Disco Queen Donna Summer Dies Of Cancer

atlanta@adw.com | 5/26/2012, 1:39 p.m.

     Elton John said in a statement that Summer was more than the Queen of Disco.

     ``Her records sound as good today as they ever did. That she has never been inducted into the Rock `n' Roll Hall of Fame is a total disgrace especially when I see the second-rate talent that has been inducted,'' he said. ``She is a great friend to me and to the Elton John AIDS Foundation and I will miss her greatly.''

     Summer may not have liked the title and later became a born-again Christian, but many remembered her best for her early years, starting with the sinful ``Love to Love You Baby.''

     Released in 1975, a breakthrough hit for Summer and for disco, it was a legend of studio ecstasy and the genre's ultimate sexual anthem. Summer came up with the idea of the song and first recorded it as a demo in 1975, on the condition that another singer perform it commercially. But Casablanca Records president Neil Bogart liked the track so much that he suggested to producer Giorgio Moroder they re-record it, and make it longer _ what would come to be known as a ``disco disc.''

     Summer had reservations about the lyrics _ ``Do it to me again and again'' _ but imagined herself as a movie star playing a part as if she were Marilyn Monroe. So she agreed to sing, lying down on the studio floor, in darkness, and letting her imagination take over. Solo and multitracked, she whispered, she groaned, she crooned. Drums, bass, strings and keyboards answered her cries. She simulated climax so many times that the BBC kept count: 23, in 17 minutes.

     What started as a scandal became a classic. The song was later sampled by LL Cool J, Timbaland and Beyonce, who interpolated the hit for her jam ``Naughty Girl.'' It was also Summer's U.S. chart debut and the first of 19 No. 1 dance hits between 1975 and 2008 -- second only to Madonna.

     Summer, real name LaDonna Adrian Gaines, was born in 1948 in Boston. She was raised on gospel music and became the soloist in her church choir by age 10.

     ``There was no question I would be a singer, I just always knew. I had credit in my neighborhood, people would lend me money and tell me to pay it back when I got famous,'' Summer said in a 1989 interview with The Associated Press.

     Before disco, she had already reinvented herself several times. She sang Motown songs with local groups in Boston as a teenager, then dropped out of school in the late 1960s and switched to pyschedelic rock after hearing Janis Joplin. An attempt to get a part in the musical ``Hair'' led her to get the principal role in Munich. She stayed in Germany for five years, worked in other productions and modeled.

      Meanwhile, she was performing in operas, singing backup for Three Dog Night and other groups and releasing songs of her own. A marriage to Helmuth Sommer didn't last, but the singer did hold on to her ex-husband's last name, changing it to ``Summer.'' By 1974, she had met producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte and released her first album, ``Lady of the Night,'' to success in Europe.