There is probably no word that defines it better than disco Donna SummerIts hypnotic “I Feel Love.” In fact, the 45-year-old track was crowned the greatest dance song of all time earlier this year. The Rolling Stones. Among 2020’s ongoing disco resurgence — from Kylie Minogue the disco per Beyonceof the renaissancewhich features a prominent reinterpretation of “i feel love” — Donna Summer’s legacy in pop music is bigger than ever.
With five Grammy Awards and 18 nominations, Summer still holds the distinction of being the only artist to win awards in four different genres: Dance, Gospel, Rock and R&B. Although his catalog spans decades and features reinvention after reinvention, his golden age was undoubtedly the 1970s. He took that decade by storm with a string of seven classic disco albums – almost entirely written and produced by Summer and European collaborators. Giorgio Moroder And Pete Bellot — which became the No. 1 compilation album of 1979 On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II. The compilation includes some of the genre’s greatest and most iconic songs, such as “Bad Girls,” “On the Radio” and “MacArthur Park,” all of which evoke disco’s humor, camp, and otherworldly sound.
But the undisputed queen of disco is often vilified on the margins of pop overall Evolution – A consequence of the historical neglect for disco as an art form, even though it defined many of the genres of dance music that developed in its wake. As disco’s greatest champion, Summer redefined what it meant to be a “pop star” in a post-Motown world. Summer’s artistry symbolizes sound and aesthetic development and composite means over time.
In celebration of Summer’s continuing legacy, GRAMMY.com discusses how Donna Summer’s 1970s song forever changed music and pop stardom.
Donna, The Vixen
Donna Summer’s catalog displays a fascination with the concepts of femininity and desire. At a time when women in music culture were largely categorized as matrons, muses, or cohorts, Summer’s music thematically centered on women as complex and exciting protagonists.
His first internationally released album and his first foray into disco, love to love youSummer moans throughout the title track for 16+ minutes of absolute sex. Summer itself Producer Giorgio Moroder came up with ideas for the song’s content, after playing the instrument and asking him to improvise. His off-the-cuff reaction has become one of the most iconic hooks of all time. Embracing and imitating the female orgasm — a taboo subject in pop culture to this day — was how Donna Summer introduced herself to the world, earning her the honor of “The First Lady of Love.”
Summer’s 1976 follow-up album, A love trilogy, with a cover of Barry Manilow’s “Could It Be Magic” was also his most outwardly ambitious as his second-best cry-filled song. Lyrically sparse, it contains some of her direct and simple sex appeal, with Moroder and Bellot’s lush production doing the talking and cementing Summer’s status as disco’s enigmatic sex goddess.
Her exploration of femininity reached her creative peak with 1979 bad girls, is often considered Donna Summer’s album. It’s a portrait of a fully developed pop star with a cohesive vision, and perhaps the pinnacle of Summer’s comprehensive artistry.
One of many summer concept albums, bad girls A narrative told from the perspective of a “lady of the night” making her way on the streets of Hollywood. album, and especially its title track motivated Summer observes a record company employee being harassed by the police for pretending to be a streetwalker. It’s an idiom for girls trying to survive in a world that denigrates sexuality, and much of Summer’s career has aimed to reclaim femininity and sexuality from a place of agency and power. so no bad girls Leaning towards rock, the ethereal strings of disco’s past are abandoned in favor of a more hard-edged, synth and guitar-led sound that lends itself well to grounded content.
Summer carefully developed the album’s visual identity, working with legendary photographer Harry Langdon Jr. to create album artwork that furthered the music’s story. Langdon describes The shoot creates an entire narrative from the image, as Summer’s own brainchild, with Summer as the “fallen woman”. The result was a prototype of today’s pop star “era”, defining the visual album cycle and vice versa. This served as a shift in the creative control of women in pop, as Summer refused to allow her artistry and expression to be entirely shaped by the men behind the scenes. He instead focused on his own synthesis of the world, expressing it through new personalities, performances and ideas with each new album.
“Bad Girls” doubles as a tongue-in-cheek take on the promiscuous and alienating nature of pop stardom. Accused yet desirable, dangerous yet captivating, the questionable bad girl double for the so-called. social danger Disco is responsible for the inherently libertarian nature and its primarily black, female and LGBT stars. Album choice Britney Spears‘ Blackout Continues this thread of examining the value of fame through the lens of sexism, exploitation and the pop star as a commodity.
