Inspired by the January 15 birthdays of Lisa Lisa, Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Martha Davis of The Motels, Bobby Bloom and Pete Waterman of the Stock/Aitken/Waterman songwriting and production team.
Tag Archives: Donna Summer
While grocery shopping yesterday I was struck by an announcement that came over the loudspeaker. I can’t recall it verbatim, but it was something like “Attention shoppers: Signing up for our rewards program is the greatest thing you will do in your life.” I thought about that as I stood in front of the frozen pizzas. How sad a life that must be! I put some frozen pizzas in my cart, then asked a clerk where I can get a rewards program application. It’s too early to know if filling it out was the first step to the greatest thing in my life, but it certainly was the greatest thing to happen to me thus far in this young year.
Lots of music birthdays to celebrate today. On the playlist you’ll find music from celebrants Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, Joan Baez, AJ McLean of Backstreet Boys, Sean Paul, Crystal Gayle, Steve Harwell of Smash Mouth, David Johansen (a/k/a Buster Poindexter), Bill Cowsill, Scott Walker, Haddaway, Paolo Nutini, Domenico Modugno, Vic Mizzy and Mic Murphy of The System. It’s also the birthday of Orbital’s Phil Hartnoll, but I left his music off as I’m not too familiar with it. In addition, it’s Dave Matthews’ birthday. I left his music off as I am familiar with it.
As there are so many birthdayees, each of them got only one song in the playlist, except for Bill Cowsill, because come on! Also, I should confess that although I worked at Backstreet Boys’ record label for four years and while there licensed their music at least 734 times per day, I don’t know one Backstreet Boy from another. I selected “I Want It That Way” for the playlist. Hopefully the lead vocalist on that cut is Birthday Boy AJ and not one of those other Backstreet Boys, like Justin or Donnie or Peter or Blitzen.
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Born LaDonna Gaines in Boston, Massachusetts on the last day of 1948, Donna Summer became a worldwide superstar in the 1970s. She earned the title “The Queen of Disco,” which is accurate and limiting at the same time. Sure, she scored over two dozen top forty hits on Billboard magazine’s Disco/Dance chart; however, her voice and repertoire were not bound by genre, and she placed entries on the Rhythm & Blues and Adult Contemporary charts and has 14 US top ten pop hits to her name.
The first of those pop hits was “Love to Love You Baby,” which reached #2 in 1976. Our playlist begins before that hit, with vocals she provided for a Peter Thomas recording around the beginning of the decade.
Performing musical theater, she joined the cast of a road version of Hair, which brought her to Germany, where she performed in that country’s language. You can hear her German version of “Aquarius” on the YouTube playlist that accompanies this post. (The YouTube playlist encompasses recordings that cannot be found on Spotify at this time.)
Two other significant things happened to LaDonna Gaines in Germany: She married fellow actor Helmut Sommer, and she met producers/songwriters Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. Moroder and Bellotte signed her to their record label, and the trio began work on her debut album, on which her name was misspelled on the front cover, giving us Donna Summer.
Donna Summer’s debut album, Lady of the Night, produced the singles “The Hostage” and the title track, with the former going to #1 in Belgium and #2 in The Netherlands and the latter cracking the top 40 in Germany as well as being another top five single for her in The Netherlands.
Then came “Love to Love You Baby.” Initially released in The Netherlands as “Love to Love You,” the song was heard by Casablanca Records head Neil Bogart, who suggested they extend the song. The nearly seventeen-minute version was serviced to US clubs in September 1975. Record World magazine’s disco reporter Vince Aletti wrote it sounds “like nothing else I’ve heard before.” Clubgoers shared his enthusiasm, sending the song to #1 on the disco chart for four weeks beginning the month after its release.
While “Love to Love You Baby” was rocketing up the pop chart, Summer’s follow-up became her second #1 disco hit. “Try Me, I Know We Can Make It” is actually four songs: “Try Me,” “I Know,” “We Can Make It,” and “Try Me, I Know We Can Make It.” Those four songs encompassed side one of Summer’s A Love Trilogy album, with side two providing three more top ten disco hits: “Could It Be Magic” (a cover of Barry Manilow’s pop hit from the previous year), “Wasted” and “Come with Me.”
