Disco queen Donna Summer dies, aged 63

Disco queen Donna Summer, whose pulsing anthems such as Love to Love You Baby became the soundtrack for a glittery age of sex, drugs, dance and flashy clothes, has died at 63.

Her family released a statement saying Summer died on yesterday morning and they “are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy”.

The family did not disclose the cause of death, but reports said she had battled cancer. She had been living in Englewood, Florida, with her husband Bruce Sudano.

Summer came to prominence just as disco was burgeoning, and came to define the era with a string of No 1 hits and her luxurious hair and glossy, open lips.

Disco became as much defined by her sultry, sexual vocals as the relentless, pulsing rhythms of the music itself.

Elton John said in a statement that Summer was more than the Queen of Disco. “Her records sound as good today as they ever did”, he said.

“She is a great friend to me and to the Elton John AIDS Foundation and I will miss her greatly.”

Love to Love You Baby, with its erotic moans, was Summer’s first hit and one of the most scandalous songs of the polyester-and-platform-heel era. The song was later sampled by LL Cool J, Timbaland and Beyonce, who interpolated the hit for her jam Naughty Girl.

Unlike some other stars of disco who faded as the music became less popular, Summer was able to grow beyond it and later segued to a pop-rock sound.

She had one of her biggest hits in the 1980s with She Works Hard for the Money, which became an anthem for women’s rights.

Soon after, Summer became a born-again Christian and faced controversy when she was accused of making anti-gay comments in relation to the AIDS epidemic. Summer denied making the comments, but was the target of a boycott.

Summer, real name LaDonna Adrian Gaines, was born in 1948 in Boston. She was raised on gospel music and became the soloist in her church choir by age 10.

Love to Love You Baby, released in 1975, was her US chart debut and the first of 19 No 1 dance hits between 1975 and 2008 — second only to Madonna.

Singer Dionne Warwick said in a statement that she was sad to lose a great performer and “dear friend”.

“My heart goes out to her husband and her children,” Warwick said.

Summer released her last album, Crayons, in 2008. It was her first full studio album in 17 years.


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