The Queen of Disco Donna Summer died on Thursday (May 17th) of lung cancer. She was 63 years old. According to TMZ.com, Donna’s family said in a statement, “Early 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 can’t express how much we appreciate your prayers and love for our family at this sensitive time.”
She was reportedly in Florida at the time of her death. Sources say that the singer was trying to keep the extent of her illness quiet. The source added that she was actually focused on completing a new album and was in good spirits.
Donna’s longtime attorney Gerry Rosenblatt said that the disco icon didn’t let people know how sick she was. He told RadarOnline.com, “Donna was a very private person, and I suspected there was an issue because she had turned down very lucrative work over the past year, but she never talked to me about being sick and it was never confirmed. She turned down all the interviews and all scheduled work. You knew that something was up and I suspected a serious illness.”
He continued, “I am very shaken up, I have been her attorney since 1980, and I know her whole family. This is not a good day. “
Donna became a superstar in the 1970′s with hits like “Last Dance,” “Hot Stuff” and “Bad Girls” and “Love To Love You Baby”. Throughout the 80′s, the five time Grammy winner also had huge hits like “She Works Hard for the Money” and “This Time I Know It’s for Real.”
Donna leaves behind her husband of 31 years, Bruce Sudano and three daughters, Mimi Sommer, Brooklyn Sudano and Amanda Sudano.
LaDonna Adrian Gaines was born on December 31, 1941 in Boston, Massachusetts. She was a groundbreaking artist who merged the sounds of R&B, pop, funk, rock, disco and electronica. As a young girl, Donna sang in church choirs and city-wide choruses. By her early twenties, she launched her music career on stage in Munich, Germany, in productions of Hair and Porgy & Bess. While in Germany, she hooked up with producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellote who produced her first single “Hostage,” which became a hit in The Netherlands, France and Belgium.
In 1972, she married Austrian actor Helmuth Sommer and gave birth to their daughter Mimi Sommer in 1973. The two divorced after she had an alleged affair but she kept his last name, but changed it to Summer.
In 1975, Moroder and Bellotte produced “Love To Love You Baby” — which rose to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. She also released hits like “MacArthur Park,” “Bad Girls,” “Hot Stuff,” “Dim All The Lights,” “On The Radio” and Enough Is Enough” as well as the Grammy and Academy award winning theme song “Last Dance” from the Thank God It’s Friday film.
By 1977, the pressures of fame and past mistakes had begun to take a toll on her. Donna had began suffering from depression and anxiety attacks and had attempted suicide several times. She was also addicted to prescription medicine. Following a nervous breakdown in 1979, Summer became a born again Christian.
On her suicide attempt, she once reportedly said, “It sorta snuck up on me, and I think it because I had my daughter, and during that period, my marriage broke up, and I was alone, and I was staying up at night, and I would go out and work and then, I would be getting 2 to 3 hours a sleep a day. It was scary, and so I couldn’t deal another minute of it, and I was on my way out the window . . .”
She continued, “I was sticking my foot out, I was shifting my weight, and I got caught in a curtain and the maid opened the door, exactly that time . . . and I thought, ‘Oh, my God!,’ It really kind of shook me, it woke me up and then I let her in, and I got on the phone, and I think I called somebody said, ‘I need help,’ and thank God that lady came, because I’d be gone today.”
In 1980, Donna became the first artist to sign to David Geffen’s new label Geffen Records. She released three albums on the label, The Wanderer, 1982′s Donna Summer and She Works Hard for the Money. She went on to collaborate with writers and producers like Quincy Jones, Michael Omartian, and England’s dance-pop production compound Stock Aitken Waterman and produced hits like “State of Independence,” featuring Michael Jackson on backing vocals, and “She Works Hard For The Money,” one of the most-played songs of all-time, and “This Time I Know It’s For Real.”
By the mid 1980′s Donna Summer was embroiled in controversy. She allegedly made anti-gay comments regarding the-then relatively new disease AIDS. Her comments had a negative impact on her career and saw thousands of her records being returned to her record company by angry fans. Donna allegedly said that AIDS was a punishment from God for the immoral lifestyles of homosexual. She later apologized and denied making the comments.
She went on the release the albums Cats Without Claws (1984), All Systems Go (1987), Another Place And Time (1989). In the 90′s she released albums such as Mistaken Identity, The Donna Summer Anthology, Christmas Spirit, and Endless Summer: Greatest Hits — which spawned the #1 hit, “Melody of Love”, and Live & More Encore. She continued to tour to sold out audiences worldwide and also made guest appearances on the hit TV sitcom Family Matters.
In 1999, Sony/Epic Records released VH1 Presents Donna Summer: Live & More – Encore! an album and DVD of Donna’s acclaimed VH1 broadcast taped at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom. The show premiered on VH1 as one of the network’s highest rated shows to date and featured live performances of Summer’s top hits.
In 2003, she released The Journey: The Very Best of Donna Summer. She also released her autobiography Ordinary Girl.
In 2008, celebrating four decades of milestones, Donna Summer released a new album in 17 years entitled Crayons. The album debuted at #17 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart making it Summer’s highest debuting album ever. It also debuted at #5 on the Billboard R&B chart. “
The five-time Grammy winner was the first female artist to have back-to-back multiplatinum double albums and the first female artist to incorporate synthesizers as well as the first artist to create and extended play song. She was also first female to have four #1 singles in a 12 month period; 3 as a solo artist and one as a duo with Barbra Streisand.
Donna Summer was the first artist to win the Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female (1979, “Hot Stuff”) as well as the first-ever recipient of the Grammy for Best Dance Recording (1997, “Carry On”).
In 2004, she became one of the first inductees, as both an Artist Inductee and a Record Inductee (for 1977′s “I Feel Love”) into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in New York City.
Donna Summer earned five Grammy Awards, six American Music Awards, three consecutive #1 platinum double albums (she’s the only artist, male or female, ever to accomplish this), 11 gold albums, four #1 singles, 2 platinum singles, and 12 gold singles.
Donna was also the first female artist to have a #1 single and #1 album on the Billboard charts simultaneously (“Live & More;” “MacArthur Park” 1978) a feat she also repeated six months later (“Bad Girls” & “Hot Stuff” in 1979). She charted 22 #1 hits on the Billboard Disco/Dance charts, over a period of 25 years a milestone solidifying her as The Queen of Dance.
In addition to her recording and performing career, Summer was an accomplished visual artist whose work had been shown at exhibitions worldwide. Since 1989, she had sold over 1.2 million dollars in original art – with her highest piece going for $150,000.
Donna has sold more than 130 million records worldwide.
She was ranked at #24 in Billboard Magazine’s 50th anniversary issue featuring Hot 100 Artists of All Time.
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