Later in 1976 came yet another album from Summer, Four Seasons of Love. Billboard listed every cut from the album as #1 on the disco chart, where they remained for six weeks. A few months later she released I Remember Yesterday, where once again, all cuts were listed in the #1 position on the disco chart. From that album came the classic “I Feel Love,” about which Brian Eno said to David Bowie “This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next fifteen years.” Bowie agreed.
You may think all this product in quick succession would create a glut from which the public would want a break, but the stats show the exact opposite. Summer’s “Theme from The Deep” (on the YouTube playlist) became a disco hit. “Last Dance” became a disco and pop hit. The double album Once Upon a Time went to #1 on the disco chart (again with all cuts listed). She followed this up with another double album, Live and More (which includes “MacArthur Park” and “Heaven Knows”). Then came another double album, Bad Girls, her commercial and artistic pinnacle.
An interesting piece of trivia for chart geeks: Up to this point every Donna Summer single serviced to dance clubs hit the disco top ten, with her spending 29 weeks at #1 on the chart between 1975 and 1979. Her first entry to make the disco chart but miss its top ten? “Dim All the Lights,” which peaked at #54. Go figure. You may know that song. It performed way better on the pop and rhythm & blues charts.
Let’s pause for a moment and consider not only the quantity of material Summer released and struck gold with. Let’s also look at the quality. These are great records. (Okay, the Live part of Live and More is good, not great.) Disco was predominantly a singles medium, yet Summer cranked out albums that sustained interest throughout. Double albums at that.
A double greatest hits album wrapped up her tenure at Casablanca Records, producing what would be her final #1 on the Disco/Dance Club chart for 15 years, “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough),” a collaboration with Barbra Streisand.
Her star cooled a bit when she released her first post-Casablanca record in 1980. Several factors contributed to this, including the (US) backlash against disco and disparaging remarks attributed to her about gay people, a core and loyal audience until that point. (In 1989 she denied making this comments, saying she would have addressed the controversy earlier but her publicist shielded her from any negative press, so she was unaware. I’m not saying I buy that; I am glad she addressed it.) Also, at the request of her new label’s head, David Geffen, she split with producers Moroder and Bellote following her 1980 album The Wanderer (actually, following that album’s follow-up, I’m a Rainbow, which was shelved until a slim-downed version’s release in 1992).
Despite the dip in popularity, she was far from over. In the eighties she hit the pop top ten with “The Wanderer,” “Love Is In Control (Finger on the Trigger),” “She Works Hard for the Money” and “This Time I Know It’s for Real,” all of which also made the dance top ten. Her pop chart success in the US ended with 1989’s “This Time I Know It’s for Real.”
While she never again hit the US pop top forty, back in the dance clubs she returned to the apex again and again, scoring seven #1s and three additional top tens between 1995 and her death in 2012.
The Donna Summer playlists below include her pop hits, her dance hits, the best non-singles from her studio albums, cuts from compilation albums, songs from soundtrack albums, and some of her guest appearances on other artists’ albums. It may be Labor Day weekend, but Summer never ends at Tunes du Jour!
