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Super Seventies RockSite! presents

 Donna Summer - In Her Own Words

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Interviewed at her ranch in California, Donna tells how the title of Disco Queen wasn't any great help and her reputation as a supposedly difficult-to-handle prima donna wasn't really deserved.

Donna Summerverybody in my family used to sing. We were the Supremes at home, or Dionne Warwick or Barbra Streisand or Aretha. Whoever was famous, I thought I sang like them. All I wanted to do was sing, and the first time I did, I really thought I heard a voice telling me I'd be famous. And I became famous, and by the time I was nineteen, I was singing in the same clubs with Janis Joplin. Janis' first time out in Boston was at the Psychedelic Supermarket. Back then she was braless and singing real raunchy.

I auditioned in New York with my two sisters for Hair. There were about three hundred people auditioning, and we were the last ones in line. I had a feeling I was going to be taken, but I also felt like I had nothing to lose. I had seen the musical two weeks before, and one of the kids in the show, Lamont Washington, walked over to me during one of the scenes in the play and he said, "You should be in this musical," and he gave me a flower. He later died in a fire.

Donna Summer's Seventies
Billboard Top 40 Singles

"Love To Love You Baby"  12/75  #2
"I Feel Love"  9/77  #6
"I Love You"  1/78  #37
"Last Dance"  6/78  #3
"MacArthur Park"  9/78  #1
"Heaven Knows"  1/79  #12
"Hot Stuff"  4/79  #1
"Bad Girls"  6/79  #1
"Dim All The Lights"  9/79  #2
"No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)"  10/79  #1

Very peculiar things happened around my coming into success. I was walking through the streets of New York with a friend. We were on the Bowery giving quarters to bums. I had never been on the Bowery, and as we were walking along, I saw this man coming toward me and he looked like Santa Claus. It was almost as if this guy had a light bulb in his mouth. His whole face lit up. As we got closer, this man put his hand on me and said, "Don't be afraid." He proceeded to tell me that I was going to take a trip to Europe, meet a man there, and that I would be more successful as a writer than singer. That night I went home. I auditioned for Hair two days later, got the part, and within ten days I was leaving for Europe.

I did Hair in Germany, and right off the bat I became a star in that country because the musical was a hit. In the show I sang "Let the Sun Shine In" and "Aquarius." Being a star in Germany is more low-key than it is in America. It is more quaint.

I did other shows in Germany, too, and when I began singing backgrounds on records, Giorgio Moroder saw me and we had a few hits there. I love Europe. I don't even feel American. Sometimes I fell like a foreigner here.

I remember the day I came up with the phrase "Love to love you baby." I had to go to Giorgio's office, and I said to him, "Listen to this line. Isn't it a cute line?"

Donna Summer

"I'm one of those artists who feels like she's been taken advantage of, but I'm not bitter about it at all. I was royally robbed, but I don't care. I am richer than I was before."

And Giorgio said in a very deep accent, "I love to love. I love to love you." Two days later Giorgio's girlfriend came to my door telling me I had to come to the studio. I went in and sang "Love to Love You Baby," and Giorgio sent it to Holland. He played it at the MIDEM convention, and everybody wanted it. Somehow Neil Bogart was given the track, and he called Giorgio and told him the DJs were playing the shit out of it. But there was only one problem -- it was too short. The story Neil Bogart used to tell is that he played it when he was being intimate, and if only he could capture this mood for an entire side of an album. So Giorgio sent Neil eighteen minutes of ooohs and ahhhs, and it sort of was history from that.

At the beginning I wasn't even in America and a few transvestites started using "Love to Love You Baby" as their theme song. It started a rumor that I was actually a man.

Nobody thought I could sing when I first did "Love to Love You Baby," probably because I was whispering. But that was good because when I finally opened my mouth and sang, people were surprised that there was a little bit of voice there.

Donna Summer's Seventies
Billboard Top 10 Albums

Live And More  10/78  #1
Bad Girls  5/79  #1
On The Radio - Greatest Hits Vols. 1 & 2  11/79  #1

It was a very trying time. Sometimes I feel like I was raped emotionally and didn't even know it. When I finally had time to regroup and look over all the facts, I felt like somebody took something of mine and didn't ask my permission. I'm one of those artists who feels like she's been taken advantage of, but I'm not bitter about it at all. I was royally robbed, but I don't care. I am richer than I was before.

Donna Summer Lyrics
Donna Summer Videos

Things back then were moving so fast. I had a chemical imbalance in my body, and with all the pressures of not sleeping and being on the go, it got worse. I became extremely depressed and I would have to do things to elevate myself. I felt like I couldn't fight anymore, to the point of being suicidal. I knew I had to get help. Neil Bogart had a doctor who put me on a drug for about two and a half years. During that time, I had my biggest records, did the most touring and had the most stardom.

After that period I bought a house in Hancock Park. I knew I couldn't keep up that pace. I wanted to have children. I already had one daughter and I felt like I wasn't a good mother. So I started to pray one day in my bed, and I asked God to help me make a new dream. Every day I prayed. I was doing it without even thinking about it. When I was taking the medicine the doctor had prescribed, I could literally stay up for days, and that frightened me. My medicine became my God. I would have stacks of this medicine hidden in places so I would always have it, just in case they stopped making it. I knew I had to get something "outside" of myself. But after I started praying, I stopped taking the medicine. I felt like something had been lifted off my shoulders. From that point on, I considered myself born again. 

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