track is considered a classic if it lasts more than a year or so. That song is over 30 years old and still a monster. Most remixes barely touch it.
posted by empath at 9:45 AM on May 17, 2012 [13 favorites]


Beep-beep.

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posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:46 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, Donna Summer. I will miss her. She had a difficult and complicated life, and yet she made such effortlessly graceful music.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:46 AM on May 17, 2012


I feel love was one of the most amazing things my young mind had ever heard. I loved that 45.

There are so many ways that vocal line could've gone wrong with that robotic thrumming underlying it and very few ways it could be right, and even fewer ways it could be fantastic, and Summer's nailed that fucker in a way that must haunt Kraftwerk with it's greatness to this very day...


.. . .. ... .. .. ... .. .. .. .. .. ... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . .. .. .. .. ... . ... .. . .
posted by Skygazer at 9:49 AM on May 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


I lived through disco. I mostly hated it, but never Donna Summer. Sad to see that talent go.

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posted by tyllwin at 9:49 AM on May 17, 2012


Such sad news. An icon from my youth is gone.
I miss the days of carefree dancing.
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posted by seawallrunner at 9:50 AM on May 17, 2012




She also gave the hands-down best rendition of the Star Spangled Banner I've ever heard.
posted by mkultra at 9:51 AM on May 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


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posted by R. Schlock at 9:51 AM on May 17, 2012


Asked upon the release of her 2008 album Crayons whether she felt vindicated by her longevity, Summer replied, "I don't think they made fun of my music as much as they made fun of some of the music that maybe came as a result of that whole genre. But I do think in the course of time it is nice to reestablish something and to say, 'Okay, this stood the test of time. . . ' I have nothing to prove to anyone. I just get out there and do my best, and those who love it, great. And those who don't, they'll move on to something else."

She was right about that. We did not in the 1970s make fun of Donna Summer as much as we made fun of disco in general. I still turn her up when she comes on the radio although I still loathe disco music.
posted by three blind mice at 9:52 AM on May 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


Early in college I was still hanging onto the "I hate disco" thing and mentioned to a friend how much I hated Donna Summer. He responded by saying that he also hated disco, but if you say you hated Donna Summer that means you never actually gave a good listen to Donna Summer. He then demanded that I listen to some Donna Summer immediately.

Since neither of us owned a Donna Summer record, we trekked over to a hotel lounge that he was pretty sure would have Donna Summer on the jukebox. They did, and he loaded in five Donna Summer songs. He said that after the five songs if I still hate Donna Summer he would buy my drinks. Before the first song, "Love to Love You Baby", was over, I admitted that I was going to end up paying for the drinks. I had forgotten how much I loved that song back before I discovered punk and indie rock. Shorty after I bought my first Donna Summer album.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 9:53 AM on May 17, 2012 [11 favorites]


I will hold a memorial office dance.

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posted by rtha at 9:53 AM on May 17, 2012



posted by Smart Dalek at 9:53 AM on May 17, 2012


Donna Summer died today. I wish it were yesterday.
posted by chavenet at 9:54 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]




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posted by dlugoczaj at 9:55 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by robbyrobs at 9:56 AM on May 17, 2012


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(PS: 2012, WTF? Just quit it. Leave the good ones with us.)
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:57 AM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh hell. Her collaborations with Moroder are some of the best music that came out of the 70's, hands down. I am a fan and now I am a sad fan.
posted by item at 9:58 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Believe it or not, She Works Hard For The Money is sung at least weekly in my battlefield 3 clan teamspeak.

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posted by CautionToTheWind at 9:59 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


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posted by nooneyouknow at 9:59 AM on May 17, 2012


Very sad.

Most remixes barely touch it.

I dunno, the album version is canonical, and perfect. But when I heard the news I put the fifteen minute Patrick Cowley remix on first.
posted by jack_mo at 9:59 AM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


I am really tired of having to say FUCK CANCER. Go away forever cancer.
posted by elizardbits at 9:59 AM on May 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


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(And, as always, fuck cancer.)
posted by lord_wolf at 9:59 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, at first I was gonna say too young... And it is, but I had the wrong Donna Summer (no, not really).
posted by symbioid at 10:00 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by jann at 10:00 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by b1tr0t at 10:02 AM on May 17, 2012


The pioneering electronica of ‘I Feel Love’ didn’t just revolutionise disco, it changed dance music forever. This is the story of how it was made...

The number of Moroder connections I keep seeing are starting to reach critical mass.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:02 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


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Like many others here, I wore out I Feel Love.
posted by jonbro at 10:03 AM on May 17, 2012


n-thing the "I Feel Love." That song is perfect for the car, the living room, headphones, everywhere, anytime. It always takes me somewhere else. My favorite song of that era (along with its polar opposite, "Turn the Beat Around).

