Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ Honored by Library of Congress

Donna Summer (Ethan Miller/Getty) / Prince (Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty)

For a lot of people, disco never died. For others, it came back to life in the past 15 years, as James Murphy’s DFA label and production team, Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton’s essential history Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, and the rediscovery of eclectic dance savant Arthur Russell combined to help free the pioneering sounds of long-shuttered New York City spaces like the Loft and the Paradise Garage from Comiskey-demolition backlash. And yet when Donna Summer, the queen of disco, died last week at age 63 after suffering from cancer, some obituaries failed to mention perhaps her most influential hit: 1977’s “I Feel Love.”

The record is about to be set straight. The Library of Congress has announced it has chosen “I Feel Love” and several other classics for induction into its National Recording Registry. Other recordings being honored include Sugarhill Gang’s 1979 “Rapper’s Delight,” Prince and the Revolution’s 1984 Purple Rain soundtrack, Parliament’s 1975 Mothership Connection, Vince Guaraldi Trio’s 1970 A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, Dolly Parton’s autobiographical 1971 “Coat of Many Colors,” Love’s 1967 Forever Changes, Booker T. & the M.G.’s 1962 “Green Onions,” and the Grateful Dead’s 1977 show at Cornell University’s Barton Hall (which you don’t have to be a Deadhead to love, for what it’s worth). Two Bo Diddley songs also made the cut, along with various pre-rock recordings.

With its completely synthetic backing, “I Feel Love” paved the way for house, techno, and the electronic pop currently dominating the charts. Producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Beloitte used four cabinets of Moog synthesizers to achieve the instrumental arrangement, at a time when using a synth was, compared with today’s software-based environments, almost a live performance. The Library of Congress points out that Brian Eno once said the track would “change the sound of club music for the next 15 years.” He might have been understating things.

As you can see from the names above, Summer’s smash has some illustrious competition in the latest round of National Recording Registry inductees, from the hit that helped popularize rap to a classic Stax soul instrumental. Check out the full list below, in chronological order, after a clip of Patrick Cowley’s 15-minute “I Feel Love” remix, and find out more about the Registry’s new additions at the Library of Congress’ website.

Donna Summer, RIP: Hear Her Legacy in 15 Tracks

1. Edison Talking Doll cylinder (1888)
2. “Come Down Ma Evenin’ Star,” Lillian Russell (1912)
3. “Ten Cents a Dance,” Ruth Etting (1930)
4. “Voices from the Days of Slavery,” Various speakers (1932-1941 interviews; 2002 compilation)
5. “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” Patsy Montana (1935)
6. “Fascinating Rhythm,” Sol Hoopii and his Novelty Five (1938)
7. “Artistry in Rhythm,” Stan Kenton & and his Orchestra (1943)
8. Debut performance with the New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein (November 14, 1943)
9. International Sweethearts of Rhythm: Hottest Women’s Band of the 1940s (1944-1946)
10. “The Indians for Indians Hour” (March 25, 1947)
11. “Hula Medley,” Gabby Pahinui (1947)
12. “I Can Hear It Now,” Fred W. Friendly and Edward R. Murrow (1948)
13. “Let’s Go Out to the Programs,” The Dixie Hummingbirds (1953)
14. “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1954, 1958)
15. “Bo Diddley” and “I’m a Man,” Bo Diddley (1955)
16. “Green Onions,” Booker T. & the M.G.’s (1962)
17. “Forever Changes,” Love (1967)
18. “The Continental Harmony: Music of William Billings,” Gregg Smith Singers (1969)
19. “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Vince Guaraldi Trio (1970)
20. “Coat of Many Colors,” Dolly Parton (1971)
21. “Mothership Connection,” Parliament (1975)
22. Barton Hall concert by the Grateful Dead (May 8, 1977)
23. “I Feel Love,” Donna Summer (1977)
24. “Rapper’s Delight,” Sugarhill Gang (1979)
25. “Purple Rain,” Prince and the Revolution (1984)


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