Donna Summer: A Life in Pictures


As tributes flood in for Donna Summer, who succumbed to cancer at the age of 63 in Florida yesterday, we look back on the life of the extraordinary pop star, perhaps most poignantly summed up by Mary J. Blige as "truly a game changer."

Summer shook up the 70s music scene with disco hits such as Love To Love You Baby, which famously braved the inclusion of a 23-second faked orgasm and was banned by many radio stations, as well as classics like Hot Stuff, Last Dance and Bad Girls.

The five-time Grammy award winner is credited with inspiring stars such as the late Whitney Houston, Madonna and Michael Jackson, British music royalty David Bowie and modern stars like Beyonce and Rihanna. Her untimely death has shocked the music industry, with Summer keeping her illness a secret from everyone outside her close family.

Pay your tributes to the star on Twitter or in the comments section below.

Words: Anna Pollitt. Pictures: Rex Features.

  • Donna Summer: Life In Pictures

    “Early this morning, surrounded by family, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith," her family said in a statement. "“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.”

    Pictured: Summer performs in a waitress uniform in concert in the 70s

  • Donna Summer: Life In Pictures

    The singer, born LaDonna Adrian Gaines, adopted a flowery look during a 1976 trip to London - the same year she released her third album, The Love Trilogy.

    Her personal life had run less smoothly than her music career. In 1974, she married Austrian actor Helmuth Sommer and had a daughter, Mimi, but she embarked on an affair with German artist Peter Mühldorfer and Sommer filed for divorce in 1975. Donna kept her ex-husband's surname but Anglicised it to "Summer".

  • Donna Summer: Life In Pictures

    Pictured here in 1977, Summer's “Love To Love You Baby” had reached number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100, while her second album of the same name sold over a million copies.

  • Donna Summer: Life In Pictures

    In 1978, she released the hugely Bad Girl album which included number one hits Hot Stuff and Last Dance.

    Pictured: Summer clutching her accolades at the 1979 American Music Awards.

  • Donna Summer: Life In Pictures

    She looked every inch the pop diva performing at the American Music Awards in 1979.

    A year later she married Bruce Sudano and the couple went on to have two children, Brooklyn and Amanda. Sudano was at his wife's side when she passed away.

  • Donna Summer: Life In Pictures

    The singer was a proud embracer of 70s psychadelic fashion and revelled in her outrageous stage outfits.

  • Donna Summer: Life In Pictures

    Rihanna Tweeted, "RIP Donna Summer, Queen of Disco!!", while R&B star Mary J. Blige said, "RIP Donna Summers!!!!!!!!! You were truly a game changer!!!"

    Pictured: Summer gave it her all onstage

  • Donna Summer: Life In Pictures

    In 1983 Summer released the album She Works Hard For The Money which earned her a grammy nomination, but by the mid-80s she had gone from gay icon to an apparent homophobe. After becoming a born again Christian she allegedly said that AIDS was a punishment from God for the immoral lifestyles of homosexuals.

    Pictured: In concert in Belgium in 1987

  • Donna Summer: Life In Pictures

    Summer denied she had made the comments, and in a letter to an AIDS campaign group in 1989 she described the situation as "a terrible misunderstanding. I was unknowingly protected by those around me from the bad press and hate letters... If I have caused you pain, forgive me."

    In the same year she told The Advocate magazine that "A couple of the people I write with are gay, and they have been ever since I met them. What people want to do with their bodies is their personal preference."

    Pictured: Summer in 1989 with husband Bruce Sudano

  • Donna Summer: Life In Pictures

    Summer's career stalled amid a backlash to her apparent homophobia and she sued a New York magazine for reprinting the rumours as fact when she was on the cusp of releasing her 1991 album, Mistaken Identity.

  • Donna Summer: Life In Pictures

    She flirted with a blonde rocker look in 1992.

  • Donna Summer: Life In Pictures

    Her career had bounced back somewhat by the mid-90s and she was captivating during a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1996, pictured.

  • Donna Summer: Life In Pictures

    In 1999 she sported a smart Whitney Houston-esque bob and taped a successful live television special for VH1 titled Donna Summer – Live and More Encore.

  • Donna Summer: Life In Pictures

    In 2003 Summer released her memoir Ordinary Girl, described as a "candid memoir about her journey from singing in a Boston church to her unexpected reign as the Queen of Disco and the tragedy and spiritual rebirth that followed."

  • Donna Summer: Life In Pictures

    As well as tributes from the world of music, Summer's contribution prompted President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle to pay their respects, releasing a statement that said,“Michelle and I were saddened to hear about the passing of Donna Summer. A five-time Grammy Award winner, Donna truly was the ’Queen of Disco.’ Her voice was unforgettable, and the music industry has lost a legend far too soon. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Donna’s family and her dedicated fans.”

    Pictured: Summer in concert in Florida in 2010


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