Donna Summer 'On the Radio' Once Again
Donna Summer 'On the Radio' Once Again

From Sirius XM to her hometown of Boston, radio celebrates the late Queen of Disco

Following her death yesterday (May 17) at 63, radio is remembering legendary disco diva Donna Summer.

Detections of Summer's songs on all monitored U.S. terrestrial radio stations monitored by Nielsen BDS on the day prior to her passing totaled a mere 145. Yesterday, after news of her death began breaking around 11 a.m. ET, plays of her music swelled exponentially to 2,015.

Here is a recap of Summer's 10 most-played songs yesterday, according to BDS:

408, "Last Dance"
290, "She Works Hard for the Money"
289, "Bad Girls"


236, "On the Radio"
233, "Hot Stuff"
117, "Heaven Knows"
109, "Dim All the Lights"
89, "Love to Love You Baby"
86, "MacArthur Park"
64, "I Feel Love"

Satellite broadcaster Sirius XM's '70s on 7 and Studio 54 Radio channels announced Summer's death shortly after the first news reports surfaced yesterday and followed with a live two-and-a-half hour call-in tribute on Studio 54 Radio, hosted by air talent Geronimo.

Since, Studio 54 Radio has been mixing Summer's songs with clips of archived interviews that she gave at Sirius XM. The feature, dubbed "Donna Summer: In Her Own Words," will run hourly through the weekend.

"The outpouring of emotions from callers has been overwhelming," Geronimo says. "Calls came from all over the country and from people who knew (Summer's) music globally. One call came from Tampa, but the caller had first heard her in Germany, where her career started."

In her hometown of Boston, Summer's music has also been spotlighted since her passing, with CBS Radio-owned classic hits WODS (103.3) among one of five stations nationally that played "Last Dance" the most yesterday (five spins). The station devoted its entire 7 p.m. hour last night to Summer's smashes.

"Donna Summer's songs are a huge part of the sound of WODS and Boston," says Joe Cortese, the station's assistant program director/music director. "She is loved in her hometown."

Sundays nights beginning at 7, WODS airs longtime syndicated specialty show "The Lost 45s," hosted by Barry Scott. This weekend, the program, which specializes in bringing back "songs you never thought you'd hear on the radio again," will replay interview clips from Summer's four appearances on the show, as well as such rarities as the original rock-leaning demo of "Bad Girls." (The Casablanca record label wanted Cher to record the song, but Summer declined, instead wanting it as a single of her own, according to Scott. Smart move: "Bad Girls" became the longest-reigning of Summer's four Billboard Hot 100 No. 1s, leading the list for five weeks in 1979.)

"To call Donna Summer the 'Queen of Disco' does her a great disservice," Scott says. "As one of the biggest-selling artists of the '70s, she truly transcended that genre, which enabled her to continue to have hits into the '80s and beyond." Summer reached No. 3 in 1983 with "She Works Hard for the Money" and No. 7 in 1989 with "This Time I Know It's for Real."

(Fellow CBS Radio classic hits station WCBS (101.1) New York ran an interview montage this morning in which Summer recalled the inspiration for "Money." She wrote the song after noticing that a bathroom attendant at a Grammy Awards party had fallen asleep from exhaustion. "'She works hard for the money'," Summer remembered thinking at the time.)

"Summer was one of that era's few successful African-American female singer/songwriters," Scott notes. "She put searing guitars on 'Hot Stuff' years before Michael Jackson's 'Beat It' and gave us tunes that are still lyrically memorable, as well as danceable.

"That Summer possessed one of the best voices of the rock era should also not go unnoticed," Scott says. "She could easily hold her own singing with Barbra Streisand." The pair topped the Hot 100 for two weeks in 1979 with "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)."

"As an artist, Summer captured the '70s dance era more than any other act (except maybe the Bee Gees). But, just listen to one of the ballads on her 'Bad Girls' album and you'll realize how much more there was to her," Scott says.

"Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: shame on you. Donna Summer made rock lovers enjoy dance music, if but for a brief time. That's talent. She gave us 'unconditional love' and will be missed."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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