All About Donna Summer

Donna Summer redefined the modern diva; she is THE first Synth Queen, the first Queen of Dance. Her powerful gospel belting and her sultry, sexy crooning (along with her pop domination) would help shape and open doors for much of 80s women music and is credited as playing a significant role that led to the '80s sexual explosion.

Last Updated: 2009-02-13
Donna Summer

Donna Summer was born LaDonna Andre Gaines. She first sang gospel music in her church before she performed with a psychedelic rock group called the Crow. At the age of 18, she moved to Europe and starred in the productions of 'Hair', 'Godspell', 'Showboat', 'Porgy & Bess', and 'The Me Nobody Knows'. During this time, Summer also became interested in recording music, producing her first solo record "Sally Go Round the Roses" in 1971. Success wouldn't come until 1974, however. That year she met with producers/songwriters Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte while working on a Three Dog Night record, and the three came up with the controversial "The Hostage" which became a successful European hit (and banned in Germany). However the real surprise came when Summer released her 'Lady of the Night' debut album in 1975. The first single was the erotic "Love To Love You Baby" which became a minor hit worldwide, drawing the attention of Casablanca Records while being banned in several countries such as Italy and the UK. "Love To Love You Baby" eventually sold over a million copies in the U.S. alone, peaking at #2 on the pop charts. From then on, Donna Summer became the financial backbone of Casablanca records.

Donna quickly became a pop sensation, taking Gloria Gaynor's title of Disco Queen. Her embodiment of sex came under attack through several authorities, including the Pope, but the hits kept coming, including the seminal "I Feel Love" and Grammy and Oscar winning "Last Dance" and her first #1 pop "MacArthur Park". In 1979, Summer reached her zenith, releasing the double-LP Bad Girls which shot quickly to #1 and went on to become one of the most influential electronic albums of all time.  The album was a high water mark in her career as it featured more of her songwriting contributions and was her most critically acclaimed, including appraisal from Rolling Stone where the album astonishingly peaked at #2 there in the summer of 1979. The single "Hot Stuff" shot to #1 and won Donna another Grammy (the first in the Rock category). The lusty "Bad Girls" and tearful "No More Tears" (featuring the ever graceful legend Barbra Streisand) both peaked at #1 as well (in just less than three months, both "Bad Girls" and "Hot Stuff" reached the platinum mark). By decade's end, Donna Summer sold over 20 million records; "Bad Girls" alone sold over two million copies.

As the backlash against disco caused the genre to be rendered useless by the 80s (although it manifested into 80s dance music), Donna was forced to explore new avenues with the changing climate. Again, she had another critically acclaimed album with "The Wanderer" and created several other memorable classics for the new decade including "She Works Hard For the Money" and "This Time I Know It's For Real". In addition, she earned more Grammys before her spotlight began to fade by the late '80s. By the '90s, her career in the pop world was pushed to the background but she still continued to be a consistent hit maker in the dance arena, even winning the inaugural Grammy for Best Dance Recording with the Giorgio collabo "Carry On". Even in the '00s, Donna Summer is a force to be reckoned with in the American and European dance community.
Donna Summer young

Donna Summer with flower

Donna Summer singing
Awards and Achievements:

• First female to score three number one singles in the same calendar year - "Hot Stuff", "Bad Girls", and "No More Tears" ("Dim All the Lights" peaked at #2 on the pop charts and would have given her four consecutive #1s)

• First artist to score three number one consecutive and platinum-selling double LPs (Live and More, Bad Girls, On the Radio)

• In two instances, Donna Summer had two of her singles occupy the Top 3 spots of the pop charts, all in the expanse of one year ("Bad Girls" vs "Hot Stuff" and "No More Tears" vs "Dim All the Lights"). In one week, "Bad Girls" occupied the #2 spot while "Hot Stuff" landed at #3; the next week, the positions were in reverse order. The same happened with "Dim All the Lights" and "No More Tears". At one week, "Dim All the Lights" was at #2 and "No More Tears" at #3 and the other week the positions were switched.

