My friend Zac and I went to see the theatrical performance of “SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical” at The River Center in Columbus, Georgia back in January of 2022 and it was good!!! This is coming from someone who doesn’t really like musicals, but I liked some of the songs and learning about the life and times of the “Disco Queen.” The musical was about an hour and thirty minutes with no intermission and masks were required for audience members. The cast did a great job singing and portraying the different phases of her life. Also, the stage, set design, and lighting were nice too.
Donna Summer was a groundbreaking Grammy award-winning artist who paved the way for lots of women and broke barriers as a Black woman singing pop, electronic, and house music in the ’70s and ’80s. Born on December 31, 1948, LaDonna Adrian Gaines grew up one of seven children to a schoolteacher and butcher in Boston and sang at church growing up. As a teenager, Donna would skip school to go on auditions and eventually drop out of high school to do theater in New York. She eventually moved to Germany as a young adult to do theater there too and became fluent in the language.
While overseas in Europe Donna started recording demo records. In the 70’s one of the sensual and provocative songs she recorded overseas, “Love To Love You Baby”, became a smash hit at discos in the U.S. and around the world. The song was banned from some radio stations due to the sexual moaning in the song, but it was still a top hit. Eventually, Donna went on to get married and have three daughters and still make hit records like “Bad Girls,” “Hot Stuff”, and “She Works Hard for the Money”, which have been used in various films and commercials throughout the years.
Donna battled with depression, domestic violence, racism, prejudice, sexism, and shady record deals, but found her faith in Jesus Christ to be her solace. In 2012, after battling cancer Donna Summer passed away, but her musical legacy and influence are felt throughout multiple generations. In later years younger artists such as Beyoncé went on to sample the song “Love To Love You Baby” in the 2003 hit single “Naughty Girl.”
Even if you’re not as familiar with Donna Summer’s music you’ve probably heard her songs before and didn’t realize she sang them. If you remember watching the film “Selena” starring Jennifer Lopez Donna Summer’s songs “On the Radio” and “Last Dance” were played in certain scenes in the film. I learned a lot from the musical and I think in the future there should be a Donna Summer biopic and actress-singer, Kelly Rowland, who has a striking resemblance to disco diva, should be cast as Donna.
In the meantime if you have a chance to see the musical in a city near you I recommend going! For more information go to https://thedonnasummermusical.com/tour Also, check out the #LovetoLoveYou documentary about Donna Summer’s life coming to HBO May 20, 2023.
I have also created a Donna Summer Spotify playlist below. Click here for the playlist on Apple Music.