During the 1970s, Donna Summer was known for producing a slew of popular disco favorites. Due to her extensive list of hits, she earned the title of “Queen of Disco.” Summer also enjoyed continuous success with hits that followed her throughout the late 80s (a feat that is quite rare in the music industry). Her songs weren’t restricted just to the genre of disco; Summer dabbled in the arenas of gospel, R&B, as well as rock and roll. Grammy Awards soon followed in these categories. She is also one of the few disco-oriented musicians to make strides within the modern rock community.
In no particular order, I have listed what I believe to be the top ten Donna Summer songs:
#1 Love to Love You, Baby
When I was a little girl, I used to play with my parent’s records. There was this disco greatest hits album that caught my ear’s attention with the first track. Although, at that time, I had no idea the significance of the moaning and groaning, I would later learn of its controversial history. The orgasmic presentation of this song was even recorded into a 20-minute version. It’s been more than 30 years and the song still finds its way into the mainstream, being used in movies, such as Rollbounce (2005) and Zoolander (2001). Did you know that the influence for this song actually came from the sultry 1950s icon, Marilyn Monroe?
#2 She Works Hard For the Money
In 1983, Summer released this track and album of the same name. With the song, Summer achieved two important goals. She was able to promote a pro-feminist track, which was successfully embraced by the public and she also became the first black female to have one of her videos enter heavy rotation on the popular music television station, MTV. The song was also used in movies, such as Splash (1984) and Birdcage (1996).
“Twenty five years have
Come and gone
And she seen a lot of tears
Of the ones who come in
They really seem to need her there
Its a sacrifice working day to day
For little money just tips for pay
But its worth it all
Just to hear them say that they care
She works hard for the money
So hard for it honey
She works hard for the money
So you better treat her right”
#3 I Feel Love
Summer was known for experimenting with a variety of musical techniques and styles. In 1977, “I Feel Love” reached the #6 position on the United States pop chart, as well as the #1 position in the United Kingdom charts. Making way for the use of techno and electronic sounds within dance music, Summer struck gold with this decision. “I Feel Love” and Summer is often attributed as breaking new ground, being the first to incorporate synthesizers in the creation of music.
#4 Last Dance
Released in 1978, the disco film, “Thank God It’s Friday,” starred Summer as Nicole Sims, who spent her time dreaming of reaching disco star status. From this movie, the song “Last Dance” was produced, earning Summer her first Grammy with the track, which leapt to the #3 position on the charts. The writer of the song, Paul Jabara also won an Oscar for Song of the Year. In 2003, the song was used in the popular movie, Charlie’s Angel: Full Throttle, staring Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore.
Last chance, for love
Yes, it’s my last chance, for romance, tonight
I need you, by me,
Beside me, to guide me,
To hold me, to scold me,
‘Cause when I’m bad
I’m so’ so bad”
#5 Hot Stuff
Another milestone achieved by Summer was earning the honor of being the first African American to win a Grammy in the category of rock music with “Hot Stuff.” The song has since been used in a variety of comedic films, such as Eurotrip (2004); Superstar (1999); and The Full Monty (1997).
“Sittin’ here, eatin’ my heart out waitin’
waitin’ for some lover to call
dialed about a thousand numbers lately
almost rang the phone off the wall
Lookin’ for some hot stuff baby this evenin’
I need some hot stuff baby tonight
I want some hot stuff baby this evenin’
gotta have some hot stuff
gotta have some lovin’ tonight”
#6 On the Radio
Released to the public in 1979, this catchy track received the #5 position on the United States pop charts, as well as #9 on the R&B Top 10.
#7 Bad Girls
Obviously, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out whom Summer is referring to in this particular song, but the lyrics, as well as the beat are equally infectious (no pun intended). Summer was inspired to create the song after police on Sunset Boulevard stopped her secretary. Although she was dressed in business clothing, they mistook her as a “street employee.” Like many of her songs, this track was also used in a movie: Picture Perfect (1997), which starred Jennifer Aniston.
“Toot toot hey beep beep
talking about the sad girls
talking about the bad girls, yeah
See them out on the street at night, walkin’
picking up on all kinds of strangers
if the price is right you can score
if you’re pocket’s nice
but you want a good time
you ask yourself, who they are?
like everybody else, they come from near and far
talking about the sad girls
talking about the bad girls, yeah”
#8 This Time I Know It’s For Real
The way that Summer sings this song presents a fun, upbeat outlook on how to grab the attention of someone you are in love with. Personally, I wouldn’t go to these lengths, but nonetheless, you get the point.
“What would I have to do
to get you to notice me too
stand in line
one of a million
Walk a tightrope way up high
write your name across the sky
I’m going crazy just to let you know
you’d be amazed how much I love you so baby
when I get my hands on you I won’t let go
this time I know it’s for real
Should I write or call your home
shout it out with a megaphone
radio, TV news
got to find a way
to get my message to you
To say I love you with a neon sign
anything to make you mine”
# 9 Unconditional Love
Early after its release, this single became a popular item on the MTV music scene. The reggae track featured Musical Youth, a group that gained fame with their hit, “Pass the Dutchie.” “Unconditional Love” reminds me of songs preformed by Bobby McFerrin.
#10 Adonai & Only Words
The reason why there are two songs tied for the #10 spot is because they are unreleased, but slated for her proposed 2007 album. Just like the history of her career, Summer still presents and explores an array of musical genres, resembling current popular artists, such as Madonna.
Adonai: A little after 1980, the woman who brought us the orgasm-filled “Love to Love You Baby” rediscovered religion and became a born-again Christian. The song title refers to one of the names given to God in Judaism and is from her unreleased album slated for 2007. It is catchy, upbeat and introduces a gospel chorus.
“You made the sky
You made the sea
You broke the chains
Now I am free
Now I can breathe
I am alive
Only Words: Similar to a track Whitney Houston may produce, this song fits with the R&B of today.
“Don’t you tell me that you love me
Then just walk away (walk away)
Don’t you tell me that you love me (love me)
Don’t let words you say
Now that it’s over
I’m not playing that game
Now that we’re through
Let my tears wash away the pain”