The late 'Hot Stuff' singer will be celebrated with a lifetime achievement honor at the 2024 Grammy Awards
Donna Summer's legacy as the Queen of Disco lives on.
The singer — who died from lung cancer in 2012 — influenced and shaped several genres of sound, starting with the dance music she defined in the 1970s and early '80s. Summer's high-energy hits blasted through the nightlife scene, first dominating charts abroad in Europe before sweeping venues stateside as well.
As 2024 Grammy Awards honor Summer with a lifetime achievement award, look back at a young Donna Summer in throwback photos from her career's heyday.
A New Sound
The Queen of Disco initially made her name singing backup for the rock band Three Dog Night in the early '70s. The gig got her in the studio and in front of impressed producers who offered her a solo record deal in 1974.
Summer's groovy debut album Lady of the Night made her an instant star — especially in Europe — though the best of her career was still yet to come.
Summer broke onto the American scene in 1975 with “Love to Love You Baby,” the sexually-charged single off her album of the same name. The song remained at no. 2 on Billboard's Hot 100 charts for two weeks, becoming the singer's first top 40 hit.
She soared through the latter half of the decade with several more monster hits; her songs “I Feel Love," “Bad Girls," “Hot Stuff" and her cover of "MacArthur Park” were just a few anthems that soundtracked the disco scene over which Summer reigned.
Summer took home five Grammy Awards over the course of her lifetime, starting with her win for best female R&B performance with "Last Dance" in 1978. She won her fifth and final Grammy for "Carry On," her duet with longtime collaborator Giorgio Moroder.
Lady of Many Talents
"Last Dance" featured in the 1978 film Thank God It's Friday, which starred Summer as an aspiring disco singer alongside Jeff Goldblum. In addition to the Grammy win, the song also took home a Golden Globe and an Oscar for Best Original Song.
Raising a Family
Six years later, the couple split and Summer married Bruce Sudano, with whom she shares daughters Brooklyn and Amanda Sudano, born in 1981 and 1982, respectively.
"My mom was always so strong and so direct about how she wanted to do things. I think it was the first time where she allowed me to step up and care for her in a different way, and receive it. We're both really strong-willed," said Brooklyn, who co-directed the HBO documentary Love to Love You, Donna Summer.
Brooklyn told PEOPLE that the documentary — which was released in May 2023 — offers a glimpse into Summer's personal world at home.
"When you see my mom in those unguarded moments, she's super funny, silly and very creative. Our life was, until the day she died, about creation," the singer's youngest said. "Everything was about creating a beautiful flower arrangement or a beautiful meal or a beautiful home. Her sensibility was as a true artist, always to be creating, always to make something more beautiful or more of an experience. And that was a constant throughout her life."
Voice to Remember
The world collectively grieved for the disco icon after she died, with mega music stars including Dolly Parton and the late Aretha Franklin paying tribute to Summer and sharing how she influenced them. Beyond the music industry, then-President Barack Obama issued his condolences in an official statement.
"Her voice was unforgettable, and the music industry has lost a legend far too soon," Obama said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to Donna’s family and her dedicated fans.”
Barbra Streisand, who featured on the song "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" with Summer, shared her shock after hearing the news: “She was so vital the last time I saw her a few months ago. I loved doing the duet with her. She had an amazing voice and was so talented. It’s so sad."
Legacy Lives On
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