Donna Summer, 63, won five Grammys
- Last Updated: 8:14 AM, May 18, 2012
- Posted: 2:09 AM, May 18, 2012
Donna Summer, whose vibrant anthems like “Last Dance” and “Bad Girls” became the soundtrack of the disco era, died yesterday after a long battle with cancer.
Summer, 63, was working until recently on her first album in two years, and died surrounded by relatives at a home in Florida, her family said.
“While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy,” they said in a statement.
Summer knew spectacular success — including winning five Grammys and selling more than 130 million records — as well as tragedy.
In her memoirs, she recalled years of battling suicidal depression and addiction to prescription drugs and suffering a nervous breakdown. At the height of her fame in 1979, she tried to jump out of a hotel window but was saved by a maid, she disclosed in a 2008 interview.
She told pals she believed she had contracted lung cancer by inhaling toxic particles after 9/11, according to TMZ.
But she has also said she was in her Upper East Side apartment at the time of the terror attacks, which sent her spiraling into a two year depression.
“I was really freaked out by the horrific experiences of that day,” she told People magazine in 2008.
“I couldn’t go out, I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I had to keep the blinds down and stay in my bedroom.”
She said she went to therapy, and eventually came out of her funk through her faith. “I went to church and light came back into my soul,” she said.
Born in Boston as LaDonna Adrian Gaines, Summer was raised on gospel music and became the soloist in her church choir by age 10. She began her career in Germany, where she performed in productions of the shows “Hair” and “Porgy and Bess.”
Summer became a star in 1975 with the release of “Love to Love You Baby,” with its erotic moans that seemed scandalous at the time.
It was the first of 19 No. 1 dance hits — like “Hot Stuff” and “I Feel Love” — between 1975 and 2008, second only to Madonna. And, like Madonna, Summer had a distinctive persona — with glittery gowns, long eyelashes and luxurious hair.
In later years, Summer became a born-again Christian. “She held a Bible-study class at her home every week,” her publicist, Michael Levine, said yesterday.
Summer’s recording career declined in the 1990s, but she sang at a Nobel Peace Prize concert in Norway in 2009 in honor of the winner, President Obama.
“Her voice was unforgettable, and the music industry has lost a legend far too soon,” Obama said yesterday.
Among Donna Summer’s greatest hits:
“She Works Hard
for the Money”
“Love to Love You Baby” *
“Dim All the Lights”
“I Feel Love”
“This Time I Know It’s for Real”
“On the Radio”