The powerful voice and rich production of Donna Summer’s recordings served as soundtracks for a time that preceded the deadly realities of AIDS and the backlash of conservatism ushered in by the Reagan era. The Giorgio Moroder-produced I Feel Love instantly became a club staple and served as an anthem of an increasingly visible gay subculture. The song was from a 1977 concept album called I Remember Yesterday and represented what the future of music could sound like, and actually still sounds surprisingly fresh to this date.
After the decline in popularity of disco as a music form, although arguably it never really went away, just morphed into genres such as house and all its many permutations. Summer lost a lot of her luster, but none of her talent. Disco became the butt of jokes and Summer was associated with this, but it only takes a quick peek at a Summer discography to grasp the true significance of her songs and their lasting impact on music and our collective pop cultural memories.
It might be safe to say that Donna Summer was one of the first true black global pop cultural icons. She was embraced more for her music and what she attitudinally represented to a mass, cross-cultural generation of party hunters than the color of her complexion. She was embraced by the Studio 54 social vanguard and the young, club hopper sweating it out at the neighborhood hot spot. Donna Summer and her music crossed all racial, social, gender and orientation barriers and she indelibly left her mark on a time of social catharsis that we grew up in together.
We will miss Donna because every time we listen to her music we are reminded of how carefree we used to be.