Too young to go, but a hell of a back catalog. Thank you, Ms. Summer.

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posted by the sobsister at 10:03 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by Jubal Kessler at 10:04 AM on May 17, 2012


But when I heard the news I put the fifteen minute Patrick Cowley remix on first.

When I said 'barely touch it', I meant they barely make any changes to it. You know you did good when pretty much the only thing that a remix does is make your song twice as long.
posted by empath at 10:06 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Do yourself a favor and put TGIF in your netflix queue.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:08 AM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


What a singer. You'll be missed!
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posted by smirkette at 10:09 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by acb at 10:10 AM on May 17, 2012


I don't have the words. Absolutely gutted. Without her, a significant portion of the music I love simply wouldn't exist.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 10:11 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by obeetaybee at 10:13 AM on May 17, 2012


When I was a lad, I followed the top 40 pretty obsessively. Odd since I was more into what we called "college music" in the early 80's (what we now know was alternative of post-punk or just plain old punk). Ms. Summer's career as a hitmaker was nearing its end and the song she had on the chart at the time was "Love is in Control." My teenage ear heard the chorus as "I've got the flavor for my savior, love is in control."

Well, I figured, Donna Summer is doing religious music now. Sometime later in the decade, I was playing the Jimmy Sommerville "I Feel Love" and heard the false rumors that she had become an anti-gay zealot and this belief that she'd become ultra-religious cemented itself in my head.

Thanks to an earlier discussion on MeFi, I learned that she was never anti-gay. I did some research about her music and discovered that "Love is in Control" has the paranthetical title "(Finger on the Trigger)." So, yeah, basically I am both sad that a great performer has passed and am also still kicking myself for getting her so wrong for so long.

Rest in peace, Ms. Summer. You were always a favorite and when we sing along with "I Feel Love," part of the love we're feeling is for you.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:18 AM on May 17, 2012


I can't take anymore. Loved, loved Donna. I remember singing "Bad Girls" with my friends at sleepovers and having no idea we were jamming to a song about prostitutes. Her voice stayed young and fresh right up to the end.

We'll miss you, Donna!

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posted by nubianinthedesert at 10:19 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


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Doing the desk dance here. *SPACEBAR*SPACEBAR*SPACEBAR*

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posted by Cosine at 10:22 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by radwolf76 at 10:24 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by Renoroc at 10:25 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by Ink-stained wretch at 10:27 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by mai at 10:28 AM on May 17, 2012




Oh man, so sad to hear this. Also sad to realize how little Donna Summer I own, which I'm going to have to fix.

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posted by immlass at 10:29 AM on May 17, 2012


I feel sad.

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posted by marienbad at 10:29 AM on May 17, 2012


On the radio... in my heart... safe travels Donna.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 10:30 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


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Aw. I never liked disco, but I liked Donna because she was a client of mine, way back when. It did kind of gall me, though, when I realized that disco helped pay my rent. But how could I be ungrateful to such a beautiful and kind woman?
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:31 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by jessian at 10:32 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by DreamerFi at 10:33 AM on May 17, 2012


Just read that she felt her cancer may have come from breathing in the dust at ground zero on 9/11. Fuck all that.
posted by Cosine at 10:33 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by dbiedny at 10:34 AM on May 17, 2012


90% of everything is crap. Summer was part of disco's 10%.

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posted by vibrotronica at 10:35 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by fuse theorem at 10:35 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by KMB at 10:36 AM on May 17, 2012


Your talent was absolutely out of this world, Donna. You were so so good, baby. Thanks for the music. RIP.
posted by phoebus at 10:39 AM on May 17, 2012


Hated disco. But would sneak into our local, Grandaddy's in Iowa City, to wait for I Feel Love on their awesome sound system.

Thank you, Donna. (And these devil horns I'm flashing are out of respect)
posted by hal9k at 10:40 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by rongorongo at 10:41 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by wallabear at 10:43 AM on May 17, 2012


The only thing I can imagine better than seeing Donna Summe with friends live as a newly out gay boy 15 or so years ago (as I did) would have been being the same age and doing it 15 years or so before that.


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posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:43 AM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


I love disco. It laid the foundation for the flowering of electronic dance music of every sort in the 80s and afterwards. Most of the amazing samples and hooks and loops that made 80s and 90s house, hip-hop, electro, breaks, drum'n'bass, etc. were taken from house and soul. And more importantly, this was the soundtrack of an all-too-brief pocket of time when a queer, black/latino, utopian sexual subculture became a mass-cultural phenomenon—before it became the genre everyone loved to hate.

RIP Donna Summer. I expect to hear you all over town this weekend.

