The best Donna Summer singles

Donna Summer - Live 1978 (cnn.com)

Donna Summer – Live 1978

Introduction

April 25th, this year, Donna Summer’s best known and popular album Bad Girls had its 40th (!) anniversary. In May I will witness Giorgio Moroder live, who was Summer’s steady producer during the most important years in her career. And, today is Koningsdag (King’s Day) in Holland. I vividly remember Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day, as it was called then) 1994: I was walking along the canals in Amsterdam with my fiancée (we were to be wed a few months later), when all of a sudden Summer’s brilliant State Of Independence was blasting out one of the windows. I was a happy man indeed. In short, reasons abound for a top 10 best Donna Summer singles.

Donna Summer

LaDonna Adrian Gaines was born on December 31st, 1948, in Boston into a strict Christian family. At the end of the 1960’s she auditioned for a part in the musical Hair, but didn’t get a part. When the musical moved to Europe she was asked to come along.

Donna Summer in Van Oekel's Discohoek 1974 (top40.nl)

Donna Summer in Van Oekel’s Discohoek 1974

She ended up in Germany, fell in love and married Helmuth Sommer and decided to use Donna Summer as her stage name. She did well in Holland, starting in 1974, when she performed the song The Hostage at the anarchist music tv show Van Oekel’s Discohoek, which was a parody of the regular pop show Toppop. At times artists were dismissed on air, because the presenters didn’t like what they heard or felt like doing something else. But when Summer came on it clicked. She liked the show and even returned twice.

In 1975 Love To Love You Baby was released. The moaning and groaning was spectacular and even led to boycotts, but the tide could not be turned. The song went on to be a global phenomenon and a huge hit. The song went overseas to the Untited States and Casablanca‘s Neil Bogart wanted to sign Summer. The contract with Summer led to the rise of the label and the label’s identity as the one and only real disco label.

Summer very quickly earned the title The Queen of Disco and was sometimes called The First Lady of Love. The pairing with Giorgio Moroder, an electronic music pioneer, created stunning music, such as the impressive I Feel Love, which was released in 1977 in Holland. This blog has spent an entire article on just that song alone: I Feel Love: the future is here and now!.

1978 and 1979 were Donna Summer’s major success years. Privately, Summer felt increasingly uneasy with the sexy image she was portraying and ultimately collapsed. She returned to her faith and recorded one last album on the Casablanca label. She recorded and released the double album Bad Girls. It would be her biggest hit. Wanting out of disco and the sexy image, she left Casablanca and soon after was ‘persuaded’ to give up working with Giorgio Moroder by her new record company, the recently established Geffen.

Donna Summer & Quincy Jones (billboard.com)

Donna Summer & Quincy Jones

Working with Quincy Jones in 1982 produced a beautiful album and hits, but following that highlight her career descended ever more. She did have some hits (like 1983’s She Works Hard For The Money), but it wasn’t until she started working with producer trio Stock, Aitken & Waterman at the end of the 1980’s, before the hits really returned big time, of which This Time (I Know It’s For Real) was the best-known. Due to her not continuing working with the trio, Summer’s career plummeted again.

In 1997 she got together with Giorgio Moroder again for the single Carry On, which resulted in a Grammy Award in the category Dance. In the beginning of the 21st century she focused on other things than music, like painting and writing her auto biography Ordinary Girl: The Journey (on which a musical was based in 2018). In 2008 Crayons was released, which did particularly well in the US.

On May 17th, 2012, Donna Summer died from lung cancer. Summer claimed she developed the disease due to inhaling toxic particles during the terror attacks in New York on September 11th, 2001. She was only 63 years old.

Without further ado, I give you the 10 best Donna Summer singles, ordered by the date the singles charted in the Dutch tip and/or hit charts (month/year shown in italic):

 

Donna Summer - Love To Love You (top40.nl)

Love To Love You

March 1975

The song that started Donna Summer’s international career. The moaning and groaning stood out and was new, and, according to many, scandalous. By some accounts Summer simulates no less than 22 orgasms in the song.

It reached number 1 in the Dutch charts.

 

Donna Summer - I Feel Love (single) (anycontent.net)

I Feel Love

July 1977

This must be part of this list.

See also I Feel Love: the future is here and now!.

 

Donna Summer - Last Dance (top40.nl)

Last Dance

June 1978

Coming from the disco movie Thank God It’s Friday. The movie was supposed to compete with Saturday Night Fever, but failed miserably.

That was not because of Summer. This is a great disco song.

 

Donna Summer - Mac Arthur Park (top40.nl)

MacArthur Park

October 1978

Great rendition of the James Webb song, which was released by singer Richard Harris in 1968. A beautiful song with somewhat strange lyrics.

Donna Summer’s version is a disco classic. Summer is a totally convincing and moving singer.

 

Donna Summer - Hot Stuff (top40.nl)

Hot Stuff

May 1979

Lead single of the biggest and best album by Donna Summer (Bad Girls). A prelude to Hi-NRG, which was huge in the early 1980’s.

 

Donna Summer - Bad Girls (top40.nl)

Bad Girls

July 1979

A song about prostitutes and their work. In this case, picking up johns in cars.

toot toot peep peep

 

Donna Summer & Barbra Streisand - No More Tears (Enough Is Enough) (top40.nl)

No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)

October 1979

Duet with Barbra Streisand.

The beginning of a lifelong friendship between the both of them. Both were heavily impressed by the other’s vocal abilities.

 

Donna Summer - On The Radio (top40.nl)

On The Radio

February 1980

Recorded after Bad Girls, as part of the soundtrack to the movie Foxes.

Top song.

 

Donna Summer - Love Is In Control (Finger On The Trigger) (top40.nl)

Love Is In Control (Finger On The Trigger)

July 1982

The first single of the cooperation with Quincy Jones, who made the album Donna Summer with Summer. Funky song that has a stellar production.

 

Donna Summer - State Of Independence (45cat.com)

State Of Independence

October 1982

Second single of the album Summer recorded with Quincy Jones. Because Jones knows quite a lot of people, the (heart wrenching beautiful) choir consist of, amongst others, Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Dionne Warwick, Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder and Christopher Cross.

This song is astoundingly beautiful. the instrumentation, the production and the vocal fireworks: I can’t get enough of this song. World class!

It reached number 1 in the Dutch charts.

 

In closing

What do you think of Donna Summer? Do you miss songs, and if so, which ones? Let me know!

Video/Spotify
This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: The best Donna Summer singles. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.