LaDonna Adrian Gaines (December 31, 1948 – May 17, 2012), known by the stage name Donna Summer,
Donna Summer, who was somehow stuck with the title “Queen of Disco” even though she both preceded and long survived the genre, has passed away at the age of 63 after a long battle with cancer.
"Early this morning, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith," her family said in a statement. "While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy. Words truly can't express how much we appreciate your prayers and love for our family at this sensitive time."
She had hits with songs like “Bad Girls" and "Last Dance," but by the time 1979’s "Hot Stuff" rolled around she was already leaving disco behind. One of her biggest hits, "She Works Hard For The Money," came in the 1980s.
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.
Born into a devoutly Christian lower middle class African-American family in Boston, Massachusetts, she first became involved with singing through church choir groups before joining a number of bands influenced by the Motown Sound. Influenced by the counterculture of the 1960s, she became the front singer of a psychedelic rock band named Crow and moved to New York City. Joining a touring version of the musical Hair, she spent several years living in West Germany, where she married Helmut Sommer, whose surname she adopted as her stage name.
Returning to the U.S., Summer co-wrote the song "Love to Love You Baby" with Pete Bellotte; music producer Giorgio Moroder convinced her to sing it herself, and it was released to mass commercial success in 1975, particularly on the disco scene. Over the following years, Summer followed this success with a string of other disco hits, such as "I Feel Love", "MacArthur Park", "Hot Stuff" and "No More Tears (Enough is Enough)". Becoming known as the "Queen of Disco", she regularly appeared at the Studio 54 club in New York City, while her music gained a particularly large following within the gay community, for whom she became a gay icon. Struggling with drug addiction and depression, she subsequently became a born-again Christian. Diagnosed with lung cancer, Summer died on the morning of May 17, 2012, at her home in Florida after a battle with the disease.
She was posthumously described as the "undisputed queen of the Seventies disco boom" who reached the status of "one of the world's leading female singers." Her work with Moroder, particularly "I Feel Love", has also been described as "really the start of electronic dance" music.