To the Queen, With Love: Donna Summer Revisited, Day 2

* To the Queen, With Love: Donna Summer Revisited, Day 1

Decades after Bad Girls (1979) became the most commercially successful album of her career, Donna Summer explained how the project’s musical orientation corresponded to her own self-perception as an artist. “Bad Girls was kind of a fusion of rock and a little bit of R&B, and a little bit of pop and a little dance,” she said. “It was a fusion of everything. I mean, that’s what I am — I’m a fusion.” Harold Faltermeyer was an integral part of facilitating that fusion. He’d worked with Moroder on Midnight Express and was tapped to arrange Bad Girls. “This album was a transition in Donna’s career,” he says. “Coming from pure disco and from electronic disco, this initiated the rock and roll aspect of disco. Rod Stewart’s ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ and ‘Miss You’ by the Stones all led to the way we did this album. Donna had to change her performance slightly as well. She got edgier. She got tougher. That’s actually the difference between this and her earlier albums.”

With sessions based in Los Angeles, Trevor Veitch hired first-call players like Paul Jackson, Jr., Jay Graydon, Jai Winding, and the Seawind horns. “You’re simply drawing from the very best players in LA and believe me, all the best players are here,” he says. “Big pond but the same fish.” Summer was backed by three of LA’s most in-demand session vocalists, Stephanie Spruill, Julia Waters, and Maxine Waters. Ever the stalwart, Juergen Koppers retained his position behind the board.

Bad Girls was recorded during a flurry of activity from January through March 1979. “It was supposed to be a single album,” says Faltermeyer. “Giorgio and Pete had twelve or thirteen songs. Once we started to arrange and get the keys from Donna, then we had a meeting with Neil Bogart. He said to Giorgio, ‘I might as well put out a double album because Live and More did so well. I think I’ll take the risk of putting out another double album’. Giorgio said, ‘Okay, but we don’t have the songs’. Then I recall Neil saying to Giorgio, ‘Well, Giorgio that’s not really my problem’. Giorgio was frantic. He said to me, ‘Go to a studio and write songs because we need songs’. I was put into a studio with Keith and Pete. We ended up in Rusk Studios on La Brea Ave. in Hollywood. We had ‘Hot Stuff’ two days later.”

The coarse, rock-infused textures of “Hot Stuff” weren’t necessarily a new foil for Summer. “I grew up with rock and roll music,” she said. “It wasn’t foreign to me. There was no separation back in my day. I mean everybody listened to Ray Charles and everybody listened to Connie Francis. I didn’t know that you couldn’t do both.” As a teenager in Boston, Summer even fronted the Crow, a rock band that nearly signed with RCA before the singer moved to New York. She melded both her rock and theater roots on “Hot Stuff” and submitted the most searing vocal of her career.

Augmenting the rock quotient, Trevor Veitch enlisted a guitar ace to play on the track. “My really good friend is Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter who used to be with Steely Dan and then was with the Doobie Brothers,” he says. “We both did a lot of sessions playing guitar. I got him for the solo on ‘Hot Stuff’. He killed on that thing. That really elevated a real disco song into rock and roll.”

It was hard to top “Hot Stuff”, which was slated to open Bad Girls. Summer and her producers had to sustain its momentum while not dwarfing the track that followed it. Fortunately, Summer re-worked a demo of hers that engineer Steve Smith discovered in a pile of tapes. Written by Summer with Brooklyn Dreams (Bruce Sudano, Joe “Bean” Esposito, Eddie Hokenson), “Bad Girls” was a vivid snapshot of the streetwalkers who trotted along Sunset Boulevard. The storyline triggered the song’s signature hook: “toot toot, beep beep”. Julia Waters explains, “Great hooks — that’s what made the disco era. I always felt like background singing was the sweetening, the icing on the cake. We’d get on that hook and just stay there. You actually got in the groove of the music. ‘Toot toot, beep beep’ represented the cars driving by while these ladies were streetwalking.” Keith Forsey’s crisp drum beat simulated a strutting cadence. “I wonder how many miles I’ve walked on record at 120 BPM footsteps,” he laughs. “‘Bad Girls’ was a fun track to play on. That was just a hoot to do.”

