Donna Summer 1948-2012
“Summer 77 – I’ve taped my favourite songs from the charts by holding a mic up to the radio & am now cranking up the cassette on the clunky mono tape recorder on my lap in the back seat of the family Renault 16.”I Feel Love” is playing & Moroder’s prototechno is gliding & phasing & I’m tranceing out. My Dad stops the car because he thinks there’s something wrong with the engine. Donna Summer – you rocked my world“. – Phil
The above comment left on the Music Like Dirt Facebook page is a far better anecdote to the powers of Donna Summer’s music (and her partnership with Giorgio Moroder) than anything I can muster.
My own first taste of Summer was probably in the mid 80’s when my dad who was DJing on London pirate station LWR used the orgasm filled mid section to “Love To Love You Baby” as a backing track to read out the football scores. Preston North End 1….Uhhhh owwwww….Halifax Town 2….ooooo Love to Love You baby… Kidderminster 1… etc. It’s not a particularly suitable memory to mark the passing of a musical great.
Paul Gambaccini on the other hand knows a thing or two about popular music and his BBC Radio 2 programme on Donna’s life is essential listening. Singer Brenda Russell recalls Donna giving her a voice coaching tip “you’ve got to sing from here” she told her tapping somewhere slightly below her waist.
BBC Radio 2 – “Feelin’ Love: The Donna Summer Story (50 mins)”
I FEEL LOVE
When Brian Eno heard “I Feel Love” he’s reported to have said “this single is going to change the sound of club music for the next fifteen years”. Lucy Jones in The Telegraph describes the euphoria of the song, “it builds and breaks three times mimicking the “coming up” effects of ecstasy. It is a song to lose your inhibitions to. To give yourself over to the white heat release of the chorus as she sings “Falling free, falling free, falling free”, and to dance eyes-closed with your friends, transcended.”
Donna Summer – “I Feel Love (Patrick Cowley Mix)”
I feel love has been covered by everyone from Curve, Bronski Beat (live video with Marc Almond and Jimmy sharing vocals) to avant-garde artist Klaus Nomi.
Master At Work remixed it in 1995 but it’s not their finest hour (listen here).
LOVE TO LOVE YOU BABY
Originally only intended as a demo vocal for someone else to record,but Casablanca records President Neil Bogart got a tape of the song and after playing it non stop at a party at his house requested a much longer version. In the end Summer recorded the extended 16 minute version while laying on her back on the studio floor with the lights dimmed. The BBC counted 23 “orgasms” in the song and immediately banned it.
Casablanca were so overjoyed with their new star, that they had a huge cake sculpted in her image and flown from LA to New York in two first class airline seats. The cake was unveiled at a disco on December 31, 1975, where Summer performed in celebration of the release of the single and her birthday.
Donna Summer – “Love To Love You Baby”
“Our Love” will be instantly familiar to any New Order fans as Peter Hook has since admitted: “Bernard and Stephen were the instigators.The drum pattern was ripped off from a Donna Summer B-side”
Cassius – 1999 which samples Donna’s “If It Hurts Just a Little”
“Influence” is a two way street and Moroder & Summer weren’t afraid to liberally borrow from others either. “Spring Affair” is a shameless steal of Diana Ross’s magnificent disco classic “Love Hangover” although that doesnt quite excuse Uncut magazine putting Love Hangover down as one of Donna hits in their obituary (oops). In Summer’s defence Love Hangover itself was heavily influenced by Love To Love so who stole first?
Here are three edits of the track.