LaDonna Adrian Gaines (December 31, 1948 – May 17, 2012) aka Donna Summer was a singer, songwriter, and actress who gained international recognition during the 1970s disco era. Summer charted a top-40 hit every year between 1975 and 1984, charted four number-one singles in the US within a 12-month period, and sold over 100 million records worldwide. Donna Summer helped to define disco and inspire generations of artists.
Summer began performing in church when she was 10 years old. Before graduating high school, she joined the blues rock band Crow. After the band dissolved, she booked a role in the musical Hair and in 1968 moved to Munich, Germany to perform the role. There, she released her first single: a German version of the song “Aquarius” from the musical Hair.
Donna Summer has influenced many iconic artists such as Madonna and Beyoncé. She defined the disco genre and effectively changed the face of music with her sound. She was even able to transition into other genres when disco began to decline in popularity in the 1980s. Her 1980s hit “She Works Hard For the Money” became a feminist anthem.
Summer was the first black woman to be nominated for an MTV Video Music Award, has won 5 Grammy Awards, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2018, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, a biographical musical that features her songs, began Broadway performances. She will forever be remembered as a disco and music icon.