The recently deceased Whitney Houston had a big voice; Donna Summer had a big voice, and helped shape the music of the 1970s.
I was never into soul or any kind of “black” music; the first album I bought as a teenager was by Elton John; after that it was heavy metal and singer-songwriters all the way, but I always liked Donna Summer. Although she co-wrote many of her tracks, including Winter Melody, my personal favourite, she was considered first and foremost a singer, but she was a lot more than that.
The 1970s were exciting times for music on both sides of the Atlantic; rock 'n' roll had defined the 50s, including the enormous influence of Chuck Berry; in the 60s, the Beatles who included George Harrison and the mega-talented Paul McCartney had led the British invasion of the US; and the 70s saw masses of bands and singer-songwriters - some from the 60s - in Britain, the US and elsewhere emerging in these genres and indeed creating new genres of their own. One of these was disco, that couldn't really be said to have existed in the 60s, and Donna Summer was in the forefront of this new sound. The fact that she moved to Germany made her more accessible to the European market, including the UK.
LaDonna Adrian Gaines was born in 1948, and like Whitney Houston after her, began her singing career in church.
Like so many people in this field, her overnight success was preceded by years of hard work and uncertainty, but in 1975 she came up with Love To Love You Baby, and she had arrived. The fact that the song was banned by the BBC probably helped rather than hindered her career. From then on, she never looked back, and she produced a steady stream of new material right up until the early 1990s. She collaborated extensively with producer Giorgio Moroder.
At the time of writing, her official website has not been updated; an excellent tribute site can be found here; this includes a list of both her musical and non-musical achievements.
Like so many people in the entertainment business, her personal life was not entirely happy, but her musical legacy speaks for itself.
Because she died at a reasonably advanced age, and from cancer, there will hopefully be none of the nonsense that surrounded the death of the tragic Whitney Houston.
Currently the man from SongFacts has only 16 Donna Summer recordings in his database, but doubtless more will be added in due course.
Donna Summer, singer-songwriter, actress: born Boston, Massachusetts, December 31, 1948; died Key West, Florida, May 17, 2012.
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