Donna Summer was born LaDonna Adrian Gaines on 31 December 1948 in the Dorchester community of Boston.
One of seven children raised by devout Christian parents, Donna sang in church and, as a teenager, joined a rock group called The Crow.
At 18, she left home and school to take up a supporting role in the Broadway musical Hair. The show moved to Germany shortly afterwards and she eventually became a German resident.
She settled in Munich, performed in German versions of several musicals, including Godspell and Show Boat and also performed with the Viennese Folk Opera.
In 1971 she released her first solo recording in Europe, entitled Sally Go ‘Round The Roses.
She married Austrian actor Helmuth Sommer in 1972 (“Summer” is an Anglicised version of his surname) and gave birth to daughter Mimi the following year. The couple divorced in 1976 and Summer married Bruce Sudano in 1980.
She performed with the pop group Family Tree in 1974 and 1975, but it was while singing back-up for Three Dog Night that she met producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, signed a contract and issued her first album, Lady of the Night, which included the European hit, The Hostage.
Summer paired with Giorgio Moroder for mega-hits Love To Love You Baby (1976) and I Feel Love (1977), but it was her 1978 version of the Jimmy Webb classic MacArthur Park – transformed into a disco vehicle – which brought Summer her first #1.
Summer has courted controversy both professionally and personally in her career. In the early 1980s she reportedly suggested that AIDS was a divine punishment from God, resulting in her songs being banned for a number of years in some gay establishments.
Summer has long denied such allegations, and finally took legal action against a newspaper which printed the rumours during a review of a concert.
In 1991, during the height of the Gulf War, Summer’s song State Of Independence was banned from US radio play.
She embraced her Christian faith with the gospel-flavoured Christmas Spirit (1994) and accepted a role in the TV sitcom Family Matters. In 1999 she made a television special, Donna Summer – Live and More Encore, which achieved stellar ratings.
The new millennium brought more dance hits. Crayons (2008) was her first studio album of new material for 17 years and reached the US top 20. In 2010 the single To Paris With Love topped Billboard‘s US dance chart.
Donna Summer died on 17 May 2012 (aged 63) of lung cancer.