Donna Summer

Donna Summer
Donna Summer

Summer at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in 2009.
Photo: Harry Wad
Background information
Birth name LaDonna Adrian Gaines
Also known as Donna Gaines
Born December 31, 1948 (1948-12-31) (age 62) Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Origin Dorchester, Massachusetts, USA
Genres Dance-pop, disco, pop, rock, new wave
Occupations Singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals, piano
Years active 1968–present
Labels Oasis Records
Casablanca (1975–1980)
Geffen (1980–1988)
Atlantic (1988–1991)
Mercury (1994–1996)
Warner-Elektra-Atlantic (Outside of U.S. 1980–1991)
Epic (1999–2001)
Burgundy (2006–present)
Associated acts Giorgio Moroder, Brooklyn Dreams

LaDonna Adrian Gaines (born December 31, 1948),[1] known by her stage name, Donna Summer, is an American singer/songwriter who gained prominence during the disco era of the 1970s. She has a mezzo-soprano vocal range. Summer is a five-time Grammy winner[2][3] and was the first artist to have three consecutive double albums reach number one on the US Billboard chart. She also charted four number-one singles in the US within a thirteen-month period.



Early life and career: 1948-1975

Summer was born LaDonna Adrian Gaines on New Year's Eve, 1948 in Boston to Andrew and Mary Ellen Gaines. Raised in the Dorchester area of the city, Summer began singing in church at an early age. At eight, she said while at church, she received an epiphany that she was to use her voice to reach people and that she wasn't to misuse the voice given to her after singing in church replacing an absent choir singer who was ill. Summer began participating in school plays and joined several girl groups before joining the psychedelic rock group, The Crow.

Upon arriving in New York, Summer began a solo career and auditioned for a spot on the counterculture rock musical, Hair. Though Summer had a successful audition, she lost her spot to a fellow aspiring performer, Melba Moore, who later took the role in the Broadway version. Summer was then asked to play in a German production of the musical, in which she agreed to do, moving to Munich as a result, staying there for a couple of years. She eventually moved and settled at Vienna, Austria.

During her time in Europe, she performed in Godspell and Show Boat, and in 1971, using her given name, Donna Gaines, she released her first single, a cover of The Jaynetts' "Sally Go 'Round the Roses". In 1972, she married Austrian actor Helmuth Sommer and a year later welcomed her first daughter, Mimi. After divorcing her first husband, she adopted his last name changing it to Summer, rechristening the name with the o being replaced by a u. In 1974, she met aspiring producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Belotte and together, the trio began working on their first recordings. Signing with Groovy Records, the label issued Summer's debut album, Lady of the Night, which yielded two successful singles in Europe.

In 1975, she came up with a lyric idea to Moroder for a singer Moroder was working with at the time. While initially recorded as a demo, Summer eventually would record what became "Love to Love You Baby". The recording was sent to Neil Bogart, head of the American music label, Casablanca Records, and bought rights to the song to be released in the U.S. Summer eventually signed with Casablanca Records and released the song in the U.S. where it became a hit, a parent album was released later that same year and became her first gold success.

Initial stardom: 1976-1978

Returning to the United States, her label began to take control of Summer's career, christening the singer as the goddess of love and first lady of love, titles Summer would be uncomfortable with during her tenure with Casablanca. The singer followed the success of her U.S. debut album with two concept albums, both released in 1976, titled Love Trilogy and Four Seasons of Love. Both albums followed the success of Love to Love You Baby reaching gold status.

In 1977, Summer would score her second huge hit with "I Feel Love", which became her first number-one hit in the United Kingdom and became her second top ten single on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song was featured on the gold-selling concept album, I Remember Yesterday. Summer would reach gold again with the release of her fifth album, Once Upon a Time, which based its concept on a modern-day Cinderella story.

