“Early this morning, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith,” reads a statement from the singer’s family. “While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy. Words truly can’t express how much we appreciate your prayers and love for our family at this sensitive time.”
Summer was a five-time Grammy winner best known for smash hits including “I Feel Love,” “Love to Love You Baby” and “She Works Hard for the Money.” Her collaborations with producer Giorgio Moroder in the the Seventies broke ground for dance music and have been hugely influential on electronic music in the decades since.
Born and raised in Boston, Summer grew up singing in church before joining a short-lived psychedelic rock band. After winning a role in a touring production of Hair, she moved to Germany, where she would meet Moroder. Their collaboration on the suggestive “Love to Love You Baby,” which Summer sang with Marilyn Monroe’s breathy singing style in mind, became a huge dancefloor hit after Casablanca Records’ Neil Bogart requested a long version of the song – 17 minutes.
Summer went on to major success during the disco era, scoring Number One pop singles with “Hot Stuff,” “Bad Girls” and an unlikely version of Jimmy Webb’s “MacArthur Park.” In 2004 Summer was elected to the Dance Music Hall of Fame, and in 2009 she performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in honor of President Obama.
Asked upon the release of her 2008 album Crayons whether she felt vindicated by her longevity, Summer replied, “I don’t think they made fun of my music as much as they made fun of some of the music that maybe came as a result of that whole genre. But I do think in the course of time it is nice to reestablish something and to say, ‘Okay, this stood the test of time. . . ‘ I have nothing to prove to anyone. I just get out there and do my best, and those who love it, great. And those who don’t, they’ll move on to something else.”
Additional reporting by Steve Baltin