Thursday, December 18, 2014

Donna Summer, The #22 Artist of the Seventies*

Donna Gaines was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts.  From the time that she could talk, she would sing.  She first sang in public at church when she was eight years old.  Donna performed in school musicals at Jeremiah E. Burke High School, but just weeks before graduation, Summer left to join a blues rock band Crow in New York City (not the group that had the hit "Evil Woman Don't Play Your Games With Me"). 

When Crow broke up, Summer stayed in New York and tried out for the musical Hair.  Although she was beaten out for the role by Melba Moore, Summer accepted the role in the Munich, Germany production.  While in Munich, Summer became fluent in German, and performed in Ich bin ich (the German version of The Me Nobody Knows), Godspell, and Show Boat.  Summer then moved to Vienna, Austria and joined a vocal group called Family Tree.  During this time, Donna recorded several singles.

While working as a backing vocalist for Three Dog Night in Munich, Summer met producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, and Donna signed a recording contract with their label Oasis.  She released the album Lady of the Night in selected countries, and it became popular in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Belgium.

In 1975, Summer and Moroder wrote a song "Love To Love You", which was somewhat successful in Europe.  Moroder wanted the song to be released in the United States, and contacted Neil Bogart, president of Casablanca Records.  Bogart changed the title to "Love To Love You Baby" and signed Summer to a recording contract.  The single was released, and Summer also recorded a 17-minute version for clubs and discos.  Both were popular, and the single went Platinum.

The hit also generated sales for the album of the same name of over one million copies.  But Love to Love You Baby is a solid album--we offer up this track--"Full Of Emptiness".

Another of the great early Summer tracks we want to feature is "Need-A-Man Blues".

Summer shows her versatility on "Whispering Waves".

Summer could not capitalize with future hits on her next two albums, Love Trilogy and Four Seasons of Love.  The former contains this hidden gem--"Try Me, I Know We Can Make It".

The concept album Four Seasons of Love features "Spring Affair".

In 1977, Summer released the concept album I Remember Yesterday.  The single "I Feel Love" topped charts in the U.K., Australia, and the Netherlands, and went to #2 in New Zealand, #3 in Germany, #4 in Canada, #5 in Sweden, and #6 in the United States, and sold over one million copies.
I Remember Yesterday went Gold, and Summer followed with the superb double concept album Once Upon a Time, which told the story of a "rags to riches" girl that essentially was Summer's story.  The great song "I Love You" reached #6 in the Netherlands, and #10 in the U.K. and Norway, but only #37 in the U.S., making it one of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*. The two adjoining songs on the album, "Rumour Has It" and "I Love You" were nearly always featured together on dance floors.

Summer was nominated for Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist and Favorite R&B/Soul Female Artist at the American Music Awards.  Another Top Track* on the album is the ballad "Once Upon A Time".


In 1978, Summer starred in the movie Thank God It's Friday, which featured Donna's next single "Last Dance".  "Last Dance" shuffled to #3 in the U.S. and New Zealand, #4 in Canada, and #10 in the Netherlands.  The soundtrack and single both went Gold, and Summer won the Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and the song won an Academy Award for Best Original Song from a Motion Picture and was nominated for the same category at the Golden Globe Awards. 

Donna then released a cover of the song "MacArthur Park", #1 in both the United States and Canada, #4 in New Zealand, #5 in the U.K., and #8 in Australia and the Netherlands.  She was nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the Grammys for the million-selling song.  

"MacArthur Park" was placed on the album Live and More, which went to #1 and sold over two million copies.  Thus, Summer became the second female artist of the Rock Era to own both the #1 single and album simultaneously (after The Singing Nun in 1963). 

Summer released another new song from Live and More, "Heaven Knows", another million-seller with help from the group Brooklyn Dreams, which helped the album go Platinum.  The single went to #3 in Canada and #4 in the U.S.

Donna captured three American Music Awards:  Favorite Disco Female Artist, Favorite Disco Album (Live and More) and Favorite Disco Single ("Last Dance").

In 1979, Summer performed at the world-televised Music for UNICEF Concert.  Then, she released the album of her career, Bad Girls.  Moroder brought in Harold Faltermeyer to arrange the album, and Faltermeyer, who had worked with both Summer and Moroder in the past, ended up writing songs and playing keyboards on the album.

Summer, Moroder and Belotte then proceeded to introduce a new type of music, a fusion of disco and rock, influenced by New Wave music that was taking the world by storm. The killer "Hot Stuff" was a #1 smash in the United States, Australia and Canada, #2 in Norway and Sweden, #5 in Germany, and #7 in New Zealand and sold over two million copies.  Summer won a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

For the second time in her career, Summer owned the top single ("Hot Stuff") and album (Bad Girls) at the same time.  When the title song hit #1 in the U.S. and Canada, #6 in New Zealand, #8 in Norway, #9 in Germany, and #10 in the Netherlands, it marked the first time in the history of the Rock Era that a solo artist had two songs in the Top 5.

Donna recorded some fine music earlier in her career, but keep in mind that her stretch from "Last Dance" to this song raised her star so high that few people in the history of the planet could match her record during those six songs. Bad Girls has now gone over three million in sales, and both "Hot Stuff" and "Bad Girls" sold over two million singles.  "Bad Girls" gave Donna the distinction of becoming the first female solo performer to score three #1 songs in a calendar year.  Then Summer pulled the #2 smash "Dim All The Lights" off the album, and it too went over one million in sales. 

Summer was also nominated for Album of the Year, Best Pop Female Vocal Performance ("Bad Girls"), Best Female R&B Vocal Performance ("Dim All The Lights"), and Best Disco Recording (for the album Bad Girls).  played eight sold-out performances at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles.  An undiscovered but nonetheless great track on the album is the ballad "On My Honor". 

Another solid track on the double album is "Sunset People".

When Summer's duet with Barbra Streisand ("No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)") went to #3, Summer again had two songs in the Top 3 as "Dim All The Lights" was ahead of it at #2.  "No More Tears" kept pushing up, though, and reached #1 in the United States and Sweden, #2 in Canada, #3 in the U.K. and Norway, #7 in New Zealand, and #8 in Australia.  "No More Tears" sold over two million copies.

With the song "On The Radio", from Summer's compilation album of the same name, Donna achieved her sixth Top 5 Song in a twelve-month period.  She was as red-hot at this point as nearly any artist in the history of the Rock Era.  The single sold over one million copies, and gave Summer another Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.  "On The Radio" rose to #2 in Canada, #5 in the U.S., and #6 in Norway.

On the Radio--Donna Summer's Greatest Hits Volumes I & II went to #1 on the Album chart and went Platinum, giving Summer yet another first--the first artist in history to score three consecutive #1 double albums (Bad Girls, Live and More and On the Radio).

When the sensational year was over, Summer was rewarded with American Music Awards for Favorite Pop (Rock) Female Artist, Favorite Pop/Rock Single (for "Bad Girls"), and Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist, and she was nominated for Favorite Pop/Rock Album for Bad Girls.

In 2004, both Donna and her song "I Feel Love" were inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame.

In 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012, Summer was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but they waited until she died to posthumously induct her.

Donna sold over 8.5 million albums in the decade.  She scored 15 hits, most of them big (10 Top 10's and four #1 smashes). 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.