The gatefold artwork of Bad Girls was like a storyboard for the title track. Elements of the cover’s tableaux also correlated to “Sunset People”, a song that detailed the sights and sounds of the Sunset Strip. Forsey, who wrote the track with Pete Bellotte and Harold Faltermeyer, recalls “We liked the vibe and the groove of Bob Seger’s ‘Hollywood Nights’. We got the tempo and the actual feel of the track from that.” Faltermeyer adds, “It was always a give and take thing. Keith was playing drums and I was playing piano or some related keyboard. We just sat there and created something. We recorded everything on a little cassette. The next day we evaluated what we did. Then we picked the good pieces and made a song out of them.” The Bellotte-Faltermeyer-Forsey team also hatched two more standout tracks for Bad Girls, “Walk Away” and “One Night in a Lifetime”.

No less than eight cuts on the album featured Summer’s songwriting, including the club favorite “Our Love”. However, “Dim All the Lights” was notable since it marked the first time that Summer recorded a totally self-penned composition. After a writing session with Kenny Loggins was cut short, Summer stayed behind and worked alone at the piano. She used Rod Stewart as a muse, writing lyrics that she imagined him singing to seduce a woman. Once in the studio, “Dim All the Lights” followed the foolproof formula of building from a slow sequence to a joyous, uptempo rhythm. “I always liked that song,” says Tom Moulton. “That’s a record. When they used to play that in the clubs they really would dim the lights.” Capped by a strident vocal, “Dim All the Lights” was a revelation of Summer’s gift for writing lyrics, melody, and music.

When Bad Girls dropped in May 1979, critics unanimously praised the album’s manifold strengths, from singing to songwriting to production. Writing for The New York Times, John Rockwell called it “an exhilarating set, her best yet … Bad Girls represents a breakthrough for Miss Summer as a singer” (18 May 1979). Within a month, Summer made pop music history. She became the first female artist to hold a number one single and a number one album simultaneously on two different occasions. The first coup traced back to November 1978 when Live & More and “MacArthur Park” occupied the top spot on the album and single charts. Summer was victorious a second time when “Hot Stuff” and Bad Girls both reached number one in June 1979.

While “Hot Stuff” spent three weeks at the top, the title track followed into the Top 10. When “Bad Girls” crowned the Hot 100, “Hot Stuff” still hovered at #3 and Summer became the first female artist to lodge two chart-topping singles in the Top 5 at the same time. Both singles went platinum while “Bad Girls” resided at number one for five weeks and crossed over to the top of the R&B singles chart — Summer’s first chart-topping R&B hit. After six weeks atop the Billboard 200, Bad Girls went double platinum. Spending two weeks at number two, “Dim All the Lights” nearly earned Summer a third consecutive number one solo hit but was shielded from the top by her duet with Barbra Streisand, “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)”.

To say Bad Girls was popular is an understatement. “That album was phenomenal,” says Julia Waters. “It still is.” The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) agreed. Donna Summer earned five Grammy nominations, including “Album of the Year”, “Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female” (Bad Girls), “Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female” (“Hot Stuff”), “Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female” (“Dim All the Lights”), and “Best Disco Recording” (Bad Girls). She took home the award for “Hot Stuff” and became the first female artist to win a Grammy in the rock category.

By the end of the ’70s, Donna Summer had evolved into a multi-dimensional artist with fans of all musical persuasions. She had the admiration from peers who’d also risen to the top. “Donna was a beautiful, uniquely talented and powerful singer who had incredible energy and charisma,” says Olivia Newton-John. “Yes, she was indeed the ‘Disco Queen’, but she was much more than that — she was a great songwriter and performer whom I was lucky to know.” As the ’70s yielded to the ’80s, Donna Summer had one more victory for the history books.

Part 6: From Casablanca to “Q”

To a degree, the success of Casablanca Records shadowed the success of Donna Summer’s career. It swelled from a boutique label at Warner Bros. to a maverick independent record label to an international company that branched out into films and housed some of the industry’s most successful groups in rock (KISS), funk (Parliament), and disco (Village People). Donna Summer turned the walls of the label’s headquarters on Sunset Boulevard into glimmering panels of gold and platinum. “Donna made Casablanca into a major thing for disco,” says Vince Aletti. “Casablanca was able to really invest in her. She may not have had the same kind of attention had she been at a much larger label. I think they were very conscious of pushing her well beyond disco without alienating her first audience. She brought people along.”

