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The Vault: Disco diva Donna Summer

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Remember Space Jam? Remember Star Fox? Remember those treasures locked away in a dusty vault of nostalgia? Well we’re here to pull them out again, because let’s face it some of us college students are poor and can’t afford the new game or movie ticket.

Sam Shirk
Columnist
sxs1090@lhup.edu

Within the dark recesses of the vault behind the excellence that is Disco is the legendary singer who tried all kinds of new things, the singer who was the most influential for other Disco artists. The singer known as Donna Summer!

Remember Disco? That 70s music your grandparents and probably your parents listen to? It’s always sounded the same to you right? Well take some time now to give it a listen, you might enjoy it! Or at least try listening to Donna Summer, her music is much different from other Disco artists and I’m going to show you how!

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Donna Summer was born LeDonna Adrian Gaines, she was one of seven children. Her performance debut occurred in church when she was ten years old because she replaced a vocalist who failed to show up. Eventually, however, she moved to Munich, Germany where she met her first husband and became Donna Sommer.

While she was working as a part-time model and back-up singer in Munich, German-based producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte  found her and they made a musical-partnership with her, signing her to their Oasis label in 1974. When her first album cover was printed, they messed up on her name and it readDonna Summer, but the name stuck anyway.

Music

Donna Summer had a wide range of popular songs. To us she is affectionately known as the “Queen of Disco.” One of her earliest songs was called “Love to Love You Baby” and when Moroder licensed Oasis to Casablanca records, the president of Casablanca requested that the song be turned into a 17-minute opus. Summer agreed and the song became a huge Disco hit and it crossed over to the pop and R&B charts. It reached number two on the Pop charts, then number three on the R&B charts. It was her U.S. debut.

Another popular tune was released in 1977 and it set the bar for some of the music we have today. The song was named “I Feel Love” and it came from the concept album “I Remember Yesterday”. It set the bar because Moroder decided to add the synthesizers to the song which created a very futuristic 80s sound to the song. The song shot up to number 6 on the pop charts and number 9 on the R&B charts. The following year, Summer acquired her first number one hit, which was for her cover version of Jimmy Web’s “MacArther Park.” She also appeared in a movie called “Thank God It’s Friday” this same year and won a Grammy for her song “Last Dance” which was from that movie’s soundtrack.

Performances

Donna Summer’s performances are worth watching because she did have a creative flair during her performances. Some performances featured her dressing in costume depending on the song. One example being when she performed her song “She Works Hard For Her Money” and dressed in a waitress’s uniform while she danced around. Other songs involved having various props on the stage as she performed.

Not only did Donna Summer have a creative flair during her performances but she also had a gorgeous voice. When Summer performed live, you could really hear how strong and powerful her voice was. She projected it well and you could feel the emotions of the song as she performed. Truly one of the best voices ever.

Legacy and Influence

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Donna Summer left a strong legacy behind when she passed away. It is often noted that she is the best Disco singer there ever was. Summer was the first artist to have three double albums reach No.1 on Billboard’s albums chart and she became a cultural icon. Summer never faded either, she just found ways to change her music and let her music grow as she attempted other things.

Summer inspired many other people, two of the most notable being Beyoncé and Madonna. Beyoncé actually sampled “Love to Love You Baby” in her 2003 hit “Naughty Girl.” Like Beyoncé, Summer was also a diva, the difference was that she was the first. Her Rock and Roll Hall of Fame page listed her as “the Diva De Tutte Dive, the first true diva of the modern pop era”.

Her songs continue to be popular today and they have been covered by various people. Some of those people being Whitney Houston, Britney Spears, Diana Ross, Madonna, Selena, Blondie, Red Hot Chili Peppers and tons more.

Donna Summer is one of the greats in music and her music is well-worth listening to!

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