There's much to praise with Donna but there's no need for universal praise.
Let's start with the good. In fact, let's start with my favorite Donna single: "Dinner With Gershwin." Donna was really trying to get back into the top forty. This song features Brenda Russell on piano (Brenda wrote the song) and Donna really giving it her all in a way that she didn't always do. Back in 1983 and 1984, as Donna was beginning to see the last of her hits, a critique of various female singers, including Irene Cara, went like this, 'Irene Cara sings this song like her life depended on it which is too bad because Donna Summer could toss this off while getting a manicure." But, at some point, it stopped being a testament to Summer's immense talent and more about her laid back approach which came off lazy from time to time.
After that, I'd choose "There Goes My Baby." I love how that song got reworked and all the power and passion Donna poured into it.
She was the Queen of Disco, a title she hated until the '00s. She tried everything to kill that title including an attempt at Donna Goes Country & Western.
"Love To Love You" is a song she co-wrote and the main line -- minus the moans -- are a crib from Laura Nyro's "The Confession." With the moans, she ended up with a worldwide smash that has never been forgotten.
This and much of what followed was hollow music energized by Donna's vocals. In 1979, her voice and her writing talents were evenly matched leading to the classic album Bad Girls which isn't just a Donna Summer classic, it's one of 1979's best.
The double album allowed Donna to show her talents. She co-wrote the title track and one of the album's most amazing songs as well ("Dim All The Lights" -- she wrote that one all by herself). This monster album got her magazine covers (People, etc) and an ABC special. It also saw her work being reconsidered.
"Hot Stuff" -- another monster hit -- comes off this album. But the hits didn't make the album. In fact, the second disc is the strongest and it doesn't have any singles. But it has Donna writing and co-writing some of her finest songs like "My Baby Understands" and "All Through The Night."
Looking back at this period, Donna would say the drugs had control.
That's too bad because it was her most creative period.
"Enough Is Enough (No More Tears)" was another number one for Donna, this time with Barbra Streisand. But it was "The Wanderer," believe it or not, that had Rolling Stone -- in real time, I'm not talking about their record guides, I'm talking about the actual reviews they ran -- start comparing Donna to, I'm not making this up, Bob Dylan.
But that album misfired. There would be other hit singles but nothing really worked album wise again. She recorded "Protection" but no one had the brains to release it as a single. Bruce Springsteen wrote the song for her. He wrote another one for her as well but ended up deciding to keep that one for himself, "Cover Me."
Her hits dried up in part because -- in a large part -- because she made a homophobic comment about AIDS. She stated that AIDS was God's punishment for people begin gay. SHe said it? She denied saying it. Much, much later, she denied making the remarks but in the 80s, she wasn't denying. And the Village Voice reported on the remarks when they were made.
Especially when Bronski Beat, who'd just covered her, found about the remarks and began calling her out. She refused to meet with them. She wanted to take part in a big NYC AIDS benefit because a number of big names would be in the audience. But she was refused.
That's when she realized how offensive her remarks were and she issued the "I love everyone" statement.
It wasn't enough and it was too late. She'd slowly realize that attacking gay people had seriously hurt her career.
And I sat with a friend who interviewed Donna for a music magazine, I sat through the entire interview, and back then she was more than happy to label people based on her understanding of o.
In the 90s she began trying to insist that she never said it. She had tons of times to get it straight and she wasn't bothered by it for years and years.
She could sing. At her finest, she could write a song you'd kill to sing along with.
But she wasn't perfect.
More would follow years after and
Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"