40 Years of Love: Donna Summer and the Derivation of Electronica

It’s been 40 years since the world first heard the future of music when “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer shocked us into a new sonic awakening. The electronic masterpiece – composed by Summer along with Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte – was the foundation for what was to become known as electronic dance music. Whether you loved or loathed disco, “I Feel Love” commanded everyone’s attention and became a dance floor anthem during the summer of 1977. At the time, no one had previously heard anything like it. It’s hypnotic melody, combined with an irresistible synthesized bassline and pulsating dance beat was musical nirvana. Summer’s sensual vocal delivery was the icing on top of the cake as she perfectly conveyed the euphoric essence of the song’s timeless and universal message of love. The first lady of love had struck gold (and platinum) again and delivered another game-changing record every bit as earth-shattering as her breakthrough hit, “Love to Love You Baby.” [Read Full Review]

Remembering Donna Summer (December 31, 1948 – May 17, 2012)

Donna Summer 1948 – 2012

I find it hard to believe the five-year anniversary of Donna Summer’s passing is already upon us. Ever since she shockingly succumbed to cancer in 2012, I’ve honored her memory often by revisiting her incredible body of work. I’ve tried to celebrate her spirit by listening to her music and keeping her memory alive, especially on the anniversary of her death.

There’s no denying the fact that Donna Summer knew how to create a dance record. Her magnificent 17-minute non-stop epic “MacArthur Park Suite” (which took up an entire side of her Live and More double album), weaved Jimmy Webb’s unforgettable melody and poetic lyrics around two of Summer’s best original songs (“One of A Kind” and “Heaven Knows”), creating a magical musical opus which I’ve never managed to grow tired of hearing or erase from my memory since its release in 1978. This was followed by Summer’s next masterpiece, the epochal Bad Girls, which deservedly became the best-selling album of her career. Packed with rock-tinged greatest hits “Hot Stuff” and “Dim All the Lights,” as well as the vivacious title track, this four-sided oeuvre also included gorgeous ballads along with the blistering electronic club hits “Our Love,” “Lucky” and “Sunset People.”

Donna Summer’s voice and music inscribed an indelible mark on me, for which I will be eternally grateful. She may have left us all too soon, but her musical legacy will live on eternally. So, let’s dance in memory of Donna Summer, and always keep her among our most cherished memories. [Read Full Tribute]

Days of AM Gold

Whenever springtime rolls around, it annually evokes fond memories of youthful days eagerly counting down to the end of the school year. The anticipation of long, lazy summer days, extended car rides, and family vacations was always palpable. That was the era of AM radio hits which often turned into road trip sing-alongs which served as a much needed reprieve from being cooped up for hours on end in the car. I’m referring to a time when portable electronics were almost non-existent and the only access to music was the standard AM radio that came factory installed in the family owned American automobile. Back then, most everyone subsisted on the familiar sounds of the most popular Top 40 radio hits of the day.

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It also reminds me how I’d get excited about going to the grocery store when I was a kid. Yes, the grocery store, because back in those days they used to put records on the backs of cereal boxes. Nothing made me happier than picking out a brand of cereal I’d pretend to like just so I could get a new record by The Archies, The Monkees, or The Jackson 5.

This was the very beginning of my record buying addiction that has lasted since my adolescence and continued throughout my adult life. I can still recall being mesmerized as I’d watch the record player needle play over the faces of Betty, Veronica, Archie, Reggie, Jughead, and Hot Dog as I memorized every word of “Sugar Sugar” and “Jingle Jangle.”

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Back then, AM radio ruled the airwaves with infectious bubblegum earworms and Casey Kasem’s weekly American Top 40 countdown. Prime time television also provided a moderate source of musical entertainment in those days with series such as The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, Tony Orlando and Dawn, The Midnight Special, Donny & Marie, and The Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. Show. On Saturdays, I’d tune into American Bandstand, Solid Gold, the Grand Ole Opry Live, and Dolly, which starred Dolly Parton whom I became enamored with during my early boyhood days while watching The Porter Wagoner Show with my dad. He was initially upset Dolly Parton had replaced Norma Jean, but I was immediately won over and became a lifelong follower of Dolly’s illustrious career. This fact is something I still bring to my father’s attention and remind him of every chance I get.

TV show collage

As I grew older, I eventually began collecting vinyl records. During my early teenage years, I readily eschewed all things I thought of as “kid stuff” and began collecting my favorite radio hits on 7-inch 45 rpm. To this day I still associate many of my favorite artists with their associated record company labels. Hearing Elvis Presley or Dolly Parton vividly recalls spending hours watching Nipper spin ‘round and ‘round, as well as the multi-colored butterfly perched upon the big E on the labels of my Carly Simon and Queen records. Just as I perpetually see the rainbow label spinning in my mind’s eye whenever I listen to Elton John, or the spectral colors and palm trees of Casablanca while listening to KISS or Donna Summer.

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Slowly I began to shift from 45s to LPs and the timing couldn’t have been better as my commencement of responsibility and commitment arrived in the guise of the Columbia House record club. Remember the ad in the newspaper or TV Guide boasting of getting 12 record albums for a penny? Many people consider them to have been the bane of their existence and the epitome of money scams, but if you were savvy enough, you could beat them at their own game. Anyway, they served their purpose and suited my needs just fine. This was long before I could drive, so being able to shop from home and have records delivered to my door was a real life saver. I can still remember the thrill of receiving a box full of LPs in the mail. Not only did I get a big, fat, pile of albums, but I didn’t even have to leave my house. I can’t count how many times I joined and re-joined that club, making sure to carefully fulfill my minimum commitment so I could cancel my membership, only to re-join and receive another stack of wax. This cycle continued for years, slowly building into an impressive music library, most of which I still have to this day.