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posted by LMGM at 10:46 AM on May 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


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posted by spitefulcrow at 10:46 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by coolxcool=rad at 10:47 AM on May 17, 2012


Tom Tom Club loves Donna Summer.
posted by timsteil at 10:48 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Her voice will be missed. (too damn young, and yes, FUCK cancer)


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posted by blurker at 10:49 AM on May 17, 2012


... heard the false rumors that she had become an anti-gay zealot...

Background for those not familiar with the situation:
Summer and Smoke.

Donna Summer would like her gay fans to dwell on the hits, not the misunderstanding.
posted by ericb at 10:50 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


She was awesome.
posted by stormpooper at 10:51 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by luckynerd at 10:53 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by cazoo at 10:55 AM on May 17, 2012


Do yourself a favor and put TGIF in your netflix queue.

Yes. Super funny, and she was so good in it.

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posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:58 AM on May 17, 2012


My mom always put Donna Summer records on while she cleaned house.

Mine too. My Mom dancing by herself to Donna Summers while she cleaned or unwound after a long day at work is one of my favorite memories that I have of my mother. I actually got to meet her when I was living with a Catholic religious order in the South Bronx in the mid 90's (her brother-in-law was the Novice Director at the time). Beautiful, classy woman
posted by KingEdRa at 11:01 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Aw, rats. "I Feel Love" was a jukebox staple for me back when I hit the bars. She was completely fantastic and worked hard for the money.

* [disco ball]
posted by porn in the woods at 11:03 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


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posted by bjgeiger at 11:05 AM on May 17, 2012


She may have been the Queen of Disco, but she had the rock and roll spirit in her, too. Bruce Springsteen actually wrote "Cover Me" for her to sing. Too bad that never came to pass. RIP.
posted by jonmc at 11:06 AM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


I was working the midnite shift as a cord-board telephone operator way back in 1978, when every single incoming line on the board lit up. It was twenty of my friends calling to tell me that "Once Upon A Time" had been released, and they were going out of their minds.

She was a big, big part of the seventies and eighties, and I will miss her.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 11:06 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by sciatica at 11:07 AM on May 17, 2012


When I said 'barely touch it', I meant they barely make any changes to it. You know you did good when pretty much the only thing that a remix does is make your song twice as long.

Ah, I see. I thought you meant 'didn't come close to matching the original'. Was thinking of the mid-90s mixes that made the song a chart hit for the second time (in the UK anyway) which did presume to fuck with the original - the MAW one with new vocals was a tepid tasteful house travesty that used to be a litmus test for nightclubs: if it got played, probably a rubbish club; if the crowd enjoyed it, definitely a rubbish club. Can't believe I'm still angry about a remix from almost two decades ago.
posted by jack_mo at 11:07 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by gwildar at 11:09 AM on May 17, 2012


Not sure if it's been linked anywhere on this thread, but this live performance of Last Dance from 2009 is really stunning and poignant. I was not a disco fan, but indeed, besides that voice, I lusted for Donna Summer, because she was just tall, sexy and hot.
posted by dbiedny at 11:11 AM on May 17, 2012


I've always been a fan of "I feel love" too. Here's a shorter live version. Just amazing.
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posted by Catblack at 11:12 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by caclwmr4 at 11:14 AM on May 17, 2012


My dad is career USAF and about as buttoned down and uptight as the person you envision in your head when you think "Career Air Force." By the late 1970s, he had worked his way up to heading a big division at a local base and even though he's a tenacious, aggressive guy, the stress was getting to him. So at some point, he bought a massive Sansui surround sound receiver and four speakers each roughly the size of dishwashers from the PX and put them in our little-used living room along with a box made of lucite panels that lit up in rainbow colors and blinked in time to music. And every day he would come home from work, go into the living room, close the curtains and turn off all the lights but his disco light and sit there in the dark while Donna Summer's I Feel Love pounded out of the speakers and shook the house.

He's 90 now, mostly deaf and has been sorting through his things because in true military fashion, he feels its time to be at the ready. He makes me take home boxes of this stuff every time I visit and last summer, one box held the disco light and the Donna Summer cassette which are more precious to me than just about anything else in that house aside from him.
posted by jamaro at 11:14 AM on May 17, 2012 [42 favorites]


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posted by MelanieL at 11:18 AM on May 17, 2012


I was into her after her prime had already peaked -- I loved some of the songs on The Wanderer, which never gets played anymore. But when I discovered the music of her prime -- even better. Magnificent voice on ballads ("State of Independence") as well as disco floor-stompers ("Hot Stuff"). And oftentimes the shading from ballad to stomper occurred in the same song -- "On the Radio," for instance.

