Her top ten songs on either the American pop or R&B charts:
- 1975: Love to Love You Baby (pop #2, R&B #2)
- 1977: I Feel Love (#6, #9)
- 1978: Last Dance (#3, #5)
- 1978: MacArthur Park (#1, #8)
- 1979: Heaven Knows (#4, #10)
- 1979: Hot Stuff (#1, #3)
- 1979: Bad Girls (#1, #1)
- 1979: Dim All the Lights (#2, #13)
- 1979: No More Tears (Enough is Enough), with Barbra Steisand (#1, #20)
- 1980: On the Radio (#5, #9)
- 1980: The Wanderer (#3, #13)
- 1982: Love is in Control (Finger on the Trigger) (#10, #4)
- 1983: She Works Hard for the Money (#3, #1)
- 1983: Unconditional Love (#43, #9)
- 1987: Dinner with Gershwin (#48, #10)
- 1989: This Time I Know It’s for Real (#7, -)
Some were hits in western Europe and Australia too: “Love to Love You Baby”, “I Feel Love”, “Hot Stuff” and “Bad Girls”.
She says men most remember her for “Love to Love You Baby” while for women it is “She Works Hard for the Money”. Of her past hits she likes “Last Dance” the best, a song she did for a bad disco movie.
But “I Feel Love” is her most noteworthy. As David Bowie tells it:
One day in Berlin … [Brian] Eno came running in and said, “I have heard the sound of the future.” … he puts on “I Feel Love”, by Donna Summer … He said, “This is it, look no further. This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next fifteen years.” Which was more or less right.
It was also the first hit song where the music is played completely by a machine: all you hear is Donna Summer’s voice and a Moog synthesizer programmed by Giorgio Moroder.
She was born in Boston on New Year’s Eve. A fan of Mahalia Jackson, she grew up singing gospel music in church. She shocked her parents when she dropped out of high school and ran off to New York to try to make it big on Broadway. She tried out for “Hair” and lost out to Melba Moore, but they hired her for the show in Germany.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s she lived in Germany and Austria, where she appeared in different stage shows, like “Porgy & Bess”, “Godspell” and “Show Boat”.
She got married and settled down in Munich. She spoke German and had a married name of Sommer - which later became anglicized to Summer for her stage name. She worked as a backing singer and it was there that Italian producer Giorgio Moroder and British songwriter Pete Bellotte heard her. They loved her voice. The three worked together from 1973 to 1980, creating most of her hits.
Her music crossed back over to her native America through her gay white male fans of the early disco scene in New York – many of whom she later lost when she reportedly said Aids was a punishment from God. By then she was a born-again Christian, so it was believable, but she denies it and took New York magazine to court for printing it.