• Throughout the disco era of 1976-1979, Donna Summer was the #1 disco artist with "Last Dance" (1978) and "Hot Stuff" (1979) being the reigning disco singles of their respective years. In 1979, Summer was the most successful singles lady artist, with "Bad Girls" as the #2 single of the year, followed by "Hot Stuff" at #7 and "MacArthur Park" at #12. That same year, her Live and More and Bad Girls LP finished in the Pop Album Top 10 of the year.

• Cashbox magazine in 1979 voted Donna Summer as Number One in the following categories: Top Female Vocalist/Pop Album, Top Female Vocalist/Pop Single, Top Black Contemporary Female Crossover/Pop Album, Top Black Contemporary Female Crossover/Pop Single, Top Female Vocalist/Black Contemporary Album, Top Female Disco Crossover/Pop Album, and Top Female Disco/Crossover Pop Single. Also that year, Blues and Soul magazine gave her the title as Best Female Singer.

• 5 Grammys
"Last Dance" - Best Female R&B Vocal Performance
"Hot Stuff" - Best Female Rock Vocal Performance (first black artist in history to do so)
"He's a Rebel" - Best Gospel Other: Incl. Sacred, Religious, or Inspirational Recording, Musical or Non-Musical
"Forgive Me" - Best Gospel Other: Incl. Sacred, Religious, or Inspirational Recording, Musical or Non-Musical
"Carry On" - Best Dance Recording

* "Bad Girls" earned five Grammy Award nominations including album of the year.
* "Last Dance" won an Academy Award for Best Song From a Motion Picture in 1978 and also earned a Golden Globe Award.

• 6 American Music Awards
• Dance Music Hall of Fame 2004
• Hollywood Walk of Fame 1992
• NAACP Image Award 1980

• Inducteed into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 2013

• Summer's "Melody of Love" became Billboard's Number One dance record for 1994. Summer also had a critically acclaimed Christmas album "Christmas Spirit" which featured the Nashville Symphony Orchestra that year.

• Donna Summer is also an accomplished artist whose work has been showcased all around the country. Her work was even shown in Japan in a special exhibition sponsored by Steven Spielberg. It is reported that she sells tens of thousands of her work.


• Bruce Springsteen respected Donna Summer and even penned two songs for her, including "Cover Me" (which he decided to record himself which has since then become a classic). The other song, "Protection", was given to Donna to sing while he played guitar. The two had even recorded the song as a duet but the song remains unreleased.

• After the glorious classic of "No More Tears", Barbra Streisand invited Donna to sing the theme song "Papa Can You Hear Me?" for her film Yentl at the Oscar Award ceremony.

• Madonna continues to use Donna Summer-like references in her works, most recently in her great achievement Confessions On a Dancefloor. When promoting the album in interviews, Madonna has displayed her deep love of the Bee Gees, ABBA, and Donna Summer.


• Donna Summer wrote and co-wrote most of her songs much like Michael Jackson and Madonna. She covered many genres as well, including contemporary R&B, rock and roll, and gospel music to name a few. She is also known for her 'underground' classics such as "Cold Love", "Protection", and the Caribbean-influenced "Unconditional Love" with Musical Youth.

• She wrote Dolly Parton's #1 country single "Starting Over".

• Her classic "State of Independence" single (#41 pop, Top 40 R&B) was one of the major inspirations for Quincy Jones' 1985 classic "We Are the World". The single featured artists that respected Summer such as Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Kenny Loggins, Dionne Warwick, and Stevie Wonder (legendary guitarist Eric Clapton played guitar).

• Donna Summer is a noted great performer. A TV special on ABC showcasing the Queen of Disco in 1980 had high ratings. Even in present times, VH1 had one of its highest, if not the highest, rated concert special through Donna Summer's "Live and More" Encore.

• Donna Summer's "Dim All the Lights" contains the longest-held note by any female vocalist to make the Top 40 (16 seconds) in the UK charts, evidence of a true singer.

• Summer is also well known for her charitable personality.