I still remember all the shit I got in high school for liking her music, which I thought it was as natural to like as any other terrific pop music of the time, if not more so, but appreciation of which where I came from was a clear marker that you were suspect -- if not gay, then certainly someone who wasn't a conformist to the current post-Reagan cultural vogue. Turns out that the vindication -- not mine, but hers -- was that she outlasted all the critics, all the bozos who wrote that she had a great voice but didn't know what to do with it, all the pompous idiots who dismissed her as a sex kitten novelty or a scatterbrained amateur, all the self-appointed experts who tried to shoehorn her into the disco mold and dismiss her again after disco's popularity had peaked and after the ugly backlash against disco had started. And she also outlasted many of the acts that I was "supposed" to like back then. And her influence on the generation that came after her was, well, incalculable.
posted by blucevalo at 11:20 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I Feel Love" is the only track I can think of that can be dropped into any set of any style of dance music and still blow the place up. Much respect. .

Quoted for truth.

I have a set of really wild and intense bootleg recordings of a live Surgeon DJ set somewhere, and Surgeon generally plays really heavy, crunchy minimalist industrial techno that sounds something like Krautrock robots monotonously hate-fucking each other for hours on end, which is great if you're into that kind of thing.

In the second segment of this set of live open air bootlegs (complete with background crowd noises, talking, hooting and hollering) he starts teasing the original version of I Feel Love into the mix over something like 15-30+ bars, just little hints of that epic electro bassline right into (I believe) one of his own tracks.

It's so subtle you can barely hear it, but it keeps building and more and more of the track keeps slipping through as he's looping the intro, building and building that bassline into the mix until first vocals drop. He's very knowingly and expertly hinting/teasing people with that bassline, chopping it up so you're not sure if you're actually hearing the original Summer track or if it's just a sample or what.

Throughout these bootleg recordings you can hear the crowd going nuts, but when they finally recognize the Donna Summer track he's been teasing them with for a good five minutes or so, the crowd just explodes with cheering and applause and people freaking the fuck out, and suddenly in the middle of this very metallic, crunchy minimal techno set there's this shining, gleamingly organic disco track with Donna fuckin' Summers singing her damn heart out and people are just loving it.

I don't use the word "epic" very often, but this is exactly that, an epic moment on a dance floor. You can hear people just losing their mind in the crowd noise of the recording.

I Feel Love will be around forever in the dance music scene. It's such a rare thing that a dance music track can last that long and be played just because it's good, without any nostalgia or irony, and it mixes with damn near anything with a beat.
posted by loquacious at 11:21 AM on May 17, 2012 [19 favorites]


When "MacArthur Park" came out, I was in something like 4th grade, and for whatever reason it was my favorite song. One of the first 45's I ever bought. And then it became one of the first pop music LPs I ever had, when I got the full "Live and More" double album, where, to my awe and amazement, "MacArthur Park" was longer, with a whole new section of lyrics not on the radio version ("There will be another song for me...") and further, it was meshed in with "One of a Kind" and "Heaven Knows" to create The MacArthur Park Suite, which becomes a sort of short story of a love affair start to finish. I'd never heard songs segued together like that before, and the thematic linking just made the whole thing epic and awesome.
posted by dnash at 11:21 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


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posted by treepour at 11:25 AM on May 17, 2012


Levon Helm, MCA, and now Donna Summer.

God is putting together one hell of a dance band.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:26 AM on May 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm sad she's gone. At least, "I Feel Love" remains immortal.
and that mix sounds amazing, loquacious

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posted by en forme de poire at 11:32 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by shakespeherian at 11:39 AM on May 17, 2012


Literal tears. The 17-minute MacArthur Park Suite is etched in my DNA.

Heaven Knows (with the smooth, smooth sounds of Joe "Bean" Esposito) is probably my favorite, but the full, 8-minute version of Enough is Enough is close too.

And I Feel Love is probably the most important pop song of the 20th century.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:39 AM on May 17, 2012


For anyone not familiar with Donna Summer beyond the megahits, here are a few of my favorites, mostly in the "I Feel Like" mold:

Sunset People
Spring Affair
Our Love
Lucky
posted by The Lamplighter at 11:39 AM on May 17, 2012


In the second segment of this set of live open air bootlegs (complete with background crowd noises, talking, hooting and hollering) he starts teasing the original version of I Feel Love into the mix over something like 15-30+ bars, just little hints of that epic electro bassline right into (I believe) one of his own tracks.

Yep. I did that in a few sets, too. It's one of those tracks you can tease and tease and tease and people never get sick of it.. and when you finally play it and it hits that key change in the middle of the track it's just bliss. People feel like they've been lifted up to another level and they have no idea why.
posted by empath at 11:40 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by Splunge at 11:45 AM on May 17, 2012


Do yourself a favor and put TGIF in your netflix queue.

