CNN and many others say that the legendary Donna Summers defined the disco moment. Born LaDonna Adrian Grimes, the late Summers is an American singer, songwriter, and painter. Her hits included “Love To Love You Baby” and “I Feel Love”, and she was the first African American woman to have her music video in heavy rotation on MTV. Her hits helped bring disco into the mainstream and took it to a national level.
Summers got her start in a psychedelic rock band named Crow. She toured with the musical Hair and lived in New York City and Europe during her early years in the industry. While in Europe she met music producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. Hits like “Last Dance, MacArthur Park, “heaven knows”, Hot Stuff, “Bad Girls, “Dim All “The Lights”, “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)” (duet with Barbra Streisand), and “On The Radio” were produced. These hits led to even more success and Summers was crowned as the “Queen of Disco”.
Summers had 32 singles on the U.S Billboard Hot 100, and 14 of those reached the top 10. With five grammies under her belt, Summers was a force to be reckoned with in the music industry. Summers passed away from lung cancer on May 17, 2012, but her legacy continues to live on to this day. Her style and voice have influenced many of your favorite artists, like Lady Gaga. Take a moment and listen to “Born This Way” by Gaga and you will hear the disco rhythm and vibe that was birthed by Summers. That joyful, feel good, prideful, rock star essence.
We celebrate Donna Summers during black history month because she broke barriers as an African American woman in music. She was not only just the first but she was consistent in her craft and paved the way for many female musicians of color. Donna Summers was fearless during a time when fear felt like the only option for some African American women.