Donna Summer

Donna Summer (Dec. 31, 1948 — May 17, 2012) was an American soul-funk singer from Dorchester, Mass.

She was born LaDonna Adrian Gaines on December 31, 1948, in Boston, Mass., the third of seven children born to butcher Andrew and schoolteacher Mary Gaines. At age 10, Donna performed for the first time at her Mission Hill church. In high school, she performed in musicals and earned praise from her classmates.

A few weeks shy of her 1967 graduation date, she went to New York City to join the blues-psych outfit Crow, which disbanded after failing to land a recording deal. Meanwhile, she auditioned for the musical Hair and won the part of Sheila in its Munich production. She settled in Germany, where she learned the language and sang in the musicals Godspell and Show Boat.

As Donna Gaines, she issued her first single, the Hair number “Aquarius,” on German Polydor in 1968. The following year, she released “If You Walkin’ Alone” (b/w “Can’t Understand”) on Philips, followed in 1971 by “Sally Go Round the Roses” (b/w “So Said the Man”) on MCA. Under the name Gayn Pierre, she sang two songs on the German soundtrack to Godspell, released in 1972 on Reprise. She also did uncredited backing vocals on “Mama Told Me (Not To Come),” a 1970 hit by Three Dog Night.

In 1973, she married Austrian actor Helmuth Sommer and bore a daughter, Mimi. That same year, she sang backing vocals on the single “Heaven Helps the Man (Who Helps Himself),” credited to Italian producer Giorgio Moroder and co-produced by English lyricist Pete Bellotte. They formed a working alliance that first yielded a demo, which got her signed to the Dutch Groovy Records label. Her first album, Lady of the Night, appeared in 1974 with her surname misspelled as Summer, which stuck.


  • Lady of the Night (1974)
  • Love to Love You Baby (1975)
  • A Love Trilogy (1976)
  • Four Seasons of Love (1976)
  • I Remember Yesterday (1977)
  • Once Upon a Time (2LP, 1977)
  • Live and More (2LP live, 1978)
  • Bad Girls (2LP, 1979)
  • The Wanderer (1980)
  • Donna Summer (1982)
  • She Works Hard for the Money (1983)
  • Cats Without Claws (1984)
  • All Systems Go (1987)
  • Another Place and Time (1989)
  • I’m a Rainbow (1996, recorded 1981)


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