YES. Just to SEO-chum it the full name is Thank God It's Friday and Donna plays aspiring disco singer Nicole Sims. (Jeff Goldblum is Tony.)

"Hey ... put a smile on your face ..."
posted by mrgrimm at 11:46 AM on May 17, 2012


Let's also not forget her turn as Steve Urkel's Aunt Oona in TV's Family Matters.

Or maybe let's. ;) God speed, Donna.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:49 AM on May 17, 2012


I'll cop to being a disco hater as well, but Ms Summer, along with Chic and the Trammps, transcended the genre.
posted by jonmc at 11:51 AM on May 17, 2012



posted by bz at 11:55 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by humph at 12:02 PM on May 17, 2012


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posted by moochcook at 12:08 PM on May 17, 2012


Man I loved her music. Still do -- will be playing a bunch in the coming days. Brilliant talent. I mean the woman was releasing friggin' disco concept albums in 1977!

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posted by trip and a half at 12:14 PM on May 17, 2012


Oh, I have such great memories of dancing around to Donna Summer at slumber parties at my friend Annie's house in fourth or fifth grade. "I Feel Love" was mind-blowing. Still is.

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posted by scody at 12:15 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, rock stations played "Hot Stuff" and tracks off "Bad Girls" all the time. I used to hear that even in Mississippi, at an old station in Jackson (WZZQ), She won a Grammy for Best Female Rock Performance for hat song. But that part of Rock History has been erased, seems like, or at least has with Classic Rock stations.

Anyway, RIP.
posted by raysmj at 12:18 PM on May 17, 2012


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posted by Foosnark at 12:20 PM on May 17, 2012


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posted by condour75 at 12:34 PM on May 17, 2012


"On the Radio" was the only cassette I ever played so much it wore out and broke. RIP, Disco Goddess.
posted by tristeza at 12:36 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Being a gay man in America of a certain age, Donna Summer was an integral part of my growing into myself. She provided much of the soundtrack to my first experiences learning about how to socialize, how to flirt, and how to DANCE.
posted by xingcat at 12:42 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


It took years for me to be able to listen to "Hot Stuff" after it got used by my high school marching band. (And then re-used, and re-re-used... listen, they kept cutting budgets and we couldn't afford more music, and between 7th grade when I started and senior year, the entire band got cut in half, not enough people). But some of her stuff was just kind of perfect, and she had this kind of effortless grace that made people like her and feel like she liked them.

I was working stockroom in a mall in the mid-90s in New Jersey and she came into the fragrances department and charmed everyone. She was looking for something that just came out, and I jogged back to the stockroom, opened the box that had just come off the truck, told my two co-workers, "Donna Summer asked for this by name", and they followed me back to the floor. She gave this dazzling smile and said, "Thank you so much!"

She owned us while she was there. She treated every person as if they were as much a star as they were, even the three guys in the stockroom.
posted by mephron at 12:43 PM on May 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


It is a sign that I've been spending too much time here that when my wife called out from they other room "Donna Summer died!" I very nearly replied "Dot!"

Dot.
posted by adamrice at 12:46 PM on May 17, 2012


Awwww, shit. Cancer, you really are an asshole.

I remember when I first heard "On the Radio" on my little transistor when I was 8 years old (this was in '79). I suddenly realized that my little tuchus could actually move to a beat. Thrity-four years later, anytime I hear her on a local oldies station, I just listen, smile, and move my not-so-little tuchus as I'm driving my car, remembering a time when I was a tabula rasa, open to whatever music moved me, absent any preconceived notions. (I wish I still had my "Rhinestone Cowboy" and "Knock on Wood" 45s, I tells ya.) And "MacArthur Park" -- damn, what a song. As a little kid I used to love imagining an actual cake getting all wet, and thinking, but... but... it's CAKE!

BTW, TheWhiteSkull, I've been thinking the same thing -- Levon, MCA, Donna... what a joyful sound they must be making right now!

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posted by flyingsquirrel at 12:47 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Damn. I had that Patrick Cowley remix (12" 45) when I lived in London in the 80s. Great record. It was my gateway drug to funky chuggy synth baselines. Macarthur Park, also, is GREAT.
posted by carter at 12:50 PM on May 17, 2012


WNEW even used to play "She works hard for the money" right alongside "Kashmir" and "Photograph," in the day. WTF happened to this world?
posted by jonmc at 12:56 PM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


So true, jonmc. At least WFUV played "On the Radio" this afternoon, but then Darren DeVivo sort of ruined it by saying, "That's probably the first time I've ever played a Donna Summer song, in 25 years of working here." Pffft.

