Happy Birthday, Donna Summer!

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LaDonna Adrian Gaines (December 31, 1948 – May 17, 2012) was an American singer and songwriter who is remembered as the "Queen of Disco". Summer is a five-time Grammy Award winner and the first artist to have three consecutive double albums reach the top spot in the US Billboard chart. That means, if you think you've never heard a Donna Summer song, you're probably wrong. Some of her most popular songs include "She Works Hard for the Money", "Bad Girls", "Love to Love You Baby" and "Last Dance". In honor of her birthday, here are some interesting facts about the life of the Queen of Disco.

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Her first singing performance took place at church, replacing a singer who didn't show up. Her priest invited her to sing because he thought her small frame and small speaking voice would be an "amusing spectacle". Summer herself recalled that as she sang, "I started crying, everybody else started crying. It was quite an amazing moment in my life and at some point after I heard my voice came out I felt like God was saying to me 'Donna, you're going to be very, very famous' and I knew from that day on that I would be famous."

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In 1967, just weeks before graduation, Summer left for New York where she was a member of the blues-rock band, Crow, but the band broke up shortly. Summer stayed in New York and auditioned for a role in the counterculture musical, Hair. This led to her following the show to Munich, and she then moved to Germany.

Eventually, Summer became fluent in German, and performed there successfully. In 1968, Summer released (as Donna Gaines) on Polydor her first single, a German version of the title song, "Aquarius" from the musical Hair.

In 1973, she married Austrian actor Helmut Sommer and they had a daughter, Mimi. After they divorced, the singer kept his last name, but anglicized it to "Summer".

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In 1974, Groovy Records released her first album, Lady of the Night, collaborating with German-based producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. The next year, Summer performed her version of a new song by Moroder called "Love to Love You", meant for another artist. Summer asked Moroder to turn off the lights and she sang the song as she thought Marilyn Monroe would sing it. The song was sent to Casablanca Records, and became "Love to Love You Baby". Clubs and discothèques regularly played a 17 minute version of the song.

 

Long version

For her Bad Girls album, Summer based the whole concept on prostitution (revisiting the theme for 1974's Lady of the Night), even dressing as a hooker herself on the cover art. The album became a huge success, and she achieved four number one hits within 13 months. The album included the Barbra Streisand duet "No More Tears (Enough is Enough)".

 

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Donna Summer with Dick Clark on American Bandstand, 1978

In order to fulfill her contract with her former label Casablanca, Summer needed to release one more album, although she had moved on to Geffen Records and was working with Quincy Jones. Summer delivered the album, She Works Hard for the Money, and Polygram released it on its Mercury imprint in 1983. The title song became a major hit reaching number three on the US Hot 100, as well as No. 1 on Billboard's R&B chart. It also provided her with another Grammy nomination.

In the late 90s, Summer appeared in a guest cameo on the sitcom Family Matters as Steve Urkel's Aunt Oona. During the same time, her 1995 dance tune "Melody of Love (Wanna Be Loved)" went number-one on the dance charts in the U.S. while becoming a top 30 hit in the UK, peaking at number 21.

 

In 1980, Summer married fellow musician and collaborator Bruce Sudano. They had two children, Brooklyn and Amanda. Brooklyn went on to appear as Vanessa Scott in the ABC sitcom My Wife and Kids.

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In Oslo with Will Smith at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert honoring Barack Obama, 2009.

In 2008, Summer released her first studio album of fully original material in 17 years, entitled Crayons. On December 11, 2009, Summer performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway, in honor of United States President Barack Obama. She was backed by the Norwegian Radio Orchestra.

On December 11, 2012, after three nominations, Summer posthumously was announced to be one of the 2013 inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Summer will be inducted on April 18, 2013 at Los Angeles' Nokia Theater

 

 

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via Getty images

Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Wednesday, 31 December 2014
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