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Disco Legend and Gay Icon of the 70’s & 80’s Donna Summer Passes Away At 63

Five-time Grammy winner, and legendary queen of disco, Donna Summer has passed away in Florida at the age of 63 after a long term fight with cancer.

Ms Summer, an LGBT Disco icon in the 1970’s and early 1980’s was the first artist to have three consecutive double albums reach number one on the US Billboard chart, and she also charted four number-one singles in the United States within a thirteen-month period.

In 1975, Summer came up with the lyric “love to love you, baby”. To get into the mood of recording the song, she requested all the lights be turn off while she recorded the moans and groans heard on the album.   Although some radio stations refused to play it due to its suggestive style, “Love to Love You” found chart success in several European countries, and made the Top 5 in the UK. and was a huge hit in gay discos in America

In 1977, Summer released album I Remember Yesterday. This album included her second top ten single, “I Feel Love”, which reached number six in the US.  Also released in 1977, was Once Upon a Time, a double album would also attain gold status. In 1978, Summer released her version of the Richard Harris ballad, “MacArthur Park”, which became her first US number one hit. The song was featured on Summer’s first live album, Live and More, which also became her first album to hit number one on the US Billboard 200 chart, and went platinum selling over a million copies and included anothet Top 10 track, “Heaven Knows”

Also in 1978, Summer acted in the film, Thank God It’s Friday, playing a singer determined to perform at a hot disco club. The film met modest success, but a song from the film, entitled “Last Dance”, reached number three on the Hot 100 and resulted in Summer winning her first Grammy Award..

But in the mid -1980s, Donna became embroiled in a controversy with her gay fans. She had allegedly made anti-gay remarks regarding the then new disease AIDS, which as a result had a significantly negative impact on her career and saw thousands of her records being returned to her record company by angered fans.

Summer was at this time a born-again Christian, was alleged to have said that  “AIDS was a punishment from God for the immoral lifestyles of homosexuals”  However, she denied that she had ever made any such comment and, in a letter to the AIDS campaign group ACT UP in 1989, she said that it was “a terrible misunderstanding. I was unknowingly protected by those around me from the bad press and hate letters….If I have caused you pain, forgive me.”   Summer told The Advocate magazine that “A couple of the people I write with are gay, and they have been ever since I met them. What people want to do with their bodies is their personal preference.”.

The gay community believed and forgave her.

Rest In Peace Donna Summer

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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