LaDonna Adrian Gaines (December 31, 1948 – May 17, 2012 known by the stage name Donna Summer, was an American singer-songwriter who gained prominence during the disco era of the late 1970s. She had a mezzo-soprano vocal range, and was a five-time Grammy Award winner. Summer was the first artist to have three consecutive double albums reach number one on the U.S. Billboard chart, and she also charted four number-one singles in the United States within a 13-month period.
Summer died on May 17, 2012. The Associated Press reported she died that morning at her home in Key West, Florida at age 63. She had been diagnosed with cancer.
After the release of the greatest hits album, Summer wanted to branch out into other musical styles in addition to disco, which led to tensions between her and Casablanca Records. Sensing that they could no longer come to terms, Summer and the label parted ways in 1980, and she signed with Geffen Records, the new label started by David Geffen.
Summer's first release on Geffen Records was The Wanderer, which replaced the disco sound of Summer's previous releases with more of the burgeoning New Wave sound and elements of rock, such as the material being recorded at this time by Pat Benatar. The album achieved gold status in the US, and the title track (released as the first single) peaked at No. 3 in the US, though subsequent singles were only moderate hits.
Summer's projected second Geffen release, entitled I'm a Rainbow, was shelved by Geffen Records (though two of the album's songs would surface in soundtracks of the 1980s films Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Flashdance). Summer reluctantly parted company with Moroder after seven years working together as Geffen had recruited Quincy Jones to produce her next album, 1982's Donna Summer. The album had taken a lengthy six months to record. The album's first single, "Love Is in Control (Finger on the Trigger)", became an American top ten hit on the Hot 100, followed by more moderate hits "State of Independence" (No. 41 pop) and "The Woman in Me" (No. 33 pop). Problems then increased between Summer and Geffen Records after they were notified by Polygram Records, Summer's former label Casablanca was by then a wholly owned subsidiary, that she needed to deliver them one more album to fulfill her contract with them. Summer delivered the album, She Works Hard for the Money, and Polygram released it on its Mercury imprint in 1983. The title song became a hit reaching number three on the US Hot 100, and would provide Summer with a Grammy nomination. The album also featured the reggae-flavored UK Top 20 hit "Unconditional Love", which featured the British group Musical Youth who were riding high from the success of their single "Pass the Dutchie". The third US single, "Love Has A Mind of Its Own", reached the top forty of the Billboard R&B chart. The album itself was certified gold.
In late 1984, with her obligation to Polygram complete, Summer returned on Geffen Records with her next release. Geffen, wanting to keep the momentum going, enlisted She Works Hard for the Money's producer Michael Omartian to produce Cats Without Claws. The album, however, was not as successful as She Works Hard for the Money and failed to attain gold status of 500,000 copies sold in the US, becoming her first album since her 1974 debut not to do so. It did include a moderate hit in "There Goes My Baby", which peaked at No. 21.
LaDonna Gaines was one of seven children born and raised in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood, living on the first floor of a three-decker home. Following her move to Austria in 1971, she met and fell in love with actor Helmuth Sommer while the two were acting in Godspell. In 1973, the couple married and that year Gaines gave birth to her first child, daughter Mimi Sommer. In 1975, the couple divorced. Gaines took her husband's last name, translated to English, as her stage name.
In 1978, while working on the hit track, "Heaven Knows" which featured Brooklyn Dreams member Joe "Bean" Esposito on vocals, Summer met fellow member Bruce Sudano. Within a few months, Summer and Sudano became a couple. They married on July 16, 1980. A year later, Summer gave birth to another daughter (her first child with Sudano), Brooklyn Sudano, named after Sudano's group. (Brooklyn would grow up to star in the hit ABC production My Wife and Kids.) A year after that, Summer and Sudano had their second child, Amanda.
In 1994, Summer and her family moved from Los Angeles to Nashville, where she took time out from show business to focus on painting, a hobby she began in 1985. In 1995, Summer's mother died.
The Associated Press reported that Summer died on the morning of May 17, 2012, at her home in Englewood, Florida at the age of 63. She had been diagnosed with lung cancer; Summer did not smoke cigarettes, and the cancer was unrelated to smoking. The Bradenton Herald, quoting "Sarasota County records", stated that she lived in Englewood, Florida at the time of her death. The reference did not state her location at the time of her death. The New York Times reported that she died at her home in Naples, Florida. Summer is survived by her husband Bruce Sudano, their daughters Brooklyn and Amanda, as well as her daughter Mimi from a previous marriage.
Donna Summer at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in 2009.
|Birth name||LaDonna Adrian Gaines|
|Also known as||Donna Gaines|
The Queen of Disco
|Born||December 31, 1948|
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Origin||Dorchester, Boston, Massachusetts|
|Died||May 17, 2012 (aged 63)|
Englewood, Florida, U.S.
|Genres||Pop, disco, dance-pop, rock|
Warner-Elektra-Atlantic (Outside of U.S. 1980–1991)
|Associated acts||Giorgio Moroder, Brooklyn Dreams|