NEW YORK – Disco queen Donna Summer, whose pulsing anthems such as “Last Dance,” “Love to Love You Baby” and “Bad Girls” became the soundtrack for a glittery age of sex, drugs, dance and flashy clothes, has died. She was 63.
Summer died of cancer Thursday in Naples, Fla., said her publicist, Brian Edwards. Her family released a statement saying they “are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy.”
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 – her bedroom moans and sighs – 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. That she has never been inducted into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame is a total disgrace especially when I see the second-rate talent that has been inducted,” he said.
“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.
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 another anthem, this time for women’s rights.
Soon after, Summer became a born-again Christian. Religion played an important role in her life in later years, said Michael Levine, who briefly worked as her publicist.
“She was very committed to God, spirituality and religion. Her passion in her life, besides music, was God, spirituality and religion. She held a Bible study class at her home every week,” he said.