Thursday, May 17, 2012

RIP, Donna Summer: We Loved to Love You, Baby

If there was any irony in the announcement of Donna Summer's death earlier today, it was that I heard about it not on the radio, but through Facebook. But no matter how I found out the news, I was incredibly saddened that another musical figure from my youth, whose music and presence evoked many memories of growing up, had lost her battle with cancer at age 63.

I don't know exactly when Donna Summer's music came into my life, but I remember playing my parents' Donna Summer Live and More album (remember those?) over and over again in the 1970s. When her On the Radio (one of my three favorite Donna Summer songs) album was released, I remember my friend Lisa had the above poster that came with the album (or at least one similar to the above picture) hanging in her basement. (It might still be there, I'm not sure.)

And the hits kept coming—Dim All the Lights (another one of my all-time favorites), I Feel Love, Love to Love You Baby, No More Tears (Enough is Enough), and, of course, the ultimate Donna Summer song that they used to play to end every sweet 16 party I went to, Last Dance. (It wasn't until I got a bit older that I realized MacArthur Park was a song about a cake left out in the rain (who knew?) and that Bad Girls wasn't just a song about girls who are bad, it's a song about prostitutes. I was a naïve child, what can I say?)

While the 1970s and early 1980s were undoubtedly her most famous days, it was good to see her not be a total casualty of the death of disco, returning to the charts with She Works Hard for the Money in 1984 and This Time I Know It's For Real in 1989. (And of course, I loved her part in Musical Youth's mid-80s hit, Pass the Dutchie.)

We were fortunate to have seen her in concert twice over the last 5-6 years, and both times her voice was in top-notch form and she put on a terrific show, albeit with a huge number of costume changes! And each time she performed, she was tremendously grateful for the reception her music (both old and new) received from the crowd. And that happiness, that gratitude, that amazement at being appreciated, is one way I'll always remember her.

So now that you've danced the last dance, thank you, Donna, for all of the music you gave us. I know my life wouldn't have been the same without it.

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