Donna Summer, who had been battling cancer, transitioned into spirit today at the age of 63.
Being referred to as “the Queen of Disco,” can have a semi-derogatory tone. That’s because in the musical world, the word “disco” is the equivalent of your kindergarten classmates chanting on the playground that you’ve got the cooties.
However, if we look at the pop music of today, a large portion of it IS disco, except almost completely done on machines, with auto-tune, and a more technology based production style. Still, the stigma of being called “disco” is a hard one to break.
The reality, though, is that Donna Summer was a tremendously innovative artist. “I Feel Love” was one of the first hit records to use a deliberately mechanical computer based sound, with the music actually being performed on sequencers. She was perhaps the first artist to create an international pop sound, versus one that was regional or national. That sound, which incorporated a more global sensibility, featuring dance, American R&B, euro, synthesizers, and yes, even guitars, paved the way for artists like Madonna.
I connected with a lot of Donna’s work, but I especially loved “Hot Stuff,” which featured her commanding, sassy vocal. That track not only had a sexy groove (featuring drummer Keith Forsey, who also played on Billy Idol’s cover of “Mony Mony”), but an outstanding guitar solo. I use to perform “Hot Stuff” when I played music for strippers in the mid 1980’s, and as a cover during some of my solo shows.
Let’s salute Donna Summer, as not only the “Queen of Disco,” but as a truly groundbreaking artist who helped to pave the way for so many who followed her lead. Revisit the remarkably innovative hit, “I Feel Love” — Skafish
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