• Donna Summer redefined the modern diva; she is THE first Synth Queen, the first Queen of Dance. Her powerful gospel belting and her sultry, sexy crooning (along with her pop domination) would help shape and open doors for much of 80s women music and is credited as playing a significant role that led to the '80s sexual explosion. The "Sex Goddess" also exemplified the blend of Euro-disco (more orchestral-based) and R&B-disco (street or soulful disco). Overall, Donna Summer exuded and epitomized female sexuality in disco's heyday, breaking it to the worldwide masses Millie Jackson and Bette Davis could have only dreamt about.

• "I Feel Love" is a seminal electronic recording which has influenced entire genres such as New Wave/synth pop and even individual legends such as Brian Eno, Blondie (who covered the song and later worked with Giorgio Moroder for "Call Me" as a result), New Order, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, and Kraftwerk. Red Hot Chili Pepper guitarist John Frusciante has utilized the song at the band's live shows, and the song was covered by the band itself.

• Along with the Bee Gees, Summer helped make disco music part of the American songbook and also made dance music in general a legitimate and viable market in both the U.S. and abroad.

• She remains one of the few disco/dance artists accepted by modern rock critics. She was the first Dance and Gay icon before Madonna snatched up that title. Her worldwide fan base is large with dedicated followings from France all the way to Brazil.

• Working with Donna Summer has kick started legend Giorgio Moroder's highly influential and successful career. His soundtracks for movies such as American Gigolo and Flashdance have won him many awards (including an Oscar for Midnight Express).

• "Love to Love You Baby" is the mother of all maxi-singles. Donna's concept albums also helped establish the importance of dance albums in the electronic community and for women in the dance-pop world in particular (including Madonna). Bad Girls is a triumphant landmark that showcased Donna at her most soulful, at her rockiest, all mixed with the use of predominately live instruments.

• Her work is still being sampled and covered. Everyone from Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Destiny's Child's Beyonce Knowles, Aaliyah, TLC, and The Pussycat Dolls have utilized her music. Heart, Dusty Springfield, Laura Branigan, kd Lang, No Doubt, Samantha Fox, and Sheena Easton, to name a few, have covered her songs.

• Donna Summer (First Lady of Lust, Disco's Aphrodite) is a legend in her own right. Countless dance/pop divas have labeled her as an influence in their careers such as Madonna (who has always shown her debt to Donna), Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul, Whitney Houston, Gloria Estefan and teen sensations such as Brandy, Irene Cara, Sheena Easton, Taylor Dayne, Jody Watley, Alison Moyet, Christina Aguilera (who grew up listening to her), Kylie Minogue (international pop legend who also grew up listening to her), and even some interesting selections such as Queen Latifah, Grace Jones, and even Joss Stone. She has received much critical acclaim from sources such as Rolling Stone and critics such as Robert Christgau and Dave Marsh and has persevered as one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. With over 100 million albums sold worldwide, Donna Summer has surely aged well with time.

Donna Summer singing 2

Donna Summer book Ordinary Girl

Donna Summer in spotlight with mirror ball

Donna Summer book Her Life and Music

Donna Summer in lingerie

Donna Summer DVD

Donna Summer older

Greatest Songs:

Donna Summer Hot Stuff 7inch single
1. Hot Stuff
2. I Feel Love
3. Love To Love You Baby
4. Bad Girls
5. Last Dance
6. She Works Hard For the Money
7. On the Radio
8. No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)
9. Dim All the Lights
10. Heaven Knows
11. MacArthur Park
12. This Time I Know It's For Real
13. Love Is In Control (Finger On the Trigger)
14. The Wanderer
15. Try Me, I Know We Can Make It
16. Spring Affair
17. Could It Be Magic?
18. State of Independence
19. Dinner With Gershwin
20. Unconditional Love
21. Cold Love
22. Rumour Has It
23. I Love You
24. Winter Melody
25. Once Upon a Time
26. I Remember Yesterday


Mahalia Jackson

Mahalia Jackson (her idol)
Judy Garland
Barbra Streisand
Aretha Franklin
Chaka Khan
Dionne Warwick
Irma Thomas
Diana Ross
Gladys Knight

Selected Critically Acclaimed Singles:
1. I Feel Love
This very influential electronic recording ranks with other giants such as Kraftwerk's "Autobahn". It was a Top 10 hit worldwide, including in countries such as Mexico, South Africa, Australia, and Sweden to name a few. The single peaked at #1 on the Dutch and British charts (being a chart topper in the UK for 3 weeks). Two synthesizers in one with its trademark synthesized backing, this song remains a revolutionary in electronic music.

