Friday, May 18, 2012

Someone Left the Cake Out in the Rain: RIP Donna Summer

Unlike Whitney Houston from earlier in the year, I don't have a tale about childhood obsession with Donna Summer who died yesterday at the age of 63. By the time of my formative music listening years, Summer was no longer the red hot success that she had once been with her run of 19 #1 dance singles. Oh, I was aware of disco anthems like "Hot Stuff" and "MacArthur Park", plus her 1983 comeback track, "She Works Hard for the Money", was a staple on the weekend music video programs that I obsessed over throughout my youth. But it wasn't actually until a few years ago that I really got into her back catalogue with an extensive frenzy and truly discovered the gems that went by relatively unnoticed, hiding amongst the forest of storming disco classics that peppered 1970s compilations albums, movie soundtracks, and been sampled by artists the world over. "Dinner with Gershwin" is just as fabulous as "On the Radio"; "This Time I Know It's For Real" (a collaboration with '80s hit factory Stock Aitken Waterman) has a pulsating beat that compliments her magnum opus, "I Feel Love", quite well; the entirety of Bad Girls from 1979 is a treasure trove of dance magic that is more than just the titular smash in which she equates her pop star manufacturing and manipulation to that of prostitution.

Of course, there are always going to be some songs that rise above even the strongest of discographies. Her work with producer Giorgio Moroder is the stuff of legend, and how anybody can deny "I Feel Love" is anything but one of the greatest songs ever recorded is beyond me. Summer turned her back on the gay community that had given her career such a boost, but that song wound up being sampled by Madonna, Kylie Minogue, and covered by Bronski Beat. Make of that what you will. She leaves behind a crop of albums and singles that looms large, but will sadly go unrecognised by many as merely frivolous songs that were merely the product of their time. Can't find the finesse and ingenuity in disco music? Sucks to be you then.

RIP Donna Summer

"I Feel Love" | "This Time I Know It's For Real"

"MacArthur Park" | "She Works Hard for the Money"

"Dinner with Gershwin" | "On the Radio"

"Hot Stuff" | "State of Independence"

"Our Love" | "Heaven Knows"

"Last Dance (Theme to Thank God It's Friday)" live at The 51st Annual Academy Awards

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