May 20, 2012

Love To Love You Donna Summer....

The death of Donna Summer last week shocked me. While I didn't know her personally, and yes I was a fan, let's face it, people die all the time, celebrities die all the time, and it's sad, but we move on... but still... Disco Queen Donna Summer?

Summer was not troubled like Whitney Houston, and she kept her battle with cancer quiet. I loved her music, it was upbeat and fun and always put me in a good mood. It was sexy at times, lovely and inspirational at other times. And as someone who has spent thousands of hours running with an iPod, Summer's music was perfect exercise music, with a pounding beat, a straightforward story line, and breathtaking soaring vocals.

Before Gaga and Madonna, before I knew the terminology or the culture, Summer was a gay icon, with disco music, crazy fashions, and elaborate stage shows. I remember staying up late to watch her Bad Girls TV special with her beret-wearing PG hooker by the lamppost and being amazed.

Summer fell out of favour with much of the gay community due to a since discredited story about homophobic remarks a long time ago, a story she sued over, and went on to become a fundraiser and advocate in the battle against AIDS.  Before the internet, before Entertainment Tonight and TMZ, she ignored the story rather than fight it, until it was too late to put the lying genie back into the bottle.  

Summer was more than the queen of disco: she was a songwriter, had an opera-quality soprano voice, was a mother and grandmother, and won five Grammy's including awards for best vocals in dance, inspirational, R&B, and rock performances. She was a huge influence on other musicians, and tributes rolled in this week from Bono, Madonna, Barbara Streisand, Gloria Estefan, Elton John, Macy Gray, Beyonce, Aretha Franklin, Quincy Jones, and many more.

After hearing about Summer's death, I went down to the basement, dug out Donna Summer CDs and played them non-stop in the car - On The Radio, There Goes My Baby, She Works Hard For The Money, Bad Girls, Melody of Love, Hot Stuff, Carry On, MacArthur Park, Love to Love You Baby... and yes among our collection we had many Donna Summer CDs to choose from, because we're gay.

Here are my favourite Donna Summer songs.. what are yours?

Love is the Healer

MacArthur Park

Last Dance

On The Radio

No More Tears/ Enough Is Enough (duet with Barbra Streisand)

I Feel Love 

and from her last album, 2008's Crayons, Stomp Your Feet and The Queen Is Back...

Gay men adored Summer. We still do. Donna Summer's accidental rise and fall as a gay icon, when she went from writhing out Love to Love You Baby at the disco to talking about God and being misquoted about AIDS, was  probably an education for future artists about how not to handle your publicity.

Her legacy is her music and her charity work. We miss you, Donna Summer, rest in peace...... toot toot, beep beep...