I am in a “funk” after seeing the "breaking news" text on my iPhone that Donna Summer has just died. 

To me, Donna Summer was a magical, iconic legend that was on a level populated by no one else.  Growing up, I spent countless hours in my purple bedroom listening to my treasured Donna Summer albums and 45 RPM singles imagining a different existence.  Her incredible mezzo-soprano vocal range and emotive delivery of lyrics touched me in a way no other artist had before or since.  Playing those records, one-after-another was really the start of my DJ career.  (I soon found out that kids from the neighborhood would gather together on the sidewalk outside of my second story bedroom window to hang out and listen to what I was playing.)

Her “Once Upon a Time” concept album (with its iconic Francesco Scavullo cover portrait) really resonated with me as a pre-teen growing up in mid-western, suburban, culture-starved Harwood Heights, Illinois. 
Donna's 1977 double album (her fifth album in two years) was a dazzling disco fairy tale full of sumptuous melodies and gloriously mesmerizing arrangements.  This music was my escape from the harassment and bullying a short, husky, sensitive boy could expect to receive on an almost daily basis.  Throughout the concept album, the songs tell the story of a girl who goes from having nothing and leading a lonely life dreaming of what could be, to finally having the man she loves enter her life. The "rags to riches" story is brought into the modern day via the use of the electronic disco sound which is found constantly throughout the album.  I played those records so much that they turned the rich, glossy black disc color into a matte, dull grey as a result of the record needle scraping the vinyl off little bits at a time.
Six months later, on April 22, 1978 I had the memorable experience of seeing Donna Summer sing live. 
I was 14 years old when I had what was destined to be my very first concert experience - Donna Summer’s “Once Upon a Time Tour” which was promoting my beloved concept album of the same name.  I just had to go!
I remember convincing my gracious Mom to buy tickets (and by convincing I mean “annoying the shit out” until she relented to allow her over-protected baby to do such a grown up thing).  She dutifully arranged for my niece, Michele and I to be escorted by my older cousin Sharon and her fiance Mike.  Donna was performing at the Golf Mill Playhouse Theatre in Niles Illinois which was near to where I lived.  It was a unique theater in the round that created an intimate experience for both artist and fans. 
At the concert, I remember her being high energy, sincere and unexpectedly humorous.  I was mesmerized.  Her performance that evening gave me goose bumps on top of my goose bumps!  It was wonderful, magical and unforgettable.  I can still visualize her strobe-lit “robot dance” during the opening to "I Feel Love" that was so fluid with its thundering bass, synthesizer lines and haunting vocals that Ms. Summer’s stiff, jerky dance seemed in congruent.  To me, her vocal performance seemed like the equivalent of a musical surfer riding a syncopated wave of sound. 
I was charmed by her performance of a new song that she introduced as being from a new movie she had just finished filming called Thank God It’s Friday.  It sounded like another huge hit to me.  The song of course was the immortal “Last Dance” which was released two months later.  (NOTE: The tour performance which she gave at the Los Angeles Universal Amphitheater was recorded and released as the live album Live and More).

Donna Summer was a musical pioneer whose innovations in large part shaped popular music's future.  She reshaped the course of popular music three times.  What started as a scandal and became a classic, the 17 minute “Love To Love You Baby” was the first extended dance remix.  The next year, my young, adolescent mind was completely blown upon hearing “I Feel Love”.  The indelible reaction that I had was an almost physical feeling one that felt like a piece of me that I didn’t even know was missing had been returned.


Music author Ken Barnes writes ”Even 35 years later, "I Feel Love" still sounds like a recording beamed in from another galaxy.  Moroder's army of chattering synthesizers creates a desensitized zone in which Summer is trapped, and her icy insistence that she can "feel love" establishes a deadly irony.  More than any other record, this one proved you didn't need guitars and "real" instruments to create great records.  The synth-pop of the '80s and '90s as well as the last quarter-century of dance music (and pop, for that matter) would be inconceivable without it.”


Oh - and for an encore, she helped marry disco and rock, cementing the relationship with her “Bad Girls” album.  Donna would go on to earn five Grammy awards and 17 nominations over the course of her career.  She was the heartbeat and soundtrack of a decade.  Her God given talents connected with me and brought me joy. 
Millions will miss her.  Her legend will endure.
What is your favorite Donna Summer story?  Share it with me and the rest of the Lollipop Unwrapped tribe by adding to the comments.

As a special tribute, I have something exclusive to share.  After hearing the assorted Donna Summer medleys available on-line (and considering them all a bit inferior)  - I went digging through my record collection to locate very rare bootleg that was released in 1981.  This medley was done after Donna's "Wanderer" album was released, signifying her break from the "disco" style and moving into pop/new wave. 

As luck would have it, I not only found the copy I'd play in the clubs at the time, but a brand new, never played, still in shrink-wrap duplicate!  After my "dance-of-joy" - I have transferred it from it's pristine vinyl to create a HQ digital file for you to enjoy.  Please remember that this was done BEFORE COMPUTERS, but upon listening to it, you'll realize it was created by someone who actually experienced spinning Ms. Summer's music in the clubs.  After searching on-line for an already transferred copy of this bootleg - I realized it was not available ANYWHERE.  I'm sure this will spread around the global internet like wildfire, and I'm glad to be the one to preserve it's existence. 

Enjoy all the incredible musical highlights of the "Queen of Disco"  -DJ Lollipop

DONNA SUMMER - "Long Hot Summer"
(1981 Le Disc Bootleg Medley)