Music Legend Donna Summer – Remembering the Queen of Disco

2 Comments

At the young age of 63, Donna Summer, who had been battling cancer, has passed away in her Florida home on Thursday, surrounded by family and friends.  The family released a statement:  “Early this morning, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith.  While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy. Words truly can’t express how much we appreciate your prayers and love for our family at this sensitive time.”

I was going to write an informational piece on the death of Donna Summer.  I felt it was important for me to write something because like Whitney Houston, in my book, she was also considered to be “the voice”.  Yes, her songs were upbeat, happy, and made you want to dance.  Even the ones about heartache were disco-fied!  However, her notes soared with the best of them, a fact overlooked because of the upbeat tunes she so often sang.  I read of her passing on Facebook, searched frantically for proof of this terrible news, and then gathered articles from across the internet, plugged in my iPod and got my Donna Summer albums playing!  I couldn’t focus.  A majority of her music was among the best, and all I kept thinking was, why did they ever say disco is dead?  These songs are AWESOME!  Hardly any different than the generic beats of a lot of the house music of the 90s, or some of the club music of today.  Newsflash, music snobs, disco never died.  Good music never does.  The fashions, though…well…

Donna Summer had a pretty productive life.  Her birth name was LaDonna Adrian Gaines.  She was born on New Year’s Eve in 1948.  Donna was brought up in a strict Christian household; one of seven kids, raised in Boston.  She was influenced by gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, and sang in the church from an early age.  As she got older, she formed musical groups with her sister and cousin in the style of Motown girl groups at the time, such as the Supremes and Martha and the Vandellas, later going more towards bluesy rock with the emergence of Janis Joplin.  Donna dropped out of school in her teens and joined a psychedelic rock group, the Crow, only to have them disband once they got to New York.  She auditioned for the Broadway musical, Hair, losing it but she was offered the European one.  Off to Germany she went, where she learned the language and began acting in more plays.  While in the Austrian production of Godspell, Donna fell in love with her first husband, actor Helmuth Sommer.  They married in 1972, had a child in 1973, Mimi, and divorced.  Donna kept the name, transforming it to the American version, Summer.  She lived with her boyfriend, artist and super jealous Peter Mühldorfer.  She recorded a song with the Brooklyn Dreams, and fell in love once more with one of the members.  “Heaven Knows” it was a good match, as she married Bruce Sudano in 1980, and had two children, Brooklyn, (named after the group) in 1981, and Amanda in 1982.  She is survived by her three children and husband.

Her first released song was in Europe, a cover of “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses”.  Summer soon met producers, Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, signed with Groovy Records and issued her first album, Lady of the Night, to limited European success.  Donna was writing for another artist, when she came up with the lyric, “Love to Love You, Baby”.  Moroder was exploring the new sound of the time, and they recorded a demo track of the now infamous song.  They wisely decided to release it, with the help of Casablanca Records, setting off a career of royal success.  Though several stations, even in the States, refused it airplay due to its orgasmic sounds and sexy whisperings, the single hit the top ten in 1976.  In 1977, “I Feel Love” became her second top ten, followed by 1978’s “MacArthur Park” and “Heaven Knows”.   It was in the movie Thank God It’s Friday, where her epic signature song, “Last Dance” featured and garnered writer Paul Jabara an Academy Award and Donna Summer her first Grammy.  Subsequent success was found with “Bad Girls”, “Hot Stuff”, “Dim All the Lights”, and “On the Radio”.  The first time the Grammys included the category Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, Donna Summer clinched it (“Hot Stuff”).  Overcome with the overwhelming rise of her early success, Summer became depressed and suffered from anxiety attacks in 1977, leading to her addiction to prescription medication.  Donna turned to the church in 1979, becoming a born-again Christian.

Casablanca and Summer parted ways when tension rose due to Donna’s desire to move her music in a different direction.  Signing with new label at the time, Geffen Rocords, Summer went for a more new wave, rock sound.  The rock edge crept in with The Wanderer, and with her second album, I’m A Rainbow, shelved and after seven years of working with Moroder, Geffen recruited Quincy Jones to serve as Summer’s producer on 1982’s Donna Summer.  Polygram Records, the parent company of Casablanca, came calling over failed contract fulfillments.  Donna Summer gave them the last album owed, She Works Hard for the Money, in which the title track hit #3 on the US Hot 100.  Back with Geffen, Cats Without Claws followed in 1984, with little commercial success, becoming the first of her albums to not reach gold status.  The decline continued with 1987’s All Systems Go, and Summer left Geffen for Warner Bros. for the 1989 release of Another Place and Time, which held the top ten hit single “This Time I Know It’s For Real”.  Mistaken Identity in 1991, was followed by Christmas Spirit on Polygram Records in 1994.  After a 17 year hiatus, Donna returned with Sony Records for 2008’s album, Crayons.  Nearly coming full circle, Summer wrote the tracks “The Queen is Back” and “Mr. Music” with J.R. Rotem and Evan Bogart, the son of Casablanca Records founder, Neil Bogart.  Her last single was “To Paris With Love”, in 2010, which reached #1 on the US Billboard Dance Chart.