Donna, The Innovator
One of the biggest things Donna Summer did for disco was starting its evolution and encouraging its sonic expansion. Summer takes rock and disco directly into each other — while mixing in guitar breaks and a heavy bass line, choral elements, danceable drum beats, and synth hooks typically associated with disco. He was a key architect in transitioning the dreamier, string-led sounds of disco into the future of synth-led dance music. Following the legacy of black funk rockers like Labelle and the like Betty Davis, 1979’s “Hot Stuff” loudly and proudly eschews the romantic despair that was a staple of pop divadom in favor of straight-up assertiveness, with an emphatic chorus backing Summer’s insistence. The song won the first GRAMMY Award for Best Female Rock Performance in 1980.
Featuring Doobie Brother/Steely Dan member Jeff Baxter on guitar, “Hot Stuff” set the stage for the upcoming 1980s as a golden decade for women in rock, and black women in particular. Its influence sounds like a pop-rock classic Janet Jacksonof “Black Cat” and Tina Turnerof “I Could Be Queen.”
As with rock, another art form that Donna Summer invented and developed was the concept album — a highly acclaimed production often attributed to the men of classic rock. The music canon, however, is full of clever pop concept albums by women, to which Summer has contributed various works. Among his greatest contributions Four seasons of love And Once upon a time…
Four seasons of love Describes the life cycle of a romance in parallel with the seasons with the theatrically intense nature of love. It follows the pursuit of a new fling (“Spring Affair”) that develops into a passionate frenzy (“Summer Fever”) before finally dying in a desperate attempt to sustain it (“Autumn Changes”) (“Winter Melody”) — Giving way to another hopeful new relationship (“Spring Reset”). Summer exercises her chameleon voice to express giddiness, intensity, despair, listlessness and finally optimism at each stage of the album. DJ Jesse Saunders, creator of the first house music record to sell, by quoting As the song “Spring Affair” has “changed”. [his] The whole concept of music” and inspired his desire to create.
once upon a time…, Summer Eclipse with Cinderella, one of the greatest concept albums of all time. A complete fairy tale, it features some of the most elegant and seamless transformations of songs ever (Beyoncé’s the renaissance took notes!) It’s an atmospheric production that is thematically divided into four distinct storybook acts – isolation, despair, longing and optimism – to form a transcendent disco opera. Standouts include the ethereal choir-led “Now I Need You,” the chill and futuristic “Working the Midnight Shift” and the empowering turn of “If You Got It Flaunt It.” Summer is an absolute chameleon through the song cycle, using her vocal prowess to master a wide variety of sounds and moods and displaying her studious knowledge of a wide berth of musical styles.
Donna, The Historian
Disco is a melting pot of decades of black music, where soul, funk and pop all combine into one very sexy gumbo. Many of the best songs of the summer lean toward this relevance of genre and evolution, such as the songs mentioned above Once upon a time… And starting with 1975’s “Need-A-Man Blues.” Rather than merely determining what was next in music—which many tried to do to ensure their relevance—Donna Summer was keen to honor her influence as a core part of her musical palate. She was a true student of her idols, unwilling to separate herself from the art that shaped her.
One of her first distinctly disco songs, “Need-A-Man-Blues,” featured Sly and the Family Stone’s iconic “Thank You (Fallin’ Me Be My Elf Again),” a Stax Records-esque psychedelic soul instrumental and a Diana rhythm. has Ross-inspired breathy vocals, while Moroder and Bellotte’s unique brand of Euro disco fizz ties it all together. It’s one of many summer songs that dynamically pull the past into the future.
Summer’s penchant for cultural historicism peaked on his 1977 concept album remember yesterday which reflects the history of pop music before predicting its future. The title track evokes the optimistic wave of the 1940s, followed by the ’60s Wall of Sound-inspired soda shop pep “Love’s Unkind,” Diana Ross’ “Back in Love Again” Motown stylings, and ’70s odes. Inventions of funk and orchestral Philadelphia soul with “Black Lady” and “Take Me” respectively.
The album ends with the ever-futuristic and eternally relevant “I Feel Love”. I remember yesterday An unparalleled chronicle of pop music. “I Feel Love” both predicted and engineered the next 45 years of dance music as a major influence for new wave, post-disco, synthpop, and many other subgenres that would go on to define the pop music landscape.
As the ’70s came to a close and disco “died,” Donna Summer was nowhere near over. He went on to release 10 more albums including He works hard for money, and its title track became one of his most defining hits. Donna Summer never stopped experimenting and creating, although she never received the commercial or critical acclaim as her 70s work. And in Madonna sexual liberationJanet Jackson’s Influenced by social justice Concept album, Beyonce’s Music historian trend, and Lady Gaga’s penchant for dance-pop as a Artistic philosophyIt’s clear that over the past five decades, all of our favorite pop artists have chosen to follow Donna Summer’s musical blueprint.
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