To capitalize on Summer’s recent hit streak, Casablanca issued On the Radio: Greatest Hits Vols. I & II (1979) just in time for the 1979 holiday season. While it wasn’t the singer’s first career retrospective — GTO Records had issued The Greatest Hits of Donna Summer (1977) for the UK market — it was Summer’s first domestic compilation. It was also something of a Bad Girls primer, since one-third of On the Radio featured tracks from the still-current blockbuster. The set was rounded out by all of Summer’s Top 10 pop hits plus “Try Me, I Know We Can Make It”, “I Remember Yesterday”, and “I Love You”. Aside from the 12″ version of “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)”, most of the hits were truncated and mixed with newly engineered segues.

For record buyers, the main attraction on the album was the title track, which bookended the set in single and extended versions. The song originally appeared in Foxes (1979), another one of Casablanca’s film projects. Giorgio Moroder wrote the score while the soundtrack included music by Casablanca acts like Cher, Angel, and Brooklyn Dreams. Long before the film, Moroder had worked on the music to “On the Radio” and approached Summer about writing lyrics. Once Foxes was underway, the two revisited the song. Summer struggled with the lyrics until she saw a Stephen Bishop album cover and wondered how he might approach the song. “It must have fallen out of a hole in your old brown overcoat” opened the floodgates and Summer penned one of her most evocative sets of lyrics.

Arranged by Harold Faltermeyer, the song once again employed the ballad-dance template heard on so many of Summer’s biggest hits. Like “Last Dance”, it even returned to the ballad section midway through the song. Everyone from club kids to future Oscar-nominated songwriters were moved by Summer’s lyrics and performance. “I don’t think Donna Summer gets enough credit for her songs and the fact that she wrote or co-wrote almost all of them,” says Diane Warren, who names “On the Radio” as one of her personal favorites. “They still stand up today as great songs.” Maurice White shares a similar sentiment. He adds, “Donna was the undisputed Queen of Disco, which unfortunately prevented people from being exposed to her other talents as much as she deserved.” Fortunately, the man who helped inspire Summer’s lyrics to “On the Radio” knew the depth of her talent. “I loved Donna,” says Stephen Bishop. “We tried to write a song one night and she just got sleepy and went to bed. She sang background on a version of ‘Your Precious Love’ (Roadie soundtrack, 1980). I sang it with Yvonne Elliman as a duet and Donna and I got into a play fight on the floor. It was pretty silly. She was fun. She was a powerhouse of a singer, very unique and soulful.”

Debuting on the chart in January 1980, “On the Radio” delivered another gold smash for the singer. It climbed to #5 and later earned Summer her third Grammy nomination for “Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female”. The single also coincided with the broadcast of Summer’s one-hour special for ABC, The Donna Summer Special (1980). Between live footage and filmed vignettes, Summer donned the outfit from the On the Radio album cover and sang her latest hit.

On the Radio stunned the industry when it brought Donna Summer back to the top of the Billboard 200. In a time before CD technology, when filling an album with anything more than 35 minutes of music constituted a major event, Summer broke new ground. She was the first artist in history to score three consecutive number one double albums. Each of those albums — Live & More, Bad Girls, On the Radio — went platinum. From the outside looking in, the 1980s were certainly off to a good start.

The “Q” Factor

If the late ’70s represented Donna Summer’s ascent towards worldwide fame, then the early ’80s challenged Summer to find her voice at a new label home amidst changing musical tastes. By 1980, Casablanca had sold the remaining 50% of its interests to PolyGram. Summer’s relationship with the label withered after she discovered some inconsistencies in royalty accounting. She signed with David Geffen and launched his eponymous label in fall 1980 with The Wanderer (1980) album.

On The Wanderer, Summer, Moroder, and Bellotte took the rock cues from Bad Girls and juxtaposed them with dance and new wave. More than ever before, the singer experimented with different vocal guises. “Donna stylized herself in a different manner,” says Keith Forsey. “She wasn’t just a singer. She characterized her voice as well. She was an actress behind the voice.” Critics greeted The Wanderer with as much fervor as Bad Girls, though the album attained only a fraction of its predecessor’s sales. Nonetheless, The Wanderer earned Summer a gold album while the gold-selling title track did very well at #3. Interestingly, a week before “The Wanderer” bowed on the Hot 100, the year-old “Walk Away” premiered on the same chart. Whether or not Casablanca intended to derail Summer’s Geffen debut, “Walk Away” interrupted Summer’s string of Top 5 hits when it peaked at #36.