The YouTube playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLTkV-h9qkYAyB3JvP5yiWJC6Kf8Lknvc0
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Nineteen seventy-five was a pivotal year for disco music. The genre was still very young; the name “disco” as a reference to the music genre was coined just two years earlier by journalist Vince Aletti. Disco music crossed over into the mainstream with more frequency, yet was not as ubiquitous a presence on the pop charts as it would become in the ensuing years of that decade. Artists who had their first top 40 singles in 1975 include Gloria Gaynor and KC and the Sunshine Band. In December of 1975, Donna Summer made her first appearance on the Hot 100 when “Love to Love You Baby” made its debut, having already been a smash in the clubs. The Bee Gees updated their sound in 1975 with “Jive Talkin’,” which became their first top ten single since 1971. Ben E. King, who had hits in the early 1960s as a solo artist and as the lead singer of The Drifters scored his first top ten pop hit since 1961’s “Stand By Me” with the funky “Supernatural Thing.” As the lead singer of the trio named after her, Patti LaBelle scored her first top ten hit in over a decade with “Lady Marmalade.” Veteran acts such as Frankie Valli, The Temptations, The Miracles, The Isley Brothers and Esther Phillips filled the dance floors. And it was in 1975 that the world was doing the hustle.
Today’s playlist is made up of forty disco gems from 1975.
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In October of 1975, the band Queen played for their manager, John Reid, a song they recently finished recording that they wanted to release as their next single. Reid told them the track would not get any airplay. He played it for another artist he managed, Elton John, who reportedly said “Are you mad? You’ll never get that on the radio!”
Queen stayed firm, not relenting when their record company begged them to at least edit the song down from its nearly six-minute duration.
To promote the song, the band was invited to play on England’s hugely successful Top of the Pops television program. They were unable to appear due to tour commitments, so they did something that wasn’t very common in 1975 – they filmed a videoclip. Top of the Pops aired the clip. As the song rose up the charts, the video was shown repeatedly. Soon other artists in the UK made videos for their records, which is why when MTV launched in the United States in 1981, many of the clips they aired were of UK acts.
The single, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” went to #1 in England in December of that year, where it stayed for nine weeks. It got knocked from the top spot by a song whose title consisted of a phrase used in “Bohemian Rhapsody” – ABBA’s “Mamma Mia.” “Bohemian Rhapsody” hit #1 again there in December of 1991, a few weeks after the death of the band’s lead singer and the song’s composer, Freddie Mercury.
In the United States, the song didn’t go to #1, but it did hit the top ten in 1976 and 1992.
For this week’s Throwback Thursday playlist, Tunes du Jour revisits 1976 (part I can be found here), kicking off with the Queen classic “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
“I will never do a disco album. I’d prefer to do deodorant commercials. I didn’t sing since I was ten years old so I could stand up like a moron and go ‘Getfunkynow, getfunkynow, getboogie-woogie, getfunkynow’.”
– Alicia Bridges, Sounds magazine
Alicia Bridges. You know, the lady who sang “I love the nightlife, I gotta boogie on the disco round.” She co-wrote that song as well. That record is a disco classic, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Disco chart. It crossed over to the pop chart, hitting #5, and the r&b chart, where it reached #31. It was Bridges’ only top 40 hit on any chart. Nowadays she shills for Arrid Extra Dry. Not really.
Today, Alicia Bridges turns 63 years old. Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour, and we’ll celebrate Ms. Bridges’ birthday with a playlist she’s bound to hate, full of disco hits, kicking off with “I Love the Nightlife (Disco ‘Round).” Getboogiewoogie!
Oh, and what is a disco round?
In 1979, Giorgio Moroder, famous mostly for his production work on Donna Summer records, composed the score for the film American Gigolo. He asked Stevie Nicks to sing the movie’s theme song, for which Moroder wrote the music, but she had to decline for contractual reasons. He next turned to Deborah Harry of Blondie.
Harry write the lyrics to the song that became “Call Me,” the second #1 single for her band. Of her experience with Moroder, she told Billboard “He’s very nice to work with, very easy, (but) I don’t think he has a lot of patience with people who fool around or don’t take what they do seriously. I think he’s very serious about what he does and he’s intense and he’s a perfectionist and he’s very talented, so I think that people who are less talented or less concentrated bore him quickly…you really have to pay attention.”
Said Moroder of working with Blondie, “There were always fights. I was supposed to do an album with them after that. We went to the studio, and the guitarist was fighting with the keyboard player. I called their manager and quit.”