A statement from the Recording Academy said she “had a dynamic voice and unique musical style that helped define the dance music genre in the ’70s.”  Academy President, Neil Portnow, continued praising Summer, calling her “an artist who crossed many musical genres, as evidenced by her Grammy wins in the R&B, rock, inspirational and dance categories.  Her talent was a true gift to the music industry, and our thoughts and sympathies are with her family, friends and fans throughout the world during this difficult time.”  Donna Summer had said she never liked to be categorized, calling herself an instrument that makes particular sounds for whatever was to come out for that color.  In a statement released by her publicist, duet partner in “No More Tears”, Barbra Streisand said, “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.”  Twitter, the social medium that has become a platform for unofficial statements, had celebrities expressing their sorrow.  LaToya Jackson wrote “She will be terribly missed. She was truly the #Disco Queen!”  Quincy Jones tweeted, “Rest in Peace dear Donna Summer. Your voice was the heartbeat and soundtrack of a decade.”

The recipient of 5 Grammys, inducted into the Dance Hall of Fame in 2004, nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010, Donna Summer leaves behind a musical legacy.

“…If you think that love isn’t found on the radio, then tune right in, you may find the love you lost…”

Advertisements

American Idol Elimination 5/17/12

Leave a comment

“Got to Get You Into My Life” by the Beatles, performed by the monochromatic trio started the show off.  The three displayed their distinctive voices; the diva, the gospel power and the bluesy rock.

Joshua Ledet was called up first for Jimmy’s review.  Iovine felt the judges graded him a little too graciously, and took responsibility for choosing “No More Drama”, a song he felt didn’t have enough melody for Joshua to own.  The ending result was that Iovine absolutely believed that Joshua deserves to be in the final two.

A video package obviously from last week, had the four remaining contestants at the time visit a recording studio with singer/songwriter Ester Dean.  She had them sing the song “We Are” from the summer movie, Ice Age – Continental Drift, out in theaters July 13th.  The movie version has Dean, Jennifer Lopez and Drake on the track.

Lisa Marie Presley’s latest album is entitled “Storm & Grace”, available as of earlier this week.  She visited the Idol stage to sing, “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet”.  She’s not her father, the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, but she has a smooth vibe to her music that’s definitely worth a listen.

Jessica Sanchez was up for scrutiny next.  Iovine thought her Mariah Carey wasn’t as great as the judges thought and also took the rap for choosing “I’ll Be There”, saying the song was too short and did lack the back and forth between Michael and Jermaine Jackson’s vocals.  He said she deserved to be in the finals and is worthy to sing on the Grammys already.

A few words were said about the unfortunate passing of the Queen of Disco, the talented voice of a generation, Donna Summer.

Adam Lambert returned to promote his latest album, also released earlier this week, “Trespassing”.  He sang “Never Close Our Eyes”.  The tune is an upbeat pop rock song, and not even the best one on the album.  (The title track is hot!)

Phillip Phillips had his moment in the spotlight.  Jimmy thought his sound is more original and less derivative of other artists, and praised him for taking risks, but didn’t think it worked with “Disease”.  Iovine did declare Phillip the winner of the night, calling it the best performance of Wednesday’s show with Bob Seger’s cover.  The emotions came through, the vocals were beautiful and it was the best he’d seen of Phillip all year.

All three were called up front and center.  The judges unnecessarily said how heartbreaking it is to lose anyone at this point.  And then it was time for the reveal.  Two go through.  One goes home.  But first, we went to commercial.

Dim all the lights, sweet darlin’, ’cause tonight it’s all the way…to the final two.  The first contestant in was…

Jessica Sanchez!

Her competitor would be…

Phillip Phillips!!!

Joshua ended his run with the show stopper performance, “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”.  The very best of luck to Joshua Ledet.  He has a wonderful opportunity for a successful career.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are one week away from crowning a new American Idol!!!