The relatively low-charting “Walk Away” actually presaged the fate of Summer’s follow-up Geffen singles, “Cold Love” and “Who Do You Think You’re Foolin'”. Radio resisted playing anything rock-oriented by black female artists, especially singers associated with disco. Despite the fact that Summer rocked just as hard on “Cold Love” as she had on “Hot Stuff”, and both songs featured the same songwriters and producers, “Cold Love” only scraped the bottom of the Top 40. “People might not get it but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it,” Summer stated years later when reflecting on “Cold Love” and the overall rock direction of The Wanderer. “I don’t limit myself. I just want to make music.”

When Summer submitted her second album for Geffen Records, I’m a Rainbow (1981), the source of resistance was David Geffen himself. “He wanted me to do a more dance-oriented record and I wanted to do a more thought-provoking record,” Summer recalled. “I’m a Rainbow wasn’t the album he wanted, so he hired Q to come in and work with me.” The combination of Donna Summer and Quincy Jones had endless possibilities.

At the time, Quincy Jones had a major foothold in R&B. His productions for Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall (1979), Give Me the Night (1980) by George Benson, Light Up the Night (1980) by the Brothers Johnson, and his own The Dude (1981) defined a blend of dance, jazz, and R&B that crossed over to pop audiences and sold millions of records. One of the key figures in Jones’ success was songwriter Rod Temperton. The former Heatwave member had co-written Jackson’s “Rock With You”, Benson’s “Give Me the Night”, and dozens of other hits. Temperton co-wrote and arranged a surefire winner for Donna Summer on “Love Is In Control (Finger on the Trigger)”. The song immersed Summer in a modern R&B milieu. She also had star support on backing vocals. “My brother James was the contractor on that song and he’s also playing keyboards,” says Phillip Ingram. “James and I had sung background on quite a few records together prior to this session. Howard Hewett was also called. We all grew up together in Akron, Ohio. All of the ‘homeboys’ were together, which made it that much more special. It was also nice because I had success with Switch, Howard had success with Shalamar, and James was enjoying success as a solo artist.

“‘Love Is In Control’ is one of the highest songs that I’ve sung backgrounds on. We really pushed our falsettos on that session. I have another singer friend that I’ve worked with quite a bit over the years, Randy Crenshaw. We’ve sung on quite a few commercials and other projects. He mentioned to me how much he liked that song and thought that the women sounded great … until he found out that it was James, Howard and myself. He still teases me about that!”

After slotting “Love Is in Control” as the album opener, Jones showcased Summer’s versatility on the rest of Donna Summer (1982). The set went from Bruce Springsteen (“Protection”) to Billy Strayhorn (“Lush Life”), to Summer’s writing contributions on “Livin’ in America” and “Love Is Just a Breath Away”. Her recording of “The Woman in Me” also sparked a version by Heart. “Donna had a great, sensual voice,” says Ann Wilson. “She had the ability to slide her voice inside several different personas — the sex-kitten, the disco queen — but my favorite one was the spiritualist who nailed ‘State of Independence’. That was an unforgettable moment!” Indeed, “State of Independence” was one of the most majestic entries in Summer’s catalog. The all-star choir that backed Summer on the track included some of the biggest names in music: Michael Jackson, Dionne Warwick, Lionel Richie, Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, and Steve Wonder. Closing a three-year gap, “State of Independence” brought Summer back to the UK Top 20 where the song peaked at #14.

In the U.S., “Love Is in Control” shot to the Top 10 and made the R&B Top 5 during summer 1982. Jones had successfully remodeled Summer’s sound. “I really appreciated what Q brought to the table,” says Phillip Ingram. “I love all of Donna’s hits, because I enjoy her singing, but I felt she stretched herself as a vocalist on ‘Finger on the Trigger’. You knew it was Donna, but you also knew that you were hearing something special.” NARAS paid attention and included Summer among the nominees for “Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female” (in addition to her nomination in the rock category for “Protection”). Donna Summer also held another distinction. It was the last album Jones produced before recording the biggest-selling album of all time: Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1982).

