Donna Summer, the reluctant “Queen of Disco” whose sultry dance anthems helped define the music of the 1970’s, succumbed to cancer on Thursday morning, according to statements from her publicist and family. She was 63.
Coming as a surprise to many, reports of Summer’s death sent shockwaves throughout the music industry, the Internet, blogosphere and Twitter-verse, prompting expressions of sympathy and grief from celebrities and fans alike. Tweets surfaced from the likes of Slash, Nichole Scherzinger, Vanessa Williams, and even the White House. Quincy Jones remembered her as “the heartbeat and soundtrack of a decade.”
Unlike other celebrities who have battled cancer publicly in recent memory, Summer was apparently trying to conceal the status of her disease, and much of the public was unaware that she was ill. She had been rumored to be reasonably healthy as recent as a couple of weeks ago, as reported by TMZ. The entertainment news source also claims that Summer died of lung cancer, which she believed came as a result of inhaling toxins in the air after the 9/11 attack.
Ironically, the song for which Donna Summer is perhaps best known, the 17-minute-long sexually overt “Love to Love You Baby,” the singer has not performed since the mid-1980s, after becoming a born-again Christian. She never fully embraced the “Queen of Disco” title, claiming that her personal leanings were toward rock and roll. During her career (which lasted well beyond the disco era), Summer sold over 130 million records and won five Grammy awards. Her last album, Crayons, was released in 2008.
Donna Summer is the latest in a string of prominent music legends to pass away within the past few months, joining names like Whitney Houston, Dick Clark, and most recently Adam Yauch of The Beastie Boys, who died of cancer less than two weeks ago. Summer will be forever remembered as an icon of an era, and will be sorely missed.