Donna Summer in 1977
The gay community is mourning the death of Donna Summer, who produced some of the most popular disco anthems yet had a controversial relationship with her gay fans.
On Thursday, the 63-year-old five-time Grammy Award winner passed away at home in Florida after a battle with cancer. Few were aware that Summer was ill.
She is survived by her husband Bruce Sudano, three daughters and four grandchildren.
“Early this morning, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith,” her family said in a statement. “While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy.”
The singer, often called The Queen of Disco” found fame in the 1970s and 1980s with a string of hits including MacArthur Park, Love to Love You Baby, I Feel Love, She Works Hard for the Money, Last Dance, Hot Stuff and Bad Girls.
On Thursday, Gloria Gaynor, who performed the gay disco anthem I Will Survive, said that Summer “forever changed the way… America danced and enjoyed themselves. She may have had her ’Last Dance’ here on earth, but ‘Heaven Knows’ it is dancing with joy for her arrival.”
Barbara Streisand released a statement expressing her sadness at Summer’s Death. “I was shocked to hear about Donna. She was so vital the last time I saw her a few months ago. I loved doing the duet with her. She had an amazing voice and was so talented.”
Liza Minnelli said that “She was a queen, THE Queen of disco, and we will be dancing to her music forever. My thoughts and prayers are with her family always.”
Celebrities took to twitter to express their shock at Summer’s passing. Janet Jackson tweeted that she “changed the world of music with her beautiful voice and incredible talent… We will miss Donna Summer!”
Kylie Minogue also tweeted “One of my earliest musical inspirations, RIP Donna Summer #BadGirlsForEver” while Cher commented, “SO SAD re Donna!1 of the GREAT Voices of our time! I remember “Last Dance” Ended my nites at Studio 54!”
Nicki Minaj added: “Wow, another legend gone. Rest in peace to the beautiful disco queen Donna Summer.”
Summer was the first female artist to have three consecutive double albums reach number one on the U.S. Billboard chart.
Her songs became a hit at gay clubs around the world but in the 1980s her career was forever damaged when it was alleged that the star, then a born-again Christian, commented that “AIDS was a punishment from God for the immoral lifestyles of homosexuals”.
She later denied that she had made the comment and said in a letter to the American AIDS protest group ACT UP in 1989 that it was “a terrible misunderstanding. If I have caused you pain, forgive me.”
That same year she told the Advocate magazine: “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.”
Despite the controversy Summer’s songs have remained iconic favourites at gay nightclubs around the world.