May 17, 2012
Legendary disco singer Donna Summer died today after a battle with cancer. Often called the Queen of Disco, her sound was a mix of genres, and helped her earn Grammy Awards in the dance, rock, R&B and inspirational categories.
1975's "Love to Love You Baby," written by Summer and produced by long-time collaborator Giorgio Moroder, brought her worldwide fame (and infamy) due to its use of synthezied beats and sexual conent. The song appeared in both a 17 minute album version and shorter single version. The growing number of dance clubs (mostly gay) regularly played the 17 minute version, which helped spread its word of mouth popularity. Partially due to the record's phenomenal appeal, Summer's label, Casablanca Records, became one of the first record labels to popularize the 12" single format, eventually the gold standard in dance music.
"I Feel Love', with its throbbing, icy synthesizers and ethereal vocals, has often been cited as the greatest dance song of all-time. Slant magazine tabbed it as the best in its 2006 survey, writing:
... Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte's futuristic vistavision album coda single-handedly took pop music into the electronic age. No longer would synthesizers remain the intellectual property of prog-classical geeks. And, separated from its LP context and taken as a Top 10 single, it didn't just suggest the future, it was the future. Cooing ascending couplets of an almost banal ecstasy, Summer's breathy vocals still dwelled in the stratosphere of her own manufactured sensation...no musical genre in the last three decades has remained untouched by the neon-lit legacy of "I Feel Love."
Her song "Last Dance" won Summer her first Grammy, an award she took again with "She Works Hard for the Money" in 1984. Summer holds the record for most consecutive double albums to hit number one on the Billboard charts (three) and was the first female to have four number one singles in a 12-month period: three as a solo artist and one as a duo with Barbra Streisand.
After disco's demise, she continued to write and record, releasing the gospel-infused Christmas Spirit to great success in 1994.