2. Bad Girls
An enormous, critically acclaimed classic, "Bad Girls" has become an anthem of all sorts and a continually covered song. House music legend Juliet Roberts' version reached the Top 20 UK charts. Xaveria Gold also scored a classic with her interpretation. The original song peaked at #2 in the Canadian charts and reached the Top 10 from New Zealand all the way to The Netherlands.

3. Hot Stuff
Probably the most critically acclaimed disco single, "Hot Stuff" surprisingly peaked at #12 in the Japanese charts while becoming a Top 10 all around hit throughout the world (it peaked at #1 in Canada). Known for its real guitar solo and rocked out groove, the song remains a favorite disco butt wiggler.

4. She Works Hard For the Money
A feminist anthem, the first of note for the 80s before "Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves", this song has become a worldwide success as well. The classic video was one of the first few black videos played on MTV (and with heavy rotation). To date, this stands as her most well known and loved song from '80s.

5. Love To Love You Baby
Oozing with sex but tastefully done, this epic love song was Erotica before Madonna ever broke taboos. Inspired by Marilyn Monroe and Serge Gainsbourg/Jane Birkin's erotic 1969 classic "Je T'Aime Moi Non Plus" (which Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder also did as a duet in 1978), this song exemplified disco excess at its funkiest, its sweatiest (hear the connection to Diana Ross' classic #1 pop "Love Hangover"?).
Greatest Albums:
1. Bad Girls - 1979
1. Hot Stuff
2. Bad Girls
3. Love Will Always Find You
4. Walk Away
5. Dim All The Lights
6. Journey To The Centre Of Your Heart
7. One Night In A Lifetime
8. Can't Get To Sleep
9. On My Honor
10. There Will Always Be A You
11. All Through The Night
12. My Baby Understands
13. Our Love
14. Lucky
15. Sunset People
Bad Girls album cover
2. The Wanderer - 1980
1. The Wanderer
2. Looking Up
3. Breakdown
4. Grand Illusion
5. Running For Cover
6. Cold Love
7. Who Do You Think You're Foolin'
8. Nightlife
9. Stop Me
10. I Believe In Jesus
The Wanderer album cover
3. She Works Hard For the Money - 1983
1. She Works Hard For the Money
2. Stop Look And Listen
3. He's A Rebel
4. Woman
5. Unconditional Love
6. Love Has A Mind Of It's Own
7. Tokyo
8. People, People
9. (I Do Believe) I Fell In Love
She Works Hard For the Money album cover
4. Once Upon a Time - 1977
1. Once Upon A Time
2. Faster And Faster To Nowhere
3. Fairy Tale High
4. Say Something Nice
5. Now I Need You
6. Working The Midnight Shift
7. Queen For A Day
8. If You Got It Flaunt It
9. A Man Like You
10. Sweet Romance
11. (Theme) Once Upon A Time
12. Dance Into My Life
13. Rumour Has It
14. I Love You
15. Happily Ever After
16. (Theme) Once Upon A Time
Once Upon a Time album cover
5. I Remember Yesterday - 1977
1. I Remember Yesterday
2. Love's Unkind
3. Back in Love Again
4. I Remember Yesterday (Reprise)
5. Black Lady
6. Take Me
7. Can't We Just Sit Down (And Talk It Over)
8. I Feel Love
I Remember Yesterday album cover
6. Donna Summer - 1982
1. Love Is In Control (Finger On The Trigger)
2. Mystery Of Love
3. The Woman In Me
4. State Of Independence
5. Livin' In America
6. Protection
7. (If It) Hurts Just A Little
8. Love Is Just A Breathe Away
9. Lush Life
Donna Summer album cover
7. Live and More - 1978
1. Once Upon A Time
2. Fairy Tale High
3. Faster And Faster To Nowhere
4. Spring Affair
5. Rumour Has It
6. I Love You
7. Only One Man
8. I Remember Yesterday
9. Love's Unkind
10. My Man Medley -
  (a. The Man I Love)
  (b. I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good)
  (c. Some Of These Days)
11. The Way We Were
12. Mimi's Song
13. Try Me, I Know We Can Make It
14. Love To Love You, Baby
15. I Feel Love
16. Last Dance
17. MacArthur Park
18. One Of A Kind
19. Heaven Knows
20. MacArthur Park (Reprise)
Live and More album cover
8. A Love Trilogy - 1976
1. A Love Trilogy - Try Me
2. A Love Trilogy - I Know
3. A Love Trilogy - We Can Make It
4. A Love Trilogy - Try Me, I Know We Can Make It
5. Prelude To Love
6. Could It Be Magic
7. Wasted
8. Come With Me
A Love Trilogy album cover
9. Four Seasons of Love - 1976
1. Spring Affair
2. Summer Fever
3. Autumn Changes
4. Winter Melody
5. Spring Reprise
Four Seasons of Love album cover
10. Another Place And Time - 1989
1. I Don't Wanna Get Hurt
2. When Love Takes Over You
3. This Time I Know It's For Real
4. The Only One
5. In Another Place And Time
6. Sentimental
7. Whatever Your Heart Desires
8. Break Away
9. If It Makes You Feel Good
10. Love's About To Change My Heart
Another Place And Time album cover

