Donna Summer, long known as the “Queen of the Disco” for such hits as “Hot Stuff,” “Bad Girls,” and “Love to Love You Baby,” has died from complications related to breast and lung cancer, which she’d been fighting for some time. The singer was 63.
Summer long believed her illness was related to the terror attack on New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. She believed that she inhaled dust from the collapse of the World Trade Center towers that ultimately triggered the disease.
Video Highlights of Donna Summer
She had avoided publicizing her illness, according to gossip site TMZ, and was working on a new album before she died.
Her family released a statement today, saying they “are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy.”
Summer was at her home in Key West, Fla., when she died, the Associated Press reported.
The singer was born LaDonna Adrian Gaines in Boston on New Year’s Eve, and began singing in the church choir. She had a stunning mezzo-soprano vocal range.
Her devoutly Christian parents tried to discourage her from singing, so she dropped out of high school and left Boston to launch her career.
Oddly, although she is known for dance and disco hits, Summer started out as a singer in a short-lived rock band and patterned herself after Janis Joplin.
Her career took another twist and she got her big break when she joined the touring company of the Broadway musical Hair, and performed in Europe for several years. In a testament to her intelligence, she became fluent in German, a difficult language to speak, while touring there.
Her early break as a singer also came in Europe where she released several songs. She went on to wind five Grammy’s and was the first artist to have three consecutive double albums reach number one on the US charts.
As her success grew, Summer struggled with anxiety and depression and became hooked on prescription drugs, which she battle for several years. Summer, became a born-again Christian following a breakdown in 1979, and caused an uproar when she said AIDS was a punishment from God for the immoral lifestyles of homosexuals.
Her large gay following abandoned her afterward and the incident marked the beginning of the end of her popularity as a performing artist, although she continued to produce music and score No. 1 hits on the dance charts into the new century.
Her powerful voice never failed her and in 2010 she released the single “To Paris With Love,” which hit No. 1 on the dance charts.
Summer is survived by her husband, Brooklyn Dreams co-founder Bruce Sudano, their two children, Brooklyn and Amanda, and her daughter, Mimi, from a previous marriage.