NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The woman who personified the disco era of the 1970’s and rose to fame with songs like 1975’s “Love to Love You Baby,” lost her long battle with cancer Thursday.
Donna Summer, the “Queen of Disco,” died at the age of 63.
Summer had been living in Florida with her husband, Bruce Sudano. She is survived by Sodano, their daughters, Brooklyn and Amanda, and Summer’s daughter, Mimi, from a previous marriage.
Her family released a statement Thursday saying Summer died and that “While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy. Words truly can’t express how much we appreciate your prayers and love for our family at this sensitive time.”
TMZ reported that Summer believed she contracted lung cancer by inhaling toxic particles after the 9/11 attack in New York City.
New York City was partially defined in the ’70’s and ’80’s by the thumping, soulful disco music played at bastions like Studio 54 and others. And among all the myriad tracks that swept the city – and the nation – in that era, Summer’s tunes echo through time.
As recently as 2009, Summer had fans on their feet at a concert in Coney Island.
“It was mystifying. It was stupendous, it was…electricity was in the air. The love…we had a lovefest with her,” Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said.
1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reports
But success didn’t come without struggle. Summer battled against anxiety and depression, even domestic violence. She addressed those issues in her 2003 memoir, “Ordinary Girl: The Journey,” telling CBS 2’s Katie McGee then, she hoped to help others.
“I’m a very private person by nature and so just talking about all that wasn’t easy,” Summer said in 2003. “I think that part of the reason for writing the book…I just wanted it to be like a mirror, a reflection for them, they can see their own lives in my life and different things that I’ve been through. Maybe they’re going through and they know they can overcome it and they can go on.”
Summer was born LaDonna Andre Gaines on December 31, 1948, and grew up in Boston’s Mission Hill section. Part of a religious family, she first sang in her church’s gospel choir, and as a teenager performed with a rock group called the Crow.
After high school, she moved to New York to sing and act in stage productions, and soon landed a role in a German production of Hair. She moved to Europe around 1968-1969, and spent a year in the German cast, after which she became part of the Hair company in Vienna.
Summer had been living in Englewood, Fla., with her husband Bruce Sudano who she married in 1980. Sudano was a singer with the trio Brooklyn Dreams. Their self-titled LP appeared in 1977. The record fared poorly but the group received an unexpected boost via their appearance in the 1978 feature film American Hot Wax. Brooklyn Dreams’ 1979 follow-up, Sleepless Nights, featured the smash “Heaven Knows,” a duet with Donna Summer. The trio not only opened for the singer on tour, but Sudano and Summer wed in 1980.
According to Billboard Magazine, Summer earned 32 hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100 in her career, with 14 of those reaching the top 10. Her biggest singles include her four No. 1s “MacArthur Park,” “Hot Stuff,” “Bad Girls” and “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)” with Barbra Streisand. While she earned a string of smashes in the 1970s, she continued to chart hits on into ’80s, ’90s, ’00s and ’10s.
Donna Summer had five Grammy Awards, seventeen Grammy nominations in all, three multi-platinum albums, eleven gold albums, twelve gold singles comprising many of the classic hit songs of the 70’s & 80’s.
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