Donna Summer 1948 – 2012

On May 17, 2012 by Will Hermes

I just heard that Donna Summer has died, at age 63, after a battle with cancer.

She was known as a disco diva. But you could just as rightly call her an r&b, pop, or experimental-music singer. I write about what was arguably her greatest recording in Love Goes To Buildings On Fire

On May 13, 1977, Casablanca released Donna Summer’s I Remember Yesterday. A concept album about musical evolution, it ends with a song that is ostensibly the future: “I Feel Love.” She cooed, “Love To Love You Baby” style, over a chugging track made up entirely of synth beats and arpeggiated chord washes, a yin to Kraftwerk’s yang. New York DJs loved it instantly. As unprecedented as “Trans Europe Express,” it became just as essential, an electronic dance music template. Blondie covered it live, faithfully, with Chris Stein adding Santana-style guitar licks. In Berlin, Brian Eno rushed into the studio where he and David Bowie were working on Heroes with a fresh copy of the record, raving that it would change the sound of club music “for the next 15 years” (Eno was fond of grand statements). One can imagine the record spinning while the two Philip Glass fans listened to its hypnotic repetitions, the sonic possibilities blooming in their minds like flowers in a stop-motion film.

Above, she performs “I Feel Love” on The Midnight Special television show in 1977. RIP.

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