The hearts of music fans are heavy following the death of Donna Summer, the “Queen of Disco.”
Summer died in Naples, Fla. after losing a battle with lung cancer. She was 63.
The singer’s family issued a statement saying they “are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy.”
Born LaDonna Adrian Gaines, December 31, 1948 in Boston, Summer grew up singing in her church choir. She became the choir’s soloist at age 10.
“There was no question I would be a singer, I just always knew. I had credit in my neighborhood, people would lend me money and tell me to pay it back when I got famous,” Summer said in a 1989 interview with The Associated Press.
“Love to Love You” was Summer’s U.S. chart debut and the first of 19 No. 1 dance hits between 1975 and 2008 second only to Madonna.
The song is laced with sensual lyrics and a bluesy composition and Summer was afraid it was too edgy for her to sing—especially with her religious upbringing.
Although she was uneasy, the song proved to be a strong debut for the budding talent.
Released in 1975, a breakthrough hit for Summer and for disco, it was a legend of studio ecstasy and the genre’s ultimate sexual anthem. Summer came up with the idea of the song and first recorded it as a demo in 1975, on the condition that another singer perform it commercially. But Casablanca Records president Neil Bogart liked the track so much that he suggested to producer Giorgio Morodor they re-record it, and make it longer what would come to be known as a “disco disc.”
Summer had reservations about the lyrics “Do it to me again and again” but imagined herself as a movie star playing a part as if she were Marilyn Monroe. So she agreed to sing, lying down on the studio floor, in darkness, and letting her imagination take over.
If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then Summer was an idol.
The song was later sampled by several artist including Beyonce who interpolated the hit for her jam “Naughty Girl.”
Beyonce penned an open letter to Summer on her website thanking the disco legend for her music and talent.
“Donna Summer made music that moved me both emotionally and physically to get up and dance,” Beyonce wrote. “You could always hear the deep passion in her voice. She was so much more than the queen of disco she became known for, she was an honest and gifted singer with flawless vocal talent. I’ve always been a huge fan and was honored to sample one of her songs. She touched many generations and will be so sadly missed.”
Yolanda Bailey, a resident of Chicago’s South Side recently recalled her favorite Donna Summer tune.
“ ‘She Works Hard for the Money’ was the single woman’s anthem,” Bailey told the Chicago Citizen. “Rest in Peace Donna Summer, for you have brought so much joy in the lives of others!”
President Barack Obama said that he and First Lady Michelle Obama are both fans of Summer. He said she was “truly the ‘Queen of Disco’.”
“Her voice was unforgettable, and the music industry has lost a legend far too soon,” Obama said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Donna’s family and her dedicated fans.”
Religion played an important role in Summer’s later life, said Michael Levine, who briefly worked as her publicist.
“Her passion in her life, besides music, was God, spirituality and religion. She held a bible study class at her home every week,” he said.
Summer released her last album, “Crayons,” in 2008. It was her first full studio album in 17 years. She also performed on “American Idol” that year with its top female contestants.
Summer is survived by her husband, Bruce Sudano, and three daughters, Brooklyn, Mimi and Amanda. A private funeral has been planned and there is not any immediate information on when or where the service will be held.
By Thelma Sardin
The Associated Press Contributed to this report.