Podcasting

2 Comments

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about creating podcasts.  I figured it’ll get me back into the swing of things, career-wise, and it’ll be fun in the meantime.  Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as I figured it might be.  Obviously I knew I couldn’t play full songs in it, but I had no idea I couldn’t even use tiny little clips.  I’ve been scouring Royalty Free Music albums, which funny enough, you have to pay for, and the tracks have all been pretty generic and horrible.  I’m also struggling with how long each podcast should be and worry whether anyone will listen to it.  Anyways, those are my thoughts for the night.  Peace!

American Idol Recap 5/16/12

Leave a comment

And then there were three…Joshua, Jessica and Phillip.  Tonight’s important American Idol consisted of three rounds.  In the first round, the contestants would sing songs picked by the judges.  Second round would be the idol hopefuls’ choice.  The third and final round would be a tune chosen by Jimmy Iovine.

Joshua was given Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind”.  Perfect choice for him, and he did it with a throwback vibe.  He received a standing ovation.  The judges comments included Jennifer’s “another amazing performance”, and Steven’s strong words of “out of 70,000, one is the American Idol, and you sang like that one tonight”.

Jessica took on the incomparable Mariah Carey and her beautiful song, “My All”.  The judges chose it for its’ tenderness and that’s what they got.  Her words of judgement were Randi’s “excellent”, J.Lo’s “hard song” and Tyler declaring she’d be “the last one standing”.  Her voice wasn’t great on the very low notes, but she did well.

Phillip performed “Beggin'” by Madcon.  The trio said it was “great”, he was definitely “in the zone”, and Tyler made a drastic note, saying he could be “the new age Springsteen”.  Phillip Phillips?  The Boss?  Come on!

Contestants’ choice was up next, after a special clip of each of their return home.

Joshua picked “Imagine” by John Lennon.  Some songs shouldn’t be touched, but of course, he did well.  He took it to church, people.  “Preaching while singing”, there was a sense he was pulling back a bit on vocals which worked well to spread the message of the song.

Jessica had guts to sing “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” by Aerosmith, in front of their frontman, Steven Tyler.  He was clearly pleased with her rendition, giving her a standing ovation.  The big note at song’s end was wonderful.

Phillip did not fair as well.  He chose Matchbox Twenty’s “Disease” and sang it slightly off the melody, as he sometimes does.  The judges were not a fan, saying it was safe and he needed a better performance than that at this stage of the game.

Now down to the last round to make it into the finals.  Advisor Jimmy Iovine gave each finalist his choice.

Mary J. Blige’s classic, “No More Drama”, was perfectly matched to Joshua.  Her free spirit when singing it transcended to Joshua and church was back in session.  His ad libs at the end was good, and he seemed truly exhausted by the last note.  This guy left it all on the line with fabulous results.  The judges loved it, praising him as a natural performer.

To showcase the youth of Jessica, “I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5 was hers.  She did a lovely vocal on the song, but like Randi, I, too, was waiting for the big moment that never came.  It was all pretty even toned.  Was it enough for votes?

Phillip returned to close out the show with Bob Seger’s heart wrenching “We Got Tonight”.  Subdued, straight vocals without guitar, sticking to the melody, staring at the camera and singing words of longing…he succeeded in achieving his moment, and all three judges gave him a deserved standing ovation.

It is clear fans of Phillip were present in the audience, as every one of his sets concluded with girlish screams of delight.  No doubt his youthful teen fan club will help sway votes, too.  Will it be enough to push Phillip to the end?  And if Phillip’s in, who’s out?  Joshua?  Or Jessica?  Tune in to tomorrow night’s show, as the final two are revealed!

@Justinbieber…

Leave a comment

Well, I thought I’d take a break from Operation Justin Bieber Tweet and give my blog a slightly personal touch.  FYI, Operation JBT is where I assault the Biebs with a flurry of tweets on behalf of my little cousin for her birthday.  

He has nearly 22 million followers.  

He gets who knows how many tweets per hour, let alone per day.  

It’s a crap shoot as to when he goes on his Twitter to read them, or quickly scan through.  

Which means to increase the likelihood of him seeing my tweets, I have to increase the number of tweets.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. 

All day long.

Silly for me, waste of time, too, but out of love, I’m doing it.  Besides, if Twitter existed in my childhood, I’d be writing NKOTB with just as much intensity!  😉

American Idol Elimination 5/10/12

Leave a comment

A group song of “California Dreamin'” kicked off the tonight’s elimination show.

