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Donna Summer Biography

Home > Music > S > Summer, Donna > Biography

Birth Name: LaDonna Adrian Gaines
Born: 1948/12/31
Birth Place: Dorchester, Massachusetts, USA
Years Active: 1968 – present
Genres: Pop, Dance, Disco, R&B, Rock, New Wave

Donna Summer (born LaDonna Adrian Gaines, December 31, 1948 – May 17, 2012) was an American singer/songwriter who gained prominence and notoriety during the disco era of the 1970s, earning the title “The Queen of Disco.” Summer was the first artist to have three consecutive double albums reach #1 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart and she had four #1 singles within a 13-month period. She was a five time Grammy winner and has sold over 130 million records to date.

Summer released her first single, a cover of “Sally Go 'Round the Roses,” in Europe in 1971 on MCA Records and was credited with her maiden name Donna Gaines. She made a deal with the European label Groovy Records and issued her first album, “Lady of the Night,” in 1974.

Her single “Love to Love You Baby” was released in November 1975. By early 1976, the song had reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart. After several more modest singles and subsequent albums, including the 1976 concept albums “Love Trilogy” and “Four Seasons of Love,” which also went gold, Summer was deemed in the press as “The First Lady of Love.” Her single “Love's Unkind” reached #3 in the U.K. during 1977.

In 1977, Summer released another concept album, “I Remember Yesterday.” This album included her second Top 10 single, “I Feel Love,” which reached #6 in America and #1 in the U.K. In 1978, Summer released a disco version of the Richard Harris ballad, “MacArthur Park,” which became her first #1 U.S. hit. The song was featured on Summer's first live album, “Live and More,” which also became her first album to hit #1 on the Billboard 200 chart, and went platinum selling over one million copies.

“Last Dance,” written by Paul Jabara for the “Thank God It's Friday” soundtrack in 1978, reached the Top 3 in the U.S. and resulted in the singer winning her first Grammy Award while Jabara won an Academy Award for its composition. Summer based the 1979 concept of the album “Bad Girls” on a prostitute, as was made clear in the lyrics. The album became a success, spawning the #1 hits “Hot Stuff” and “Bad Girls.” With the Barbra Streisand duet “No More Tears (Enough is Enough),” Summer achieved four #1 hits in a single year. “Hot Stuff” later won her a second Grammy in the Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, which was the first time the category was brought to the awards show.

Summer's first release on Geffen Records was 1980’s “The Wanderer;” it replaced the disco sound of Summer's previous releases with more of the burgeoning new wave sound and elements of rock, such as the material being recorded at this time by Pat Benatar. The title track was another Top 3 gold hit and the album also went gold.

Summer was required to deliver one more album to Casablanca/PolyGram to fulfill her agreement with them as a part of a settlement deal. The label released the song and its accompanying album “She Works Hard For The Money” in 1983. The title track became a hit reaching #3 on the Billboard Pop chart that year. In 1987, Summer returned with “All Systems Go,” which did not sell well, despite the modest success of the Brenda Russell composition, “Dinner with Gershwin.”

In 1989, Summer released the album “Another Place and Time” on Atlantic Records. Summer had a Top 10 pop hit with “This Time I Know It's For Real,” which became her 14 and final gold hit to register on the Billboard Hot 100, it was also a #3 chart hit in the U.K., her highest placed single there since “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)” ten years earlier.

In 1991, she released the new jack swing-driven “Mistaken Identity,” which did not sell well following its release. It did feature the #18 R&B hit, “When Love Cries.” In 1994, Summer released a gospel-influenced Christmas album titled “Christmas Spirit.” While no longer scoring hits on the pop chart, some of Summer's dance-heavy releases including “Carry On” and “Melody of Love (Wanna Be Loved)” charted on the Dance chart, with “Melody of Love” reaching #1 on that chart.

In 2008, Summer released her first studio album of original music in 17 years with “Crayons,” which brought her modest chart success internationally upon its release on the Sony BMG imprint, Burgundy Records. The songs “I'm A Fire,” “Stamp Your Feet” and “Fame (The Game)” reached #1 on the Billboard Dance chart. The ballad “Sand on My Feet” was released to adult contemporary stations and reached #30. The album entered the Billboard Top 20 at #17.

In August 2010, Summer released the single “To Paris With Love,” co-written with songwriter Bruce Roberts and produced by Peter Stengaard. In October 2010, “To Paris With Love” reached #1 on the Billboard dance chart.

On May 17, 2012, Summer died due to complications from lung cancer.