Donna Summer, the singer who came to be known as the “Queen of Disco” during her 1970s heyday, died today after battling cancer, a family member confirmed to ABC News. She was 63.
Summer was a five time Grammy award winner who was the first artist to have three consecutive double albums reach No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard chart. Her hits like “Last Dance,” “Bad Girls,” and “Love to Love You Baby” made her a disco icon.
Born outside of Boston, Summer was raised by devout Christian parents who introduced her to both gospel and classical music. In a 2008 interview with ABC News’ “Nightline,” Summer remembered her mom singing songs to her before going to bed each night.
“As long as the classical station was playing on the radio, I wouldn’t cry,” she said. “If it was on for 20 hours, I would sleep for 20 hours. I would be calm. So I think that my mother probably helped my sense of musicality just by doing that.”
Summer left home at age 18 to audition for the Broadway production of “Hair” and got a role in the show when it moved to Germany. There, she met producer Giorgio Moroder, who would launch her solo career. She went on to produce hits like “Bad Girls,” “Last Dance,” and “She Works Hard for the Money,” a song that was inspired by a washroom attendant.
“I was at a Grammys party … and I went to the ladies room and on my way in I saw this little old lady sitting at the end of the bar. And she was asleep,” Summer told “Nightline.” “She was the bathroom attendant. And at that same moment, a group of ladies walked into the room and started spraying their hair and doing all these things. And my first thought was ‘God, she works hard for her money, that lady.’
“And then I thought, ‘man, that’s a song,’” she said. “So I went and grabbed my manager and we went back into the bathroom and started writing the song on a piece of toilet paper.”
Summer’s last album, “Crayons,” was released in 2008. In 2010, she told AllVoices.com that she was working on an album of disco standards.
Summer is survived by her husband, Bruce Sudano, three children, and four grandchildren.