After airing the weekly Ford commercial where Phillip was conspicuously missing, he was called up to hear his fate.  Hometown Hero’s welcome and final 3?  Or an end to a long journey?

After a review of last night’s performances and Jimmy Iovine’s opinion, Ryan sent him back to the couches to keep waiting.

What an annoying way to fill the hour and keep suspense.

Hollie was up next with the same fate as Phillip…to wait on the couches.

David Cook returned to promote his new single, “The Last Song I’ll Write For You”.  This is a beautiful heartache song, and it was great to see Cook, a real rocker, back on the idol stage.

Joshua got pulled up with the same result, as was Jessica.

All four contestants sat on the couch, each anxiously awaiting the news.  They’d have to wait a little more, however, as Jennifer Lopez commanded the arena with a sultry song and dance.

I’m not sure how appropriate it is for a judge on a talent show to be promoting her own upcoming music and tour, especially in a sexy outfit.  One thing’s for sure, though.  She is gorgeous, has fun dance music, and her tour with Enrique Iglesias is gonna be en fuego!!!  Lots of fun and international times to come!!!

Dim the lights, here we go, the first person heading to the final three is…

Jessica Sanchez!

The second person to make it through…

Joshua Ledet!!

Inset painful commercial break here.

Two left.  Phillip Phillips?  Or Hollie Cavanagh?  Both go home, but one gets to do so as part of the final three.

Oh the agony of being so close…

Two different styles.  Both talented.  One more comfortable on stage.  One with a more powerful voice.

Last person in is…

Phillip Phillips!!!

Best wishes to Hollie.  She’s evolved so much from the beginning.  Her swan song was the torturous words of the lovely tune, “The Climb”.

Final 3.  Game on.

American Idol Recap 5/9/12

Leave a comment

Tonight’s songs were California Dreaming (anything involving California, song or artist), and songs the last four  contestants wish they had written.

Phillip sans guitar started things off with Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?”  Sounding good, it fit his style and the judges gave him high praise.

Journey’s epic ballad, “Faithfully” was sung by a nervous Hollie.  It was not her best, which may spell trouble.  The judges disagreed with my opinion, so perhaps she’ll be able to reel in the votes.

After a quick word about the lyric contest with Jason DeRulo, (check the American Idol website for more info), Joshua took on one of the most make-you-cry-in-an-instant songs, Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up”.  Though no one compares to Groban’s version, Joshua did an amazing job.  The beginning was a bit rushed, but it worked itself out.  The judges enjoyed it.

Jessica sang legendary jazz great Etta James with her rendition of “Steal Away”.  The song seemed way too old for her, but her vocals were on point.  The trio of judges loved it.

Phillip and Joshua were once again teamed up for a duet, performing Maroon 5’s “This Love”.  One thing was clear, the girls LOVE Phillip, screaming for him whenever it was his turn.

Hollie and Jessica sang the duet “Eternal Flame” by the Bangles.  You could tell the friendship that Phillip and Joshua shared on stage was missing from these two and both tried to outshine each other resulting in an awkward performance.

A preview of the promising movie Rock of Ages was shown, (see the musical!  It was EXCELLENT!) followed by the remaining four idol hopefuls singing “Waiting For A Girl Like You” by Foreigner.  The performance was messy as the vocals didn’t blend well at all.

“Volcano” by Damien Rice was Phillip’s song wish, and he did a great job.  He played the instrument this time around, showing how much more comfortable he is with the guitar.  He appeared to feel the lyrics and melody and the female guest vocalist added a nice tone to the song.  High praises were given from the judges, with Jennifer Lopez saying it was one of the most poignant moments of American Idol.

Hollie puzzlingly picked Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me”.  She did a sweet job, but the judges disagreed.  Randi Jackson gave the obvious criticism, saying it was the wrong kind of song and she was a different kind of singer from Bonnie Raitt.

Joshua’s gift to his mother was “It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” by the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.  Barring any disastrous results, the kid is mere weeks away from taking the title of American Idol.  Steven Tyler declared his performance to be the most passionate rendition of that song of all time.

Determined to have the night’s spotlight, Jessica took on the Dream Girls’ mega-hit by Jennifer Holiday, “You’re Gonna Love Me”.  I still don’t, but others do, like the judges.  It fell short of Jennifer Hudson’s Oscar show-stopper, however, feelings of arrogance aside, Jessica deserves to be in the final two for sure.  Like J.Lo said, it will be a race to the finish.

 

Older Entries Newer Entries