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Donna Summer 1948-2012: Farewell to a disco queen

From ”Hot Stuff” to ”Last Dance,” Summer helped define an era. Fellow legend — and friend — Chaka Khan pays tribute

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I believe we first met at an airport in Germany. We both lived there for a while — Donna was in Frankfurt, and I lived further south. She was one of the only black chicks that I could speak German with. We liked that. When we saw each other, especially in the States, we would lapse into German. She was the disco queen, but I’m hoping people remember her as a great human being. She had a rare message in the late ’70s. You didn’t hear a lot of women trying to empower other women. It was more like women hating on other women. You know, ”You took my man,” or whatever. With us there was this camaraderie — we really did want all women to be sisters and act like it. Whenever we got together, we just picked up where we left off. If she saw me, she would run up and hug me. There are a lot of people who don’t have a life outside of what they do on stage, but she was a great mother and a great entertainer. She had all those things.

I had heard she was back in the studio recently, and I’m dying to hear where her head was at and where her heart was at. She didn’t want anyone to know that she was suffering at the end. It speaks to how private she was, and how this was her battle. I wish that she shared it. But right now she’s continuing her spiritual walk, wherever she is. I’ll miss her. (As told to Kyle Anderson)

Donna Summer Essentials
”Love to Love You Baby” (1975)

An extended musical orgasm, essentially — and an early disco smash.

”I Feel Love” (1977)

An intoxicating spiral of synths and vocals.

”MacArthur Park” (1978)

Her soaring take transformed a maudlin ballad.

”Last Dance” (1978)

The anthem for every clubgoer looking for love (or something like it) before last call.

”Dim All the Lights” (1979)

Turn up the old Victrola on this funk-dappled come-on.

”Hot Stuff” (1979)

A glittery paean to Me Decade hedonism.

”No More Tears (Enough is Enough)” (1979)

Summer and Streisand in righteous-diva mode.

”On the Radio” (1979)

Love lost and found via the FM dial.

”She Works Hard for the Money” (1983)

A feminist battle cry in a shiny pop shell.

”This Time I Know It’s Real” (1989)

Her sweetly buoyant late-career hit.

Leah Greenblatt