LaDonna Adrian Gaines (December 31, 1948 – May 17, 2012), widely known by her stage name based on her married name Donna Summer, was an American singer, songwriter and actress. She gained prominence during the disco era of the late 1970s and became known as the “Queen of Disco”, while her music gained a global following.
While influenced by the counterculture of the 1960s, Summer became the lead singer of a psychedelic rock band named Crow and moved to New York City. Joining a touring version of the musical Hair, she left New York and spent several years living, acting and singing in Europe, where she met music producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte in Munich, where they recorded influential disco hits such as “Love to Love You Baby” and “I Feel Love”, marking her breakthrough into an international career. Summer returned to the United States in 1975, and other hits such as “Last Dance”, “MacArthur Park”, “Heaven Knows”, “Hot Stuff”, “Bad Girls”, “Dim All the Lights”, “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)” (duet with Barbra Streisand) and “On the Radio” followed.
Summer earned a total of 42 hit singles on the US Billboard Hot 100 in her lifetime, with 14 of those reaching the top-ten. She claimed a top 40 hit every year between 1975 and 1984, and from her first top-ten hit in 1976, to the end of 1982, she had 12 top-ten hits (10 were top-five hits), more than any other act during that time period. She returned to the Hot 100’s top-five in 1983, and claimed her final top-ten hit in 1989 with “This Time I Know It’s for Real”. She was the first artist to have three consecutive double albums reach number one on the US Billboard 200 chart and charted four number-one singles in the US within a 12-month period. She also charted two number-one singles on the R&B Singles chart in the US and a number-one single in the United Kingdom. Her most recent Hot 100 hit came in 1999 with “I Will Go with You (Con Te Partiro)”. While her fortunes on the Hot 100 waned through those decades, Summer remained a force on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart over her entire career.
Summer died on May 17, 2012, from lung cancer, at her home in Naples, Florida. She reportedly sold over 100 million records worldwide, making her one of the best-selling music artists of all time. She won five Grammy Awards. In her obituary in The Times, she was described as the “undisputed queen of the Seventies disco boom” who reached the status of “one of the world’s leading female singers.” Giorgio Moroder described Summer’s work with them on the song “I Feel Love” as “really the start of electronic dance” music. In 2013, Summer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In December 2016, Billboard ranked her at No. 6 on its list of the Greatest of All Time Top Dance Club Artists.