Dim All the Lights: Disco Queen Donna Summer Dead at 63

5 years ago

Singer Donna Summer died today, her family said in a statement. She lived in Florida in recent years, with husband Bruce Sudano, but no cause or location of death has yet been reported. She was 63 years old.

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.

To some, Donna was one of the prime voices in a '70s into '80s era of club culture, sex, drugs, and glitter.

Gotta have some hot stuff baby, this evenin'/hot stuff baby tonight. 


She was a gospel kid turned disco queen, also an icon and voice of independence and power to many in the lgbt community (I turned to blogger JoeMyGod's epic top-100 Donna Spotify playlist to get me through this afternoon, and he explains that way better than I can.) And to many kids like me who wouldn't be eligible for Studio54 until after it closed down, born in 1970 into a house and parents' cars filled with music, including a lot of disco for a number of years, she was a very different, but equally powerful influence. Her songs taught me to sing and dance, in the sense that you couldn't not when they came on the radio, and from what I've seen in the reaction to her death, I was the very opposite of alone in this.

Deaths of well-loved and known performers are markers for what imprinted us early, as well as what continues to affect us now. To every naysayer on Twitter who wonders aloud why anyone is sad about the death of a person she didn't even know, a celebrity, no less, I say how can you not be, if that person's artistic output has influenced your life?

Image: © Roger Williams/ZUMAPRESS.com

Memories of driveway dance routines made up and endless proms and wedding receptions ended to "Last Dance" are life and relationship markers, spilling out all over Facebook and Twitter, memories that obviously needed a witness. My own ongoing relationship to "Dim All the Lights" -- a song that is on my very special living room solo dancing playlist, as well as my gym list of songs to make exercise suck less -- was what I wanted to share with the world today.

You can have your hot stuff, baby, this evening. I'll take my Donna Summer song on repeat, as I sit here and try to give words to someone dear most importantly, yes, to her family, but also someone who gave voice to different things for millions of people. Whether the soundtrack to a fast-track time in life that hopefully you survived, rides to and from school with a mom who loved to sing, or crazy years of coming of age and trying to decide not just what you wanted to dance to, but with whom? Donna had it covered.

Professionally speaking, she is now second only to Madonna for number of dance number ones -- 19 -- starting with "Love to Love You Baby" in 1975, an erotic song she recorded while lying on the floor in the dark, reflecting a persona she said never made her comfortable, but also never ashamed. She released her final album, Crayons, in 1989, and had her last top-40 hit, "This Time I Know It's For Real," in 1989.

Image: © Smp/Globe Photos/ZUMAPRESS.com

She was a painter, too, a creative outlet she told the Chicago Tribune was much more of a release than music.

Performing is what I do for other people. Painting is what I do for me. Being on stage is a lot of stress. You have to be perfect. Look perfect, your weight has to be perfect. Painting is a lot easier. I don’t have to be beautiful or skinny.

In a track on Crayons, "The Queen Is Back," Summer said it: 

So many years ago
On the radio
She crept into your soul
And loved to love you oh oh...

Call the DJ, call the station
Dancing all across the nation
Here for every generation
Now you know your queen is back

Maura Johnston at the Village Voice has some top tracks posted to remember her music and powerful stage presence today. As for me, I'll be checking this one out several more times before the day is through, glad to know that some lights really do just dim. 

Contributing Editor Laurie White writes at LaurieWrites. Her photos are on Flickr.

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