News / Arts & Entertainment

Last Dance for Queen of Disco; Donna Summer Succumbs to Cancer

Donna Summer performs at the conclusion of the Nobel Peace concert in OsloDonna Summer performs at the conclusion of the Nobel Peace concert in Oslo
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Donna Summer performs at the conclusion of the Nobel Peace concert in Oslo
Donna Summer performs at the conclusion of the Nobel Peace concert in Oslo
She was known as the Queen of Disco and, for many, her iconic songs came to represent the best of the 1970s Disco era.  Donna Summer died Thursday after a quiet battle with cancer.

Donna Summer was "Hot Stuff" for multiple generations of music fans - her hit songs resonating with music lovers long after they topped the music charts.

But as hot as she was, she said for a long time she was never really comfortable with her celebrity.

"Whenever success comes it is a stranger," said Donna Summer. "When it knocks, it is something you hope for, but the form it takes on when it comes, and sometimes the moment it comes in, is so odd and so obscure."

Born Donna Gaines on December 31, 1948 in Boston, Massachusetts to a religious family, the five-time Grammy Award winner got her start singing in her church choir.

By the time she reached high school, she was starring in school productions and just weeks before her graduation, she was cast in a production of the musical "Hair" - a role that took her to Germany.

She stayed in Germany - and in 1974, she recorded her first solo album, "Lady of the Night."  The album was a hit in Europe, but failed to crack the charts in the U.S.

Her luck changed the following year, when a recording she did of the song "Love to Love You Baby," caught the ears of record company executives and started rising on U.S charts.

Summer returned to America and continued to gain fans, in 1979 becoming the first female singer to score three number-one songs in a single year.

Summer kept recording even as the popularity of Disco began to fade, scoring another big hit in 1983 with "She Works Hard for the Money."

And while she no longer ruled the pop music charts, Summer kept singing and performing to the delight of fans.

Summer died early Thursday in Florida, where she had been living with her husband, singer and songwriter Bruce Sudano.

A statement from her family says they "are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy.''
 
Donna Summer, the Queen of Disco, dead at the age of 63.


Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is national security correspondent. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

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