Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1083

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Donna Summer Dies Of Cancer At 63

Donna Summer R.I.P. @bluesandsoul.com
Donna Summer R.I.P. @bluesandsoul.com Donna Summer R.I.P. @bluesandsoul.com Donna Summer R.I.P. @bluesandsoul.com Donna Summer R.I.P. @bluesandsoul.com

Disco diva Donna Summer has died of cancer. It is believed she had lung cancer, and reports claim she had told friends and family she thought it was as a result of inhaling toxic fumes from the 9/11 disaster in New York. She was 63.

The Associated Press reports that she died at her home in Key West, Florida on Thursday morning (17th May.) Her family issued a statement shortly after her passing, stating they were âat peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy."

âEarly this morning, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith. While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy. Words truly canât express how much we appreciate your prayers and love for our family at this sensitive timeâ â The Sudano Family.

Donna Summer graced the cover of Blues and Soul, the world's oldest black music magazine, circa 1977 - the biggest-selling issue ever in our 46-year history.

Legendary bassist Nathan East had worked with Donna many times, and quite recently. He spoke exclusively to Blues & Soul about her death.

He told me: "This is very sad news ... having worked with Donna Summer a lot over the years, her gift was real and she will be remembered for her wonderful voice and great talent. We recently did David Foster's 'Hit Man Returns' DVD and she sang great."

"Having just seen her, she never once eluded to the fact that she was fighting lung cancer. I will truly miss Donna and my heart and prayers go out to her family at this time. God has called another one of His Angels home to Heaven."

Tommy Davidson, who toured with Donna Summer early in his career, said: "Donna Summer used disco to bring the most unlikely people together -- blacks, whites & everyone in between. Donna was a role model, the consummate professional. Her guidance and inspiration will forever help me reach new heights as a performer. I cherish the days I toured with her. Love to love you, baby...truly. RIP."

She had apparently kept the seriousness of her illness quiet, and was said to be focused on trying to finish up an album she had been working on.

Donna was born LaDonna Adrian Gaines on New Year's Eve 1948 in Boston, Massachusetts. She was one of seven children raised by Christian parents, and she sang in the church's gospel choir. She sang in Motown-inspired girl groups by her mid-teens. She then joined rock group, The Crow, citing Janis Joplin as her influence.
She failed to land the part of Sheila in musical Hair, but was eventually offered the part for a European tour. She moved to Germany, settling in Munich, where she starred in a number of musicals, and taking on session work.

In 1972, she married Austrian actor Helmuth Sommer, slightly altering his surname for her stage name. She had daughter Mimi by Helmut the following year. Summer married Brooklyn Dreams singer Bruce Sudano in 1980. They had two daughters together. She leaves her husband Bruce, three daughters Brooklyn, Amanda, Mimi and four grandchildren.

As a backing singer doing sessions with US mega band Three Dog Night, she met producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. She gave Moroder the "love to love you baby" lyric which he turned in to her first huge disco hit. "Love To Love You Baby" peaked at number two in the States.

She had a mezzo-soprano vocal range and in 1979, she was the first artist to have three consecutive double-albums reach number one on the US Billboard chart, and she also charted four number-one singles in the United States within a 13-month period. (the first female artist in history to have three US number one singles in the same year - "MacArthur Park," "Bad Girls," and "Hot Stuff.") âLast Danceâ was a smash for her too.

She was a 5-time Grammy winner, and in the '80s had hits with "She Works Hard For The Money" and "This Time I Know It's For Real." Summer then changed her sound towards rock and R&B. 1984's âCats Without Clawsâ was her first record to miss out on gold. Then 1987's âAll Systems Go,â didnât do too well. She worked with Stock, Aitken and Waterman to produce her next album, 1989's âAnother Place and Time.â Geffen refused to release it. In Europe it spawned the top five single âThis Time I Know It's For Real.â She moved into new jack swing in the 1990s, without the big success she had with disco in the 70s.

Her first studio album of original material for 17 years, was released in 2008. âCrayonsâ contained three number ones on the US Billboard Dance Chart â I'm A Fire,â âStamp Your Feet,â and âFame (The Game).â She was said to be working on a new album when she died.

A spokesman for The Recording Academy said: âFive-time Grammy winner Donna Summer had a dynamic voice, and unique musical style that helped define the dance music genre in the â70s. She also was an artist who crossed many musical genres, as evidenced by her Grammy wins in the R&B, rock, inspirational and dance categories. Her talent was a true gift to the music industry, and our thoughts and sympathies are with her family, friends and fans throughout the world during this difficult time.â

Summer battled depression and anxiety attacks, and had dependency on prescription drugs for several years. In her auto-biography, âOrdinary Girl: The Journey,â that revealed several suicide attempts and a nervous breakdown.

Chic legend Nile Rodgers said: "I'm performing at Montreux Jazz on July 13, this year. My big wish was to have Donna Summer sharing that stage with me, and many great artists whom I personally feel connect the dots to modern dance music."

"Yesterday's news of her passing has devastated me. I've wanted to work with her ever since I heard that magical voice. We've only gotten a chance to work together once, though not for lack of trying."

Nile worked with Donna in 2000, and speaks of a video of that event, he now has posted on his website" ".....you can see and feel the sheer joy and professionalism of Donna Summer working with CHIC."

"I was the Music Director of a VH1 Diana Ross Divas special. Whatever I say today feels wrong, but what we both said that night was so right. I respect you Donna. I miss you Donna. And most of all, I Love You Donna!"

Speaking to Blues & Soul, UK soul star Ruby Turner paid her tribute to the late Ms Summer: "Very sad to hear the news. We can all say we laughed, sang and danced to this musical icon,. Donna Sumner. Life is throwing some tough things we just have to face. Heaven help us all. God bless her and comfort her family "

Celebrity fans were quick to voice their upset on Twitter:

Alexandra Burke @alexandramusic: "Just heard about Donna Summer.. I'm speechless. Heartbroken. She inspired me so much&my new album.. May her soul be in peace.. Gone2soon x"

La Toya Jackson â@latoyajackson
My condolence to #Donna Summer's family & love ones. She will be terribly missed. She was truly the #Disco Queen!
Timbaland â@Timbaland
this cant be tru. i cant believe this RIP Donna Summer. at a lost 4words

Questo of The Roots â@questlove
Donna Summer. Man I can't believe this--- like "My Baby Understands" was on my workout playlist this morning! This MORNING! God...I just...
Gloria Estefan @GloriaEstefan
Few singers have impacted music & the world like Donna Summer! It's the end of an era. Peace & prayers 2 all who loved her. I will miss her!

Nick Rhodes of Duran DuranL âI just heard the very sad news that Donna Summer has passed away. For me, there is no doubt that her song âI Feel Loveâ had a dramatic effect on modern music. It was certainly a key influence on my work with Duran Duran. Together with producer Giorgio Moroder, Donna pioneered the use of electronic sequencers in dance music. Today that sound that seems so familiar, but in 1977, it was a brave new frontier. Itâs extremely rare that you hear one song that completely changes the way you perceive music. âI Feel Loveâ achieved that.

@Piersmorgan:" RIP #DonnaSummer - dined with her a few months ago, and she sang Amazing Grace to guests with stunning power. Great lady, wonderful talent."

Boyz II Men @BoyzIIMen: It's unfortunate that we have to say goodbye to another amazing talent. Donna Summer, Queen of Disco, our condolences to her family!
Words SIMON REDLEY

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