Donna Summer Biography

LaDonna Adrian Gaines, 31 December 1948, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Summer’s peerless hit singles ‘Love To Love You Baby’ and ‘I Feel Love’ made her the best-known of all 70s disco divas. Having sung with rock bands in Boston, the singer moved to Europe in 1968 and appeared in German versions of Hair and Porgy And Bess, later marrying Austrian actor Helmuth Sommer, from whom she took her stage name. Summer’s first two singles were released under her maiden name in 1971 and 1972 respectively. She enjoyed her first success in 1974 when ‘The Hostage’ and ‘Lady Of The Night’, released on Giorgio Moroder’s Oasis label, became major hits in Belgium and the Benelux countries. However, it was ‘Love To Love You Baby’ (1975) that made her an international star. The track featured Summer’s erotic sighs and moans over Moroder’s hypnotic disco beats and it sold a million copies in the USA on Neil Bogart’s Casablanca label. In 1977, a similar formula took ‘I Feel Love’ to the top of the UK chart and into the US Top 10, and ‘Down Deep Inside’, Summer’s theme song for the movie The Deep was a big international success. Her own film debut came the next year in Thank God It’s Friday, in which she sang the million selling and Grammy Award winning ‘Last Dance’.

This was the peak period of Summer’s career as she achieved four US number 1s in 1978-79 with a revival of Jim Webb’s ‘MacArthur Park’, the Grammy Award winning ‘Hot Stuff’, ‘Bad Girls’ and ‘No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)’, a duet with Barbra Streisand. The demise of disco coincided with a legal dispute between Summer and Bogart and in 1980 she signed to David Geffen’s new company. Her work took on a more pronounced soul and gospel flavour, reflecting her decision to become a born-again Christian. Some of her major US hits during the early 80s were ‘The Wanderer’, ‘Love Is In Control (Finger On The Trigger)’ (produced by Quincy Jones), and ‘She Works Hard For The Money’. She also won two further Grammy Awards in the mid-80s with the album tracks ‘He’s A Rebel’ and ‘Forgive Me’.

After a three-year absence from music, Summer returned in 1987 with a US and European tour and enjoyed another international hit with the catchy ‘Dinner With Gershwin’. Other major US and UK hits during this period included ‘This Time I Know It’s For Real’ and ‘I Don’t Wanna Get Hurt’. Another Place And Time, her bestselling 1989 release for Warner Brothers Records, was written and produced by Stock, Aitken And Waterman. The 90s proved only moderately successful for the singer, but she remained a perennial club favourite and in 1997 won a Grammy Award for the dance single ‘Carry On’, a collaboration with Moroder that had actually been recorded five years earlier. Further club hits in the late 90s and early 00s included ‘I Will Go With You’, ‘Love Is The Healer’, ‘The Power Of One’ and ‘You’re So Beautiful’, and ‘I Got Your Love’. At the start of 2008, she signed a new contract with the Sony BMG imprint Burgundy Records.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.