This makes me miss Pete Fornatale all over again, too. If Levon, MCA, and Donna are up there jamming, he's the one grinning like an idiot in the studio, itching to interview them.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 1:00 PM on May 17, 2012


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posted by davelog at 1:02 PM on May 17, 2012


And speaking of Our Love, here is Jamie Principle's Our Luv , an early house classic that is one of a long list of house track to sample Donna Summer's voice. Truth be told, a lot of people dancing at clubs/festivals/raves/etc today aren't even aware that many of these dubby vocal samples and funky rhythm loops come from disco songs.

Bonus track: I Feel Dub by Glenn Underground, a dubby remix of I Feel Love that pulls synth patterns from other Moroder songs.
posted by LMGM at 1:04 PM on May 17, 2012


I had the fold out calendar insert (for 1977) that came with my Four Seasons of Love LP on my wall for years (from about 2000-2006). Spring Affair is a seriously hot track. As is Bad Girls. I'm not ashamed to admit that I am a huge disco fan, and Donna Summer was one of my all-time favourites.
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posted by Go Banana at 1:07 PM on May 17, 2012


First MCA, and now this.

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posted by 4ster at 1:09 PM on May 17, 2012


My thoughts exactly, 4ster.

I don't know what the time limit is on the rule of 3, but if it hasn't expired and the category is "my early college stereo", Trent Reznor and Neil Tennant should be very careful.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:18 PM on May 17, 2012


Oh, FFS, cancer! Can you lay off for a while? Please?


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posted by droplet at 1:31 PM on May 17, 2012


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posted by Thorzdad at 1:48 PM on May 17, 2012


Aw shit. I LOVE Donna Summer. I was going to marry her.

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posted by mistersquid at 1:50 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by Sys Rq at 1:51 PM on May 17, 2012


WNEW even used to play "She works hard for the money" right alongside "Kashmir" and "Photograph," in the day. WTF happened to this world?

While I was lucky to have all the necessities growing up, my few albums as a kid consisted of a handful of cassettes (half of them dubbed from public library sale vinyl) that I ground to dust on a cheap Radio Shack walkman. Most of my musical fix came from a local radio station with DJs willing to give time to practically anything from early Beatles forward in between their current rock hits rotation.

I didn't realize that FM pulled an anti-disco marketing stunt in larger markets until a decade after it happened. In retrospect, I'm lucky to have gotten such an eclectic mix, and these days, mainstream FM radio just sounds so tedious after the first half hour.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:53 PM on May 17, 2012


I don't know what the time limit is on the rule of 3

Not to be morbid, but I'm calling this triptych closed with MCA and Chuck Brown.
posted by empath at 2:06 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh my God!

150+ comments and not a single mention of Love's Unkind in this thread!?!

So good. SO GOOD, you guys.
posted by blue t-shirt at 2:08 PM on May 17, 2012


Flyingsquirrel, I assume that the newly late (sadly) Donald 'Duck' Dunn is holding down the bass for your celestial combo.
posted by jonmc at 2:11 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


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Sexiest singer ever.
posted by spitbull at 2:24 PM on May 17, 2012


Ok, due to popular demand and my mefi mail inbox blowing up, the Surgeon live DJ set I mentioned upthread is temporarily available for download and streaming here.
posted by loquacious at 3:14 PM on May 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


So, I just got home, driving up the Taconic State Parkway here in NY, and the local oldies station, 101.1 CBS-FM, was playing nothing but Donna Summer. It was GLORIOUS. They interspersed songs with snippets of interviews, and damn was she one articulate woman! (Not to mention bilingual in German, und das ist ja einfach fantastisch.) She talked about the sources of a lot of her songs -- "Bad Girls" was an anger reaction to some cops pulling over a well-dressed friend of hers, thinking she was a prostitute; "She Works Hard for the Money" came from her observation of a bathroom attendant at some ritzy party sitting in the corner, nodding off in front of a tiny TV; many others were not written per se, she'd just get up in front of the mic and songs would "fall out."

She also said that if she had to pick a favorite song, it'd be "Last Dance." It was a perfect moment in time, she said, almost mystical. You can read excerpts of Dan Taylor's CBS-FM 2003 interview here; further down on that page, you can listen to the entire interview.

One last memory as I listened to her talk and sing: Around 1980, when I was around 9 or 10, I had discovered rollerskating -- not metal strap-on skates, but sneaker skates and wood-lined roller rinks and glimmering disco balls and driving beats. I'd bring my blue suede sneaker skates with the yellow stripes to the grimy rink in shady downtown New Rochelle and lose myself in the music, swirling and figure-eighting and feeling the wind in my Farrah Fawcett hair. Donna Summer's music was THE soundtrack for that time.

