Donna Summer

by Bob Schwartz


For those who never stopped listening to Donna Summer, the news of her death was more than nostalgia or a pop culture milestone.

Fans might have wished that the iconic tracks could somehow be stripped of the signature Giorgio Moroder disco production, so that all you could hear was simple pop gems sung by an angel. Maybe that will happen. But in their time, the voice and the thumping beats were what helped elevate disco and make these monster dance floor hits.

True talent overcomes. Her first record I Feel Love was an attempt to exploit her sex appeal as much as her voice, sort of disco porn. That lasted one record. Even though there was plenty of sexiness to come, she was never again presented that way. She was a star, not a sultry gimmick.

She didn’t get enough opportunity to showcase on record all that she was and could do. There are some live recordings that include non-dance arrangements, but these are too rare.

She took the over-the-top Jimmy Webb song MacArthur Park, which had been talk-sung into a 1968 hit by actor Richard Harris, and ten years later made it nearly-beautiful and nearly-plausible through the force of her voice. The disco production is still heavy-handed, but she reached notes that Richard Harris only dreamed of during his alcohol days. It was a massive hit.

One thing to know: On the duet No More Tears (Enough Is Enough), Donna Summer outsings Barbra Streisand. The blending of voices is excellent, but before they come together, listen to them trading lyrics. Even Streisand fans should get that this one belongs to Donna Summer. Streisand never did choose to perform this duet live.

We feel love.