Though it was the shelved I’m a Rainbow album that precipitated her collaboration with Jones, Donna Summer valued their partnership. “That was a great experience in terms of musicianship and just working with one of the great people of music,” she said. However, a byproduct of Donna Summer was the dissolution of her eight-year alliance with Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. Ultimately, that bond prepared Donna Summer for three more decades of recording. Many colors of the rainbow had yet to shine …

Part 7: The Queen’s Legacy Continues

In a way, the commercial proliferation of EDM over the past decade is vindication for the period that followed Donna Summer’s commercial peak in the late ’70s and early ’80s. As early as 1980, the “disco” tag had become something of a scarlet letter. “It seemed to me when disco ‘died’, Donna and some of the other really big people in the genre took a career hit,” says Trevor Veitch. “In those days, some people felt there was a debt that needed to be paid.” Remarkably, Summer’s career still thrived in a climate where the very mention of the word disco engendered hostility, even though dance beats clearly hadn’t left the pop charts.

Following the Quincy Jones project, Summer teamed with Michael Omartian on She Works Hard for the Money (1983). To settle Summer’s contract with PolyGram, the album was released on Mercury Records. “She Works Hard for the Money” became a pop anthem, topped the R&B singles chart, and flew to #3 on the Hot 100. That same year, the Flashdance (1983) soundtrack featured Summer’s “Romeo”, a track that was rescued from I’m a Rainbow. By extension, the Grammy-winning soundtrack also reunited Summer with her old label since Flashdance was issued on Casablanca, albeit during Russ Regan’s regime.

However, six years passed before Donna Summer was even remotely near the Top 10. Artists like Madonna and Whitney Houston now occupied the pop and club spheres that Summer once dominated. Her final two Geffen albums, Cats Without Claws (1984) and All Systems Go (1987), generated only modest success with “There Goes My Baby” (#21) and “Dinner With Gershwin” (#48). After Summer’s respite from recording, UK production team Stock Aitken Waterman (SAW) reignited her career on Another Place and Time (1989). Having departed Geffen, Summer signed with Atlantic and landed back in the Top 10 with the gold-selling “This Time I Know It’s For Real”. Over the next ten years, Summer’s music flourished in the clubs. Produced by Clivillés & Cole, “Melody of Love” (1994) topped the dance charts while a remix of Summer’s 1992 reunion with Giorgio Moroder on “Carry On” (1997) was awarded the very first “Best Dance Recording” Grammy in 1998.

By 1999, Donna Summer was back in the public eye with VH1 Presents Live & More Encore (1999), her highest-charting album since Cats Without Claws 15 years earlier. Released on Epic, the set highlighted Summer’s hits as well as selections from Ordinary Girl, a musical based on her life. It also included “I Will Go With You (Con Te Partiro)” and “Love Is the Healer”, two new studio cuts that both became number one dance singles. Clubs continued to be fertile ground for Summer’s one-off projects as “The Power of One” (2000), “You’re So Beautiful” (2003), and “I Got Your Love” (2005) each shot to the Top 5 of the dance charts.

Crayons (2008) marked Donna Summer’s first album of new studio material since Mistaken Identity (1991). From show-stopping ballads (“Be Myself Again”) to swampy soul-rock (“Slide Over Backwards”), Summer’s chameleonic voice was in top form. DJs were treated to a plethora of tracks ready to be remixed. “I’m a Fire”, “Stamp Your Feet”, and “Fame (The Game)” were all number one dance hits and burnished Summer’s legacy as a club icon. “To Paris With Love” (2010), one of many songs Summer co-wrote with Bruce Roberts, topped the dance chart two years later. Sadly, it was the last time Donna Summer delivered a new recording to the clubs. She passed away on 17 May 2012.

All around the world, news of Summer’s death devastated the singer’s fans, friends, and colleagues. The music industry has since honored Summer on a number of occasions, including tributes at the BET Awards, the Billboard Music Awards, VH1 DIVAS 2012, and a posthumous induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2013). Dionne Warwick, who witnessed Summer change the course of popular music, says, “Donna was a dear friend. When I think of her, I always first remember that wonderful smile of hers. She always greeted me with ‘Hey Lady D’ followed by a big hug. She also had a wonderful voice and was able to sing wonderful standards that would have people in awe simply because they never expected to hear this type of music coming from the ‘disco queen’. She was a devoted mother, wife, friend, and peer and is certainly missed by me and our industry.”