Yeah, I pretty much drove home with a ridiculous smile on my old face.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 3:15 PM on May 17, 2012 [10 favorites]


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dim all the lights time for the last dance
posted by 404 Not Found at 3:23 PM on May 17, 2012


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2012 has been a lousy year for amazing musicians.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:24 PM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


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posted by learnsome at 3:47 PM on May 17, 2012


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posted by airgirl at 5:05 PM on May 17, 2012


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posted by motty at 6:47 PM on May 17, 2012


It's worth emphasizing that it was Donna Summer in 1975 who asked Giorgio Moroder to work with her, not the other way around. She was a fabulously smart woman with a great sense of the audience and the courage to take what we can now see as clearly groundbreaking new risks.

Rest in peace, Donna.

If all you know is her hits, you're missing out on some great dance music on those early albums. Be sure to check out "Try Me, I Know We Can Make It," the 1975 synth-funk-proto-disco of "Need A Man Blues" and her singing on "Full of Emptiness," which is as good as any singer/songwriter of the 70s you can think of, period.

Again: period.
posted by mediareport at 7:13 PM on May 17, 2012


Back in the disco days "I Feel Love" was the sine qua non of sound system testing. Those timbres, that separation, the sheer friggin' range and PUNCH of the song; a strong clear system could literally kill you with this song.
Eno was right, that was the future, knocking on the door before it opens it and strolls thru.

And TGIF is still sweet and funny.
RIP
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posted by djrock3k at 7:50 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by annsunny at 9:08 PM on May 17, 2012


Younger Monster was playing music whilst cleaning his room today - music he swiped from me - and was singing along at the top of his 16 year-old lungs to On The Radio. I was a little astounded, so I asked him if he knew who that was. "Oh, yeah, Mom. Donna Summer! You have a lot of her stuff in this folder. I looked her up, she was really hot when you were a kid!"

When I told him that she died today, his face fell. "Well, that's just not fucking fair."

Yeah, no kidding, kid.

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posted by MissySedai at 9:30 PM on May 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


*sigh*

she was my diva; the voice i wanted to sound like when i grew up.





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posted by liza at 9:34 PM on May 17, 2012


For those late nights with gay friends at the Palladium in Paris dancing to I Feel Love. Thanks, Donna and Georgio
posted by Mister Bijou at 9:39 PM on May 17, 2012


Was working today and when I clicked on Google and read Donna Summer died. I gasped outloud. NO!!!!! Awww no. There are deaths of well known people and then there are deaths of people who are part of the weave of one's life, the bright part of the brocade.

I had no idea she had cancer. Aww noo noo. I wish I'd been there to comfort her. And what does it have to do with the dust of 9/11 I read somewhere that was the cause she thought of her lung cancer. Could that be true? Was she living/staying near the Twin Towers then?

I have sweated RIVERS to Donna Summer. My God I have lost elephants of weight listening to She Works Hard For the Money. And with great joy too! Even sweated with my Buddhist heart open to Unconditional Love. None of those codependent lyrics of my much beloved MoTown ChartBusters. No, Donna sang about living a life with love, emotionally healthy love.

And oh God, I have had SEX to Donna Summer! Oh YAY glorious rutting, fun disco sex! In pre AIDS, pre Herpes, pre condom freedom. When the STDs were all workable. That was back in early 80's New Delhi, when my boyfriend-boss in the fashion biz had the cassette. I'd get up at 7am, put on my navy blue lycra exercise suit and dance to Donna for 40 minutes at the foot of the bed, do aerobics until my face looked like Heidi in the Swiss Mountains, all pink and aglow. Then marvelous sex, a shower, fresh sliced mango for breakfast, off to work and the same thing the next day. For years!

Donna Summer is in my DNA.

Today, mulling over the deep past, thinking about her. I wonder if I didn't see her sing at The Cheetah discotheque, maybe in 1969. Could that have been or was I high? I'm sure I saw her before she was famous, I remember her then. I love her voice, a big, bold, vivacious voice that makes me feel free listening to it. Loved her multiculturalism too.

Another 15 years later, in 1989, after not hearing her for ages, she put out an album I heard sitting with a well-to-do friend of my then bf, in the back seat of a Porsche, driving with the top down in Montauk, in summer, the right season for her music. Ahh the salty Atlantic breezes mixed rapturously with her songs! And great SEX!! Oh Donna, thank you for the great sex, the joy, the sweat, the smiles. The kind of music that makes it feel so good to be alive!

In case anyone wants to hear the songs of that album, they're wonderful. Lots of Rickroll rhythm there and I guess that was the heartbeat of the 80's pop music. The kind you can sing out loud at the top of your lungs when nobody's listening, feelgood songs.

