Donna Summer, Queen of Disco, Dead at 63
Donna Summer, the "Queen of Disco" and one of the most successful recording artists of the 1970s and 1980s, died Thursday (May 17) at the age of 63, a representative confirmed to CNN . The singer had cancer and was in Florida at the time of her death.
• SLIDESHOW: Beautiful Summer
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the singer's family said they are "at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy." No other details have been released, and there are conflicting reports on what kind of cancer she had.
Since the news was first reported by TMZ on Thursday morning, Summer's fellow Disco royalty have been reacting to the news on Twitter and Facebook.
"For the last half hour or so I've been lying in my bed crying and stunned," Chic hitmaker Nile Rodgers wrote. "Donna Summer RIP." KC and the Sunshine Band wrote on Facebook, "You will Be Missed… Our prayers and condolences go out to her family... Lala."
Gloria Gaynor of "I Will Survive" fame released the following statement: "I am deeply saddened personally for the loss of my dear friend Donna Summer. She and I have been friends for a very long time, we were both known as the 'Queen of Disco,' but Donna always referred to me as the 'First Lady of Disco.' A fine lady and human being she was. She will be missed dearly by her colleagues, friends and family. She not only made her mark in my heart as well as others, but she forever changed the way of how America danced and enjoyed themselves. She may have had her 'Last Dance' here on earth, but 'Heaven Knows' it is "dancing with joy for her arrival."
"Love to Love You Baby"
"I Feel Love"
"She Works Hard for the Money"
Born LaDonna Gaines in Boston in 1948, the singer released her first single, "Sally Go 'Round the Roses," in 1971 under the name Donna Gaines. She switched to Summer by the time her first chart hit, the breathy, sexualized "Love to Love You Baby" hit No. 2 on the Hot 100 in 1975.
"That was a song I wasn't planning on singing myself," she told Billboard in a 2008 interview. "It was kind of a work in progress, and I thought that if I could get the right singer, it could be a hit. I had given Giorgio [Moroder, producer] the idea of 'Love to Love You Baby,' and he went into the studio and put a track to the idea and I went in and sang some words over it. I didn't need a lot of words, so I oohed and aahed my way through it. I was imagining if Marilyn Monroe sang the song, that's what she would do."
Summer earned 32 hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100 in her career, with 14 of those reaching the top 10. Her biggest singles include her four No. 1s "MacArthur Park," "Hot Stuff," "Bad Girls" and "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" with Barbra Streisand. While she earned a string of smashes in the 1970s, she continued to chart hits on into '80s, '90s, '00s and '10s.
In 1983 she returned to the Hot 100's top 10 with the No. 3 anthem "She Works Hard For the Money" and then again in 1989 with "This Time I Know It's For Real" (No. 7). Her final Hot 100 hit in her lifetime came in 1999 with "I Will Go With You (Con Te Partiro)," which reached No. 79.
Summer remained a force on the Billboard Dance/Club Play Songs chart all through her career, fitting, for the Queen of Disco. She notched 14 No. 1s on the chart - all the way up through her most recent hit, 2010's "To Paris With Love." Her last studio album, 2008's "Crayons," spun off three No. 1 Dance/Club hits with "I'm a Fire," "Stamp Your Feet" and "Fame (The Game)."
On the Billboard 200 albums chart, she claimed three back-to-back No. 1 albums between 1978 and 1980 with "Live and More," "Bad Girls" and "One the Radio - Greatest Hits Volumes I & II." She collected further top 20 albums with 1980's "The Wanderer" (No. 13), 1982's self-titled set (No. 20), 1983's "She Works Hard for the Money" (No. 9) and "Crayons" (No. 17).
Summer won five Grammy Awards, six American Music Awards and was the first African American woman to be nominated for an MTV Video Music Award, for "She Works Hard for the Money."
"I don't know if I could say I'd forseen how long this music would last," she told Billboard. "I think all performers would love to see there's no generation gap in music. People still listen to my songs on the radio. DJs still spin them in the club. You just hope that the music you make will still be around and have a second life, a third life, a fourth life. I mean, look at the Beatles. Come on!"
She is survived by her husband, three daughters, and four grandchildren.