"You've got to maintain your level of self-esteem through everything. You are who you are, and nobody will ever be able to take that from you if you don't let them"
- Donna Summer - 1989

"I know that Donna Summer is one of those voices of life who will always - she will always be able to sing. If it's not disco, it's real music, real songs. She can really, really sing"
- Patti LaBelle - 2001

"Along with her brilliant producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, she was creating a new idea of international pop. Madonna's career without Summer and 'Bad Girls'? Unthinkable"
- Rolling Stone - August 2003

"She is the picture of exuberance here, once again affirming why she remains an untouchable vocalist in the mind of anyone who has ever tripped the club fantastic"
-Billboard magazine - 1997

"In a genre in which talent was rarely a prerequisite, Donna Summer emerged as disco's only truly talented female vocalist. Her crisp delivery made her an icon of the era and a survivor of disco's swift demise"
- The Washington Post - 1995

"She has got one of the great voices of all time. She survived adversity, adversity being - she's a huge star in a period of time that overnight went away. She's the only star, really, of the disco scene. And that was a terrible stigma...And (she) managed to move on beyond that"
- Dick Clark on Good Morning America - 1985

"Before Madonna, there was Donna...the comely Queen of Disco"
- New York Times - March 1996

"Donna Summer remains a timeless, internationally lauded superstar. She's also a gifted songwriter whose distinctive voice is one of passion, range, style, and personality"
- New York Amsterdam News - June 1999

"Bad Girls is undoubtedly Summer's magnum opus, a 15-track career defining masterpiece that originally came out as double album on Casablanca in 1979...Excellent"
- Blues and Soul magazine - September 2003

Placement On DDD Lists (as of 02/2009):
Greatest Disco Artists - #1
Greatest 'Female' Pop Vocalists - #9
Greatest Female Artists of Rock 'n' Roll - #10
Greatest 'Female' R&B/Soul Vocalists - #47
Greatest 'Rock 'n' Roll Artists Of The 70's - #89
300 Greatest Popular Music Artists - #241
Greatest 'Female Artists' Albums -
#68. Bad Girls

Greatest Disco Songs -
#12. I Feel Love
#13. Love To Love You Baby
#31. Hot Stuff

Greatest Rock Songs of the '70s -
#83. Hot Stuff
#136. I Feel Love
#173. Love to Love You Baby

More Tribute Pages
More Music Lists