Love's About To Change My Heart

This Time I Know It's For Real

I Don't Wanna Get Hurt

Sentimental

And here's a sort of New Wave funky odd one I like: Dinner With Gershwin

And a sweet, uplifting one. I'm a Rainbow-1981

I dare you not to sing outloud to this. Come on, sing it with me! Breakaway.

Breakaway, Donna. You fly girl! Fly!
posted by nickyskye at 9:43 PM on May 17, 2012 [10 favorites]


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posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:02 PM on May 17, 2012


I loved State of Independence. I wish she had sung more Vangelis.

Here's very early Donna:
Denver Dream
posted by eye of newt at 12:16 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


heard the false rumors that she had become an anti-gay zealot

Actually, she *did* make some stupidly anti-gay comments soon after becoming born-again, and her responses about it *were* mealy-mouthed. More background. She vehemently denied any "AIDS is God's punishment" stuff (tho others swear the subtext was very clear) but never denied the "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" comment folks reported from a live show. From The Advocate article ericb links above:

Some fans were livid. An angry account appeared in the Village Voice. In England, DJ/producer Ian Levine banned her music from Heaven, the popular disco, and called for a total boycott in the British pop press. Summer and her management stonewalled the issue. The aforementioned gay exec proudly claims that he personally "got her to drop that idiotic 'Adam and Steve' crack."

She seems to have quickly realized she'd made a huge mistake, but a lot of folks still don't forgive her; I was out at a drag show last night and the owner of the bar rolled his eyes as he told me she only backtracked because of money. I've long been a defender of her talent against the idiot queen-of-disco-sneer crowd, but that she was stupidly, publicly anti-gay at a key point in her career isn't really in dispute. The perils of expecting the artist to live up to the promise of the work, I guess.
posted by mediareport at 7:19 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I grew up in an all-white Boston suburb during the 60s and 70s. There were two black families in town: one opted out and sent their kids to private school while the kids from the other family were blamed for various unsolved petty crimes. My siblings and I were friends with both families in part because our parents tried to broaden our world by sending us to a camp intended to promote inter-racial friendships among greater Boston youth. We definitely thought we were cooler and more worldly than our more sheltered peers.

Anyway, I have a clear memory of an epiphany delivered to me by Donna Summers. I was caught up in a now-hazy high school drama when "On the Radio" aired. I had heard the song a few times before but that day I related it to my own situation. When she sang "I was so surprised and shocked and I wondered too..." it was so emotionally pitch-perfect that I was bowled over by two near simultaneous thoughts: 1) that was exactly how I felt and 2) that I had never really and truly taken on board that my black friends and I could share what were obviously universal human emotions and experienced. A switch was flipped in that moment, and it enables richer deeper relationships with all sorts of people who weren't members of my various tribes.

Years later, the high school Donna Summers attended in Dorchester (she dropped out a few months shy of graduation) awarded her a degree after she finished the work. She used her speech to talk about what a stupid decision dropping out had been and how she carried regret and shame about it for years. She feared kids with early career options and eyes on fame would use her success to justify dropping out and wanted to counter that impulse. The emotional honesty of that really moved me. Much respect here for Donna Summers.
posted by carmicha at 10:05 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Am feeling so sad about her death today, loving thoughts to her husband, Bruce Sudano and her daughters: Mimi Sommer (Now Natalia Dohler), Brooklyn Sudano and Amanda Grace Sudano-Ramirez.

In reading about her life today, enjoyed some of her videos I might not otherwise have seen. Here is a crazy cool one, Donna Summer singing Age of Aquarius ("Der Wassermann"), in a German production of Hair . Her singing White Boys in German. Just wow, what a voice, Prelude to Love.

Interesting to learn about Giorgio Moroder, who worked with Donna in the early years. His From Here To Eternity was the kind of disco I didn't like. It had a compulsive beat to it, I thought it was soulless, a sort of cocaine driven, exhasting musical geometry, without joy, whereas Donna's songs seem full of joie de vivre. (As one of those delightful Wikipedia tangents, I found out about Giorgio Moroder's speaking the Ladin language. Huh, never new about Ladin.)

Here they are in their award winning dance song, Carry On with that olde timey Eurodiscobeat. (Oh my god, what a voice she had!)

Cringetastic Love to Love You Baby and this very likable I Feel Love, live version.

She died in Florida. She and her husband have/had a house on the beach near Sarasota. But I've read she died in Key West. I wonder if she went there to die, like the dying of cancer woman did in one of my favorite movies, Y Tu Mama, Tambien? Key West would be a marvelous place to die. I hope she had a peaceful and good dying process.
posted by nickyskye at 11:22 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


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posted by clone boulevard at 8:38 AM on May 19, 2012


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