The great Queen of Disco music, Donna Summer, passed away today in Florida at the age of 63 after a battle with lung cancer. TMZ was the first to report the news, which was later confirmed by Summer’s family.
Regardless of one’s opinion of her music, her style, or what one thinks of disco music in general, there is no denying that in her passing, comes an end of an era, an era which started in the post-Watergate 1970s, of fun escapism, of having a good times without pretenses, an era which continues to this day with the type of music where one doesn’t have to think about or absorb its tenets, and just simply allows oneself to have a enjoyable excursion with it.
The canon of Summer’s music ran far and wide on the music charts; from the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s, she was a dominant force, a forerunner and pioneer in the disco scene, rising right to the top in a world that Classic Rock and early Punk music had a firm grip on in the cultural fabric. She embraced sexuality in music, celebrated it, told others it was okay to be loose, to “get down,” that music and sexuality could exist together. Her lengthy “Love to Love you Baby” was almost a primer for sexuality, and millions around the country swayed and grooved to those inner grooves. Her hits are like a virtual primer for Disco music; “Last Dance” (which was in the film she starred in as an actress “Thank God It’s Friday” and won an Academy Award for Best Song), “Heaven Knows,” “Bad Girls,” “Hot Stuff,” “On the Radio,” “She Works Hard for the Money,” and many others, made Summer as big a force in music as anyone else in any genre.
Her career stilted a bit as the 1980s wore on and antiquated many of her generation, but she was always a big concert draw as the years went on, as folks everywhere still loved every bit of her musical fabric. An entire generation of people that I was a part of grew up with her, disco parties and block parties everywhere blared her music to everyone who would listen and dance, a communal tribe of people who didn’t take music seriously and wasn’t supposed to either.
She is survived by her adult daughters Mimi (by her first husband, actor Helmuth Sommer), Brooklyn and Amanda (by second husband Bruce Sudano).
Rest in Peace Donna Summer, you will not be forgotten. You never WERE forgotten. You represented a guilty pleasure, you transcended “guilty pleasure,” you made it real fun to enjoy and live and breathe music in all its organic glory, because when all is said and done, that’s what music is really for and supposed to do.
Donna Summer – RIP
December 31, 1948 – May 17, 2012