Between 1976 and 1978, Summer would not only have several gold-selling albums but also several top forty singles internationally and domestically. In 1978, Summer rose to superstardom with the release of the R&B-tinged dance number, "Last Dance", featured on the soundtrack to the movie, "Thank God It's Friday", which Summer acted on. The song, written for her by Paul Jabara, peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100, and won Summer her first Grammy Award. Summer then achieved her first number-one single with a cover of "MacArthur Park". The song was featured on her first live album, the double-set Live and More, which also became her first number-one album on the Billboard 200 enjoying platinum status.

Born again conversion, Bad Girls and break from Casablanca: 1979-1982

In early 1979, Summer, who had been dealing with anxiety attacks during her tenure, suffered a nervous breakdown at her home in Los Angeles. Seeking guidance, Summer's sister took her to a church in Los Angeles and after service, Summer became born again. Upon her recovery from her breakdown, Summer returned to the studio to finish work on her second double album, titled, Bad Girls.

The album, which based its concept theme on a working girl, became her best-selling album upon its release, spawning three top ten singles, including the crossover hits, "Bad Girls" and the rock-tinged "Hot Stuff" and the R&B-inflected "Dim All the Lights", the former two becoming Summer's second and third number-one hits in a row. It eventually peaked at number-one on the Billboard 200 and sold over three million copies in the United States alone. Later on, in 1979, Summer released her first hits compilation, the double-set, On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II, which like her previous two albums, went straight to number-one on the Billboard 200, also reaching platinum. With this feat, Summer became the first recording artist to have three double albums reach number-one and was one of the few solo artists to score more than three consecutive number-one albums in a row. Also in 1979, she scored her third number-one single of that year with the release of "No More Tears (Enough is Enough)", a duet with Barbra Streisand. In early 1980, she scored a top ten single with "On the Radio", which was originally released off the soundtrack to the movie, Foxes.

By 1980, Summer was growing tired of her label's control of her career and started to have talks with other labels after Casablanca refused to work on material she had composed that was based on themes based on religion and her performing other forms of music including new wave and rock, elements that Summer initially had began to incorporate during the production of Bad Girls. That year, she signed with Geffen Records and released The Wanderer, which became a success. The move out of Casablanca led to two years of litigation, ending in 1982. To settle issues between Summer and her former label, the singer agreed to do one final album for PolyGram Records. A few weeks after the lawsuit was settled, Neil Bogart passed away from cancer.

Struggles with Geffen, She Works Hard for the Money and final chart success: 1982-1991

Following the success of The Wanderer, Summer and her producers presented Geffen with I'm a Rainbow, which was rejected by Geffen. Forced to work with other producers, Summer eventually settled on Quincy Jones. Production for the singer's self titled album, released in 1982, was troubling. Though the album eventually went gold and spawned the top ten hit, "Love Is in Control (Finger on the Trigger)", Summer never again worked with Jones.

In 1983, she released the Mercury-distributed record, She Works Hard for the Money, which was her final album under her PolyGram contact as a means to end her contract obligations to the label after it had purchased Summer's former label Casablanca Records following Bogart's death. The title track became a smash upon its release, reaching the top ten in several countries. In contrast, her 1984 follow-up, a release on Geffen titled Cats Without Claws, wasn't as successful despite the presence of singles such as "Supernatural Love" and "There Goes My Baby", a pop-rock cover of The Drifters' classic.

Following the release of the album, Summer's relationship with the Geffen label deteriorated. Summer took time off from the road to raise her three daughters eventually returning with her final Geffen release, All Systems Go, which featured the minor international hit, the Brenda Russell composed, "Dinner with Gershwin". In 1989, Summer left Geffen and signed with Atlantic Records who agreed to release her next album, the Stock Aitken Waterman-helmed Another Place and Time, which yielded Summer's biggest hit in several years with "This Time I Know It's for Real", which became Summer's fourteenth and final top ten hit on the Hot 100 and was also one of her final UK top ten singles as well. After the 1991 follow-up, Mistaken Identity, which attempts at bringing Summer to an audience now embracing edgier musical styles including new jack swing and hip-hop, bombed, Summer left Atlantic and began recording sporadically while touring more often.

