Mourning Disco's Glittering Star
In an era of forgettable one-hit wonders, Donna Summer will always be the genre's one true icon.
In addition to ushering in the rhythmic revolution, the track also inspired numerous artists, including Diana Ross with her equally wonderful "Love Hangover." Years later, Beyoncé sampled the song for her 2003 single "Naughty Girl."
With a career that spanned more than 30 years, Donna Summer went on to have hits that included the Oscar-winning "Last Dance" (1977), "MacArthur Park" (1978), "Bad Girls" (1979) and "She Works Hard for the Money" (1982). Mary J. Blige called Summer "a game changer," while singer Gloria Estefan tweeted: "Few singers have impacted music & the world like Donna Summer! It's the end of an era."
At the height of Summer's fame, the singer was considered by many in the gay community to be an icon on a par with Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe. Yet when she became a born-again Christian in the late 1980s, a smear campaign circulated the rumor that she had said that AIDS was God's revenge against homosexuals for their hedonistic lifestyle.
Although Summer always maintained that she never made such statements, her album and concert sales suffered. Her last disc, Crayons, was released in 2008. This year Summer was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but was passed over for induction.
After news of her death Thursday at age 63, Grammy-winning performer and gay activist Elton John recalled her profound artistry. "Her records sound as good today as they ever did. That she has never been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a total disgrace, especially when I see the second-rate talent that has been inducted," he said. "She is a great friend to me and to the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and I will miss her greatly."
Meanwhile, this from RuPaul: "Donna Summer, your last dance will remain in our hearts forever."
Michael A. Gonzales is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based pop journalist who also writes for Wax Poetics, Juicy and One Robot.