Moroder did end up working with Deborah Harry again years later on another soundtrack song, producing “Rush Rush” from Scarface, and in 2004 remixed Blondie’s single “Good Boys.”
Tunes du Jour’s Throwback Thursday playlist this week spotlights the best of 1980, kicking off with Blondie’s “Call Me.”
They came to dance. They came to celebrate. They came to enjoy life. They came to love.
They went to a place where they would feel comfortable. They went to a place where they would feel safe and supported. They went to a place where they could be themselves. They went to a place where they could be as gay as they truly are and wanted to be. They went to a place where they could escape the shitty world outside, with shitty jobs and shitty people with shitty views of those who are different than they are.
It was a Saturday night, and they needed to dance.
Children didn’t stop going to school, African Americans didn’t stop going to church, and we won’t stop going to clubs.
We will mourn. We will cry. We will persevere. We will win.
It’s Friday, and we need to dance. Don’t think you can stop us. Our Pulse is strong.
Because there are millions of people who tell us we shouldn’t be who we are because it doesn’t conform to who they think we should be;
Because this “government of the people, by the people and for the people” often isn’t for all the people;
Because “All men are created equal” doesn’t include those in the LGBT populations per many politicians and their constituents;
Because our Pride parades are attended not only by LGBT peoples are their allies, but by “counter protestors” who shout hateful rhetoric through megaphones in the name of religion, as these self-proclaimed Christians have no place better to be on a Sunday morning;
Because LGBT youth represent 7% of the youth population, while LGBT homeless youth make up 40% of the homeless youth population;
Because LGB and questioning youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-LGB youth;
Because queer youth need to see there are many people like them;
Because if we don’t celebrate who we are, then we tacitly say we are not worthy of celebration and things are fine as they are, neither of which is true;
Because there is strength in numbers;
Because in many parts of the world one is killed for the suspicion of being gay or lesbian;
Because in many parts of the world it is illegal and/or dangerous to show your LGBT pride;
Because nobody should live in fear of expressing their authentic self, including the asshats who attempt to intimidate us from doing so;
Because it is empowering to be able to express one’s sexuality or gender identity in a supportive environment;
Because coming together brings about positive change;
Because while marrying someone of the opposite gender has been legal throughout US history, the right to marry someone of the same gender is coming on just one year;
Because we still have a ways to get to before we reach true equality, and we’ve come too far to stop now;
Because it’s fun!;
Because diversity should be celebrated;
Because pride is respect for yourself and you deserve respect;
Because men in Speedos;
Because despite all of the bull feces, we persevere. That is why
We still need LGBT Pride Month celebrations.
Here is your expanded soundtrack:
In the early 1990s a demo of a song written by four men circulated through Warner Bros. Records. Though people at the label appreciated the song’s chorus, nobody wanted to record it.
Thinking that with some work the song may be good for Cher, whose last top ten pop hit was 1989’s “Just Like Jesse James,” Warner sent the demo to London’s Metro Studio, where two additional songwriters took a stab at improving the composition. Producers Mark Taylor and Brian Rawling created a dance track for the revised song, which they presented to Cher. She liked it.
She recorded the song. She and her producers played with a new technology called Auto-Tune, which added a robotic sound effect to her voice. When Warner heard that, they asked that it be removed, but Cher was adamant it stay.
In October of 1998, more than a half-decade after the composition’s original incarnation, Warner released Cher’s recording of “Believe.” On March 13, 1999, the song, the first pop tune to feature Auto-Tune, became Cher’s fifth #1 single in the United States, making her, then age 52, the oldest woman to top the US charts. It was her first #1 single since “Dark Lady” in 1974, the longest span ever between #1 records. It was the biggest-selling single stateside of 1999.
The record hit #1 in the UK, where it became the best-selling single of all-time by a female artist. It also topped the charts in Germany, Canada, The Netherlands, Australia, France, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, New Zealand and Ireland.
Today the woman born Cherilyn Sarkisian turns 70 years old. Our weekly dance party kicks off with “Believe.” Have a superb weekend!
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