Donna Summer earned considerable renown as the Queen of Disco during the later 1970s; however, few were aware of her ability to interpret a wide range of material, including pop, rock, blues, soul, and gospel. In addition, her talent encompassed acting, songwriting, and record production.
Born Adrian Donna Gaines in Boston, Summer started out singing in European musicals in 1968. Her breakthrough as a recording artist came with a Giorgio Moroder-Pete Bellote production, the erotic "Love to Love You Baby" (Oasis 401; 1975; #2). Despite the predominance of disco songs in her early albums—Love to Love You Baby (oasis 5003; 1975; #11; gold record), A Love Trilogy (Oasis 5004; 1976; #21; gold record). Four Seasons of Love (Casablanca 7038; 1987; #29; gold record), Once Upon A Time (Casablanca 7078; 1977; #26; gold record), Live and More (Casablanca 7119; 1978; #1; platinum award), and Bad Girls (Casablanca 7150; 1979; #1; platinum award; featuring the hit singles "Hot Stuff" (Casablanca 978; #1; platinum award], "Bad Girls" [Casablanca 988; #1; platinum award], and "Dim All the Lights" [Casablanca2201; #2; gold record])—she revealed an inclination to try other styles; I Remember Yesterday (Casablanca 7056; 1977; #18; gold record) served as a case a case in point, with an all-disco side and varied material on the other, including the Jimmy Webb classic, "MacArthur Park" (Casablanca 939; 1978; #1). Among her many awards were an Oscar for best movie song in 1978 with "Last Dance" (Casablanca 926; 1978; #3) and three American Music Awards that same year (Favorite Female Vocalist – Disco, Favorite LP – Disco for Live and More, and Favorite Single – Disco for "Last Dance").
Wishing to make a more dramatic move away from her disco image, Summer signed with Geffen Records in 1980. Since then, her albums—most notably, The Wanderer (Geffen 2000; 1980; #13; gold record), Donna Summer (Geffen 2005; 1982; #20; gold record), She Works Hard for the Money (Mercury 812265; 1983; #9; gold record), Cats Without Claws (Geffen 24040; 1984; #40)—have become increasingly diversified, with a particular emphasis on religious material. She won Grammy awards for Best Inspirational Performance in 1983-1984, for "He’s a Rebel" and "Forgive Me," respectively.
Following a succession of disappointing LPs, Summer was relatively inactive during the 1990s. Her biggest recording success came with "Carry On," a collaboration with Moroder which won the 1997 Grammy for Best Dance Recording. She has concentrated on songwriting along with husband Bruce Sudano, particularly the country market. At the outset of the twenty-first century they were working on a musical.
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