Donna Summer, Disco Queen, Loses Cancer Battle at 63
The first African-American woman to ever be nominated for a VMA has died
Disco goddess Donna Summer died this morning following a relatively quiet battle with lung cancer, TMZ is reporting. She was 63. Though she lived in Nashville, Summer was reportedly in Florida at the time of her death. She was said to have been working on a follow-up to her 18th studio effort, 2008’s Crayons.
Summer’s family has issued a statement confirming her passing that says they are “are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continuing legacy.”
Known best for her ’70s hits like “Last Dance” and “Bad Girls,” the five-time Grammy award winner (and 17-time nominee) has influenced and been sampled by scores of dance and pop artists. Bits of her Giorgio Moroder-produced “I Feel Love,” which was inducted with her into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in 2004, have shown up in songs by everyone from Madonna to David Guetta to the late Whitney Houston, while others like John Frusciante, Blondie, and Kylie Minogue have straight-up covered it live. In 1984, Summer became the first African-American woman ever to be nominated for an MTV VMA, when she received nods for Best Female Video and Best Choreography for the title track off her 1983 album She Works Hard for the Money. Watch her perform that song at the 1984 Grammy Awards below.
Summer was born LaDonna Andre Gaines and got her start singing gospel music in Boston churches. After a brief stint in New York following high school, she moved to Europe, where she married German married Helmut Sommer and performed onstage and as a studio singer. While working a Three Dog Night record, she met Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, the producer-songwriter team that would shape her most acclaimed ’70s output. Her first studio album, 1974’s Lady of the Night, was followed by Love to Love You Baby the following year, whose title track hit No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Her spectral 1977 disco epic “I Feel Love” became her second Top 10 smash, but her biggest sales came with 1979’s double album Bad Girls, featuring “Hot Stuff” and “Dim All the Lights.”
She scored her first Grammy win in 1978 for “Last Dance,”; her most recent victory was a 1997 Best Dance Recording trophy for “Carry On.” Though she received nominations for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame numerous times, she was never selected to join the Cleveland institution. Her name most recently appeared on the ballot for the class of 2012.