12 Things You Didn’t Know About Donna Summer

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The “Queen of Disco,” who worked hard for the money,  Donna Summer, ended her battle with breast and lung cancer on Thursday morning.  The diva rose to superstardom in the 70s and 80s with such shake-your-booty dance floor staples as “Hot Stuff,” “Last Dance” and “Bad Girls.” Summer was one of the most influential performers in defining the disco era.

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If you think you knew Donna Summer, here are some facts about her life that you might not have known:

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1) Donna Summer’s actual name was LaDonna Adrian Gaines.  She married Austrian actor Helmuth Sommer in 1972, then divorced him three years later after he discovered that she’d had an affair with a German surrealist painter. Thereafter, she Anglicized her last name as “Summer.” [Source:   Biography.com]


2) The sultry “Love to Love You Baby” recording artist had six siblings and was raised by staunch, take-no-mess, Christian parents in Dorchester, Massachusetts.  [Source:   Wikipedia]


3) Since disco music was not on the horizon during the sixties, Summer aspired to follow in the musical footsteps of the Motown girl groups of the times.  She formed a group with a cousin and sister and they patterned themselves after the more popular singing groups of the times like The Supremes and Martha Reeves and The Vandellas. [Source:   Wikipedia]


4)  While working as a backup singer for the famed 70′s trio Three-Dog Night, Summer caught the eye of two record producers who helped her secure a deal with a European label.  Summer’s first album, “Lady of the Night” debuting in 1974 had some success in Europe but was never released in the States. [Source:   Amazon.com]


5) “Love to Love You Baby,” Summer’s first mega hit, was actually sung with actress Marilyn Monroe in mind.  Summer thought it would add an interesting dimension to the song’s lyrics if she made sensual sounds throughout the cut, so she had the recording studio’s lights turned off.  The controversial song got banned from several radio stations in the U.S.  Time Magazine even dubbed the song “a marathon of 22 orgasms.” [Source:   People.com]

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6) Not unlike many artists of the times, Summer battled depression and anxiety, and developed a dependency on prescription drugs that stayed with her for several years.  In her memoir, “Ordinary Girl:  The Journey,” the songstress states that she attempted suicide several times and even experienced a nervous breakdown in 1979. [Source: CNN.com]


7) When AIDS hit the scene in a devastating and still widely misunderstood way in the 80′s, Summer was said to have made some anti-gay remarks that hugely impacted her career negatively.  The diva whose records had been the toast of many gay clubs back-in-the-day had, by this time returned to her strict Christian roots and became born-again.  She was alleged to have said that AIDS was a punishment from God for the immoral lifestyles of homosexuals.  She vehemently denied the allegations but apologized profusely for her delayed reaction in not addressing the accusations promptly. [Source: MetroWeekly.com]

8)  Summer had a recurring role on the 90′s ABC-TV hit comedy show “Family Matters” as the character Steve Urkel’s Aunt Oona. [Source:  TV.com]

9) The first recording artist to receive a Grammy Award for “Best Dance Recording” was Donna Summer in 1998. [Source:  Grammy.com]

10) In 1994, Summer transplanted her family, two daughters, to Nashville, Tennessee where she took up the soothing pastime of painting. [Sources:  Answers.com and NashvilleLifestyles.com]

11) Summer is the recipient of five Grammy Awards, twelve Grammy nominations, two Golden Globes, six American Music Awards, one NAACP Image Award and was the first African-American female to receive an MTV Video Music Awards nomination.  Although she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she was not selected. {Source:  IMDb.com]

12) Although Summer was viewed upon as a sexy fashionista throughout the disco era, she was actually ridiculed about her looks by her family who, by the way, also made fun of her voice.  [Source:  Wikipedia]

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