In recent years, Summer’s considerable body of work has been re-evaluated by many who’d overlooked just how influential her singing and songwriting had been. “I think what happened to Donna is like what happened with the Bee Gees,” says Diane Warren. “Since their songs were from the disco era, people have tended to discount them when in fact these songs hold up as well as any classics from any era.” Meanwhile, younger listeners raised on samples of Summer’s music by Beyoncé, Ne-Yo, and Nas discovered her decades-deep catalog without the stigma of “disco sucks” tarnishing the experience. “It seems to me that a lot of bad feelings that surrounded disco at one point have more or less disappeared,” says Vince Aletti. “There have been several generations of people who could care less about all the politics. Now they just see disco as the history of pop.”

Of all the tracks Summer wrote and recorded with Moroder and Bellotte, “I Feel Love” exists in a class of its own. More than ten years apart, remixes by Patrick Cowley (1982) and Rollo and Sister Bliss (1995) each brought the song back to UK charts. “I Feel Love” has been covered by everyone from Bronksi Beat & Marc Almond to Vanessa-Mae while major artists like Madonna and Red Hot Chili Peppers have worked the song into concert sets. In 2012, the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress even selected “I Feel Love” as a sound of cultural significance.

The effect of Love to Love You Donna is twofold. It’s a document of current production sensibilities in dance music, but it also reminds listeners that modern day dance music traces back to Summer’s pioneering efforts. There’s no doubt that “Love to Love You Baby”, “I Feel Love”, and “Hot Stuff” advanced the language of dance music. “Giorgio and Pete were in the business of making hit records,” says Trevor Veitch. “The way you do that is you surround yourself with the best people. It wasn’t just ego with them. They would bring in the best arrangers that they could. The team was extraordinary. Nobody but Juergen Koppers touched the board because he was better than everybody else in the room, from a sonic standpoint.” Those who helped craft those landmark recordings remember the camaraderie that shaped the notes and rhythms. “We all knew our place on the team,” says Keith Forsey. “That team spirit and that unity that we had … We had fun from the moment we stepped into the room to the moment we left.” The international coalition of musicians that Moroder and Bellotte brought together also lent a uniqueness to the experience. “Music is music is music,” says Les Hurdle. “It didn’t matter which country I went to, whether they spoke English or I didn’t speak their language, there was this unknown connection, which was emotion. I used to get back on the plane sometimes and realize I hadn’t spoken to anybody all day but we recorded an album.”

As a songwriter, actress, and conceptual artist, Donna Summer created masterpieces like Once Upon a Time and Bad Girls. The unifying factor? A voice unlike any other. “She had one of the best voices in the history of pop music,” exclaims Diane Warren. “She could sing,” adds Julia Waters. “Her voice was really beautiful. There will never be another Donna Summer again.” Bob Esty continues, “Her voice was phenomenal. She could give the meaning of a song without a lot of licks. She could sing everything. She was such an icon and a trendsetter.” Maurice White concurs, adding, “She influenced many other female pop singers that came after her with her aggressive style of presentation and her strong, in-your-face sexuality.” Of course, male artists also admired Summer’s scale-defying voice. “Donna Summer is probably the first great vocalist I ever heard that I associated to popular dance music,” says vocal virtuoso Jon Secada. “Her instrument was one of a kind.”

Artists who contributed some of the most enduring music of the disco era also emphasize the singularity of Donna Summer’s talent. “I believe Donna is really unique and will never be replaced,” says Cerrone. “She’s just unforgettable.” Village People construction worker David Hodo continues, “Donna was an exceptional talent with a voice that will long be remembered with all of the greats.” In addition to Summer’s voice, Tom Moulton cites the singer’s mystique as one of her abiding qualities. “She was so beautiful,” he says. “The thing I love most, and how I like to picture her now, is the picture of her on Once Upon a Time. She really did look like an angel.” A line from Giorgio Moroder’s mix for “La Dolce Vita”, a recently unearthed track on Love to Love You Donna, might say it best: “She was la dolce vita, and we miss her so”. Then and now, the voice of Donna Summer soars above every beat.



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