Later recordings: 1991-2010

In 1992, Summer reunited with Giorgio Moroder for the first time since 1981 releasing the single, "Carry On", featured on Moroder's Forever Dancing album. A remix of the single will later result in Summer winning her fifth Grammy Award in the dance category. In 1994, Summer released her first holiday album with Christmas Spirit, released on Mercury. That same year, she and Moroder co-wrote and produced the international hit, "Melody of Love (Wanna Be Loved)", which hit number twenty one on the UK charts. The following year, a remixed version of "I Feel Love" peaked at number nine on the UK charts.

In 1997, Summer signed with Epic Records and two years later came out with the Live & More Encore album, nearly 20 years after the original Live and More album was released. The album became a success as did a television special on VH-1 featuring Summer performing a live concert in support of the project, which included the dance hit, "I Will Go with You (Con te partirò)", which became a minor international comeback hit for Summer reaching number 79 on the US Hot 100, her first Hot 100 single of such since 1991's "When Love Cries", which had peaked at number 77.

Between 2000 and 2006, Summer continued to score hit singles on Billboard's Hot Dance Club Songs chart scoring five top 40 hits on that chart including the top ten singles "The Power of One" and "You're So Beautiful". In 2007, she signed with Burgundy Records and a year later came out with her first studio album in seventeen years with Crayons, which saw success in particular with three number-one singles on the dance chart, "I'm a Fire", "Stamp Your Feet" and "Fame (The Game)". In 2010, she reached her sixteenth number-one hit on the dance charts with "To Paris with Love". She is currently working on two albums including a covers project.[4]

Personal life

Summer was one of seven children born and raised in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood, living in a three-family complex house in the bottom floor of the complex. Following her move to Austria in 1971, she met and fell in love with actor Helmuth Sommer while the two were acting in Godspell. In 1973, the couple married and that year Summer welcomed the birth of her first child, daughter Mimi Sommer. Summer's first marriage crumbled and by 1975, they had formally divorced with Summer taking her husband's last name and altering it as a stage name.

In 1978, while working on the hit track, "Heaven Knows" which featured the group Brooklyn Dreams in the background (member Joe "Bean" Esposito was the male lead in the song), she met fellow member Bruce Sudano. Within a few months, Summer and Sudano became an item. The couple married on July 16, 1980. A year later, Summer welcomed her second daughter and first child with Sudano, Brooklyn (named after Sudano's group). A year after that, Summer and Sudano welcomed their second and youngest child, Amanda.

Summer has often talked about her early successful years as a period of confusion and anxiety. By mid-1977, struggling with the media's titles of her as the first lady of love, she began suffering from depression and started having anxiety attacks. During this time, she self-medicated on prescription medication resulting in an addiction. Following a nervous breakdown at her home in 1979, Summer went to a local church attended with her sister Mary Ellen and declared herself born again. Summer then decided that from then on, the song that had won her international fame and recognition, "Love to Love You Baby", would no longer be performed. Nearly 26 years later, however, Summer began performing the song live again to the delight of fans.

In 1994, Summer and her family moved from Los Angeles to Nashville where Summer took time out from show business and focus on painting, a hobby she began taking after an initial break from the road in 1985. In 1995, Summer's mother died. Today, Summer still lives in Nashville with her husband and is a grandmother of three.

Awards and accolades

For more info, see List of awards and nominations received by Donna Summer.

Cover versions of Donna Summer songs

For more info, see List of cover versions of Donna Summer songs.


See also


  1. ^ allmusic ((( Donna Summer > Biography )))
  2. ^ 'Nightline' Playlist: Donna Summer – ABC News. (2008-06-13). Retrieved on 2011-02-22.
  3. ^ Donna Summer Tickets – Queen Of Disco. (1948-12-31). Retrieved on 2011-02-22.
  4. ^ "Donna Summer Exclusive Interview: Bringing her Summer tour to Hard Rock Live" (29 July 2010). Retrieved 25 August 2010.

External links

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