Columbia House FINAL

 

 

 

Donna Summer: The CD Collection

Summer box

Donna Summer: The CD Collection

Whenever you hear the name Donna Summer, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the disco era, but Donna Summer was much more than merely the “Queen of Disco.” Summer managed to amass five Grammy awards, three consecutive number one double-albums, and sell over 130 million records during her 44-year career, making her one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time. Those diligent enough to look past her classic hits such as “I Feel Love,” “Last Dance” “Love To Love You Baby” and “Bad Girls,” will quickly discover Summer’s vastly underrated versatility evidenced by her thirst to explore well beyond her dance oriented wheelhouse and successfully conquer R&B, soul, rock, pop, country, and gospel.

With the new posthumous release of Donna: The CD Collection, which focuses on her post-disco years, longtime aficionados can excitedly revel in the joyous rediscovery of Summer’s less famous, but noteworthy and highly diversified musical offerings. This limited edition 10-disc box set features Summer’s Geffen and Atlantic Records output from 1980 to 1991. Donna: The CD Collection includes remastered, deluxe casebook editions of the previously out-of-print albums: The Wanderer, I’m a Rainbow, Donna Summer, Cats Without Claws, All Systems Go, Another Place and Time, and Mistaken Identity, complete with b-sides, twelve-inch remixes, single edits, instrumentals, and dub versions, plus an exclusive set of six postcards featuring photographs from Donna Summer’s personal archives, all of which are housed within a uniquely designed box.

Also included is a comprehensive booklet with in-depth album credits, song lyrics, and newly authored liner notes by noted US writers Justin Kantor and Christian John Wikane, as well as excerpts from new interviews by Bruce Sudano, Brenda Russell, Harold Faltermeyer, James Ingram, Joe “Bean” Esposito, and Kim Carnes, among others. This lavish and highly sought after collection is sure to be snatched up hurriedly and treasured by all who actively seek to keep the unforgettable and ground-breaking dance diva’s legacy alive and well for years to come.

Donna – The CD Collection includes:

DS wanderer

The Wanderer – Donna Summer’s 1980 Geffen Records debut produced by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte includes the singles “Cold Love,” “Who Do You Think You’re Foolin'” and the new wave styled title track. Now includes single edits as bonus tracks.

DS rainbow

I’m A Rainbow – Summer’s aborted double-album and last with her longtime collaborators Moroder/Bellotte (notoriously shelved by David Geffen in 1981), is presented here in its originally intended 2-disc configuration and features fan favorites “Highway Runner,” “Romeo,” “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina,” “To Turn the Stone,” as well as the moving title track.

DS donnasummer

Donna Summer  – The Quincy Jones produced album includes the hit singles “Love Is In Control (Finger on the Trigger),” Summer’s cover of Vangelis’ “State of Independence,” and “The Woman in Me.” Also features a rocking’ version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Protection,” written specifically for Summer by “The Boss” himself and the rare b-side “Sometimes Like Butterflies.” Now includes dance versions and single edits.

DS cats

Cats Without ClawsSummer’s second effort to be produced by Michael Omartian features the singles “There Goes My Baby,” “Supernatural Love,” “Eyes,” and the feral title track. Also includes extended remixes and single edits.

DS systems

All Systems GoSummer’s thirteenth studio album features the Top Ten R&B hit “Dinner with Gershwin,” her duet with Starship’s Mickey Thomas “Only the Fool Survives,” and the long lost b-side ” Tearin’ Down the Walls.” Also includes extended versions and single edits as bonus tracks.

DS time

Another Place and Time – This Stock/Aitken/Waterman produced set from 1989 was Summer’s Atlantic Records debut (newly expanded to three discs with numerous remixes and single versions), and contains the Top Ten hit ” This Time I Know It’s for Real,” plus the singles “I Don’t Wanna Get Hurt,” “Love’s About to Change My Heart,” ” When Love Takes Over You,” and ” Breakaway.”

DS identity

Mistaken Identity – Summer’s second set for Atlantic Records was the R&B infused album produced by Keith Diamond, and features the singles “Work That Magic,” and “When Love Cries.” Also includes remixed versions and single edits as bonus tracks.

 

 

Our New Year

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As one year ebbs and a new one begins, it always seems apt to reflect on the bygone before hurling full speed ahead into the future…

Sadly, the music industry mourned the loss of  some legendary and iconic individuals in 2012 including: Whitney Houston, Davy Jones, Earl Scruggs, Dick Clark, Levon Helm, Donna Summer, Robin Gibb, Marvin Hamlisch, and Etta James. It’s always tragic to see such a long list in any given year. Although they are gone, their contributions will be remembered and honored posthumously.

The past year also saw some decidedly notable musical contributions from Tori Amos, Kenny Chesney, Susanna Hoffs, Matthew Perryman Jones, Madonna, Alanis Morissette, and Carrie Underwood, as well as the high octane trilogy delivered with a gutsy 1-2-3 wallop from Green Day.

Now we look ahead to 2013, which promises to deliver some highly anticipated new releases from Panic! at the Disco, David Bowie, CherJosh Groban, Darius Rucker, Stereophonics, Brad Paisley, Depeche Mode, Mariah Carey, Lady Antebellum, Justin Timberlake, Beady Eye, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, and Lady Gaga.

As we bid adieu to 2012 and to those we lost along the way, at least we can look ahead to 2013 with a renewed spirit and high expectations of good things to come on the musical horizon.