Donna Summer, the unquestionable Queen of disco in the 70s and early 80s, has passed away. We want to pay homage to her by remembering ten of her immortal songs. It could have been more, for she truly was the greatest.
Donna Summer was planning to go on tour in the coming weeks, playing her greatest hits during what promised to be spectacular holy masses of disco. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen anymore. At 63, she lost her battle against cancer, and on 17th May - a black day for pop music - one of the Queens of the golden age of disco and synth funk said goodbye to us forever, leaving behind a string of unforgettable hits. Her name was LeDonna Andrea Gaines, but we'll always remember her as Donna Summer, and for songs like the ones we're highlighting for you here, as a homage to a universal icon of hedonism and free love. It's only ten songs, but it could have been two hundred.
1. I Feel Love (1977)
Of course, “I Feel Love”, the highlight of her collaboration with Giorgio Moroder. Over ten minutes of synth mantra, in its longest version (the Patrick Cowley remix went past the 15-minute line), repeated endlessly, in search of ecstasy on the dance floor. The rhythm, the central arpeggio - it has become the real genome of computer disco, prolonged over 35 years with reverential efficiency. The vocal part is simple, but immortal: few times so much passion has been expressed with so few resources.
2. Love To Love You Baby (1975)
The other essential Moroder-Summer production is “Love To Love You Baby”, more classic that “I Feel Love” (bombastic bass and string instrumentation, less electronica), but already indicating the repetitive mechanics of several of her earlier hits. According to legend, the original, 15-minute version was made by request of the Casablanca Records boss so he could use it as a soundtrack for his sexual encounters.
3. State Of Independence (1982)
“State Of Independence” was written by Jon Anderson (Yes) and Vangelis, one of the compositions they recorded in the early 80s on their four collaborative albums, and Donna Summer did her rendition with Quincy Jones at the helm. On the backing vocals are Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and other stars of black pop of that time.
4. On The Radio (1979)
Another Moroder production, with arrangements by Harold Faltermeyer and sung torrentially by a Donna Summer at her peak. It starts like a torrid ballad, but soon it turns into one of those volcanic disco pieces that shine harder than any mirror ball ever could (and which would turn out to be of such great importance for the birth, years later, of the powerful New Jersey garage scene).
5. Last Dance (1978)
The B-side of the single, “With Your Love”, was signed by the dream team (Summer, Moroder, Bellotte), but the main track was one of the first productions of another Casablanca Records engineer, Paul Jabara, which anticipated the structure of “On The Radio”: slow start, burning finish.
6. Heaven Knows (1978)
Bellotte and Moroder's unbeatable formula, once again at the service of a voice at its very peak. “Heaven Knows” was huge in 1978, one of the last golden years of disco music, with its lavish string arrangements and passionate vocals.
7. Hot Stuff (1979)
Moroder was out of the picture on this tremendous 1979 hit, with that memorable guitar riff and the electric hooks written by Pete Bellotte and arranged by Harold Faltermayer. It was one of her first 'rock' incursions - or what could be described as a kind of power disco - in anticipation of the Hi-NRG scene, which was about to happen.
8. MacArthur Park (1978)
The song was written by American pop writer Jimmy Webb, who left it in the hands of Richard Harris. However, for her 1978 (Donna Summer's true top year) single, it got the disco treatment by Moroder and Bellotte, giving an even more spectacular dimension to one of the most epic pop songs of the 70s.
9. No More Tears (Enough Is Enough) (1979)
An eleven minute duet with Barbra Streisand that is one of the most definitive gay anthems of all time (despite the lyrics being an utterly feminist statement). After two slow minutes, the song turns into a disco stomper with some moments of hysteria, before it reaches a climax that is legendary. It should be played at any self-respecting disco revival party.
10. Bad Girls (1979)
More evidence of the state of grace Donna Summer was in during 1975-1979, certifying that the 70s, in big part, were hers. “Bad Girls” did well in the charts: energetic production, catchy melody and the right duration for the radio. It was the title track of her 1979 album, which was almost a greatest hits record in itself.