I lost one of my favorite singers today, Donna Summer. This woman’s music has been part of my life for more than 35 years. I feel like I have lost a friend, a part of my family. Her voice was a gift from God. I am thankful that I experienced that gift for as long as I did. She was an excellent vocalist, and a beautiful individual.
I was lucky enough to have seen her in concert 8 times in my life (starting in 1983 and lastly in 2008). She was one of the best live performers around. She put her heart and soul into those shows, and I will never forget hearing her live. There was no studio trickery there, she was the real deal.
This death has bothered me more than some other celebrity deaths, like Whitney Houston. I guess the reason is that I have more history with Donna than Whitney or Michael. She has been with me since I was a shy, quiet questioning teenager to the strong, confident gay man I am today.
I can’t recall what the first Donna item I owned was. It was probably the 45 for “Heaven Knows.” Followed closely by the cassette tape for “Live and More.” I was hooked after that and followed her career to the end. She never let me down as an artist. She may not been selling like the old days, but I still enjoyed the music and artistry.
I remember listening to the My Man Medley on ‘Live and More,” where Donna mentions that some men may identify with the next song “The Man I Love”. I didn’t know I was gay at that time, but I thought it was cool that she knew that she had gay fans. In early high school, everyone loved her… it was 1978, and Donna was “Hot Stuff” as they say. She was sexy and she had some catchy songs that you could dance to, as they used to say on American Bandstand.
I remember one of my teachers, Brother Jim playing the “MacArthur Park Suite” in class one time, saying it was one of his favorites. He has since gone on to be Father Jim, but I still wonder if he is gay or not. There’s a good chance he is.
I have had so many great concert companions over the years going to Donna shows: Rico, my straight housemate (& friend) who lived with my parents and I during the high school years: Damon, my best friend who I met at the Gay and Lesbian Center, when I was going to the young men’s rap group there (who has since died of AIDS); Bill, another friend from the same youth group; my mother; Dennis, yet another friend from the youth group, and a verifiable Donna fanatic; and finally, Rasheed, my lover, who comes from the same youth group. Not to mention the 20+ friends who went with us to see her on her last tour at the Hollywood Bowl in 2008.
I remember when Rico and I went to see her that there were 2 guys making out in the front row for the entire show. I knew by that time that I was gay too, but I had not told Rico yet.
My friends and I bonded over Donna. We danced to her songs at night clubs, parties and gay pride celebrations. She won us over with her soaring vocals and warm personality. Donna was our friend, a part of our community and our family if you will.
Donna believed in love, as so many of her songs attest. She was married to Bruce Sudano for over 30 years till her death. She knew the importance of faith and family in her life. She had her sisters, her husband and her daughters with her on tour at one time or another.
Donna had so many great songs: “Hot Stuff,” “Last Dance,” “She Works Hard for the Money”. But I would love to spotlight some lesser known songs. Songs that weren’t so big on the charts, that were hidden gems on her albums. These combined with her hits demonstrate what a great artist she was:
“O Holy Night” from Christmas Spirit
“Nightlife” from The Wanderer
“Romeo” from Flashdance Soundtrack
“State of Independence” from Donna Summer
“Love Is a Healer” from Live and More — Encore
“Love’s About the Change My Heart” from Another Place and Time
“Dinner with Gershwin” from All Systems Go
“Forgive Me” from Cats Without Claws
“Work That Magic” from Mistaken Identity
“He’s a Rebel” from She Works Hard for the Money
Thanks Donna for sharing your talent and artistry with the world. You’ve touched my heart, brought a smile to my face, and made me want to dance. We will never forget you.
Spice69man is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including the Real Men Wear Kilts line. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.