This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #362: I Feel Love by Donna Summer.
I find it amazing that we are almost 140 songs into this countdown and we are still meeting artists who were pioneers in their musical field. That is definitely true of today’s artist, Donna Summer. Along with producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, Summer helped launch the genre of Disco (along with the future offshoots: Rave, House and Electronic Dance Music). She enjoyed a career that saw record sales of over 100 million albums, making her one of the most successful music artists of all time. She had 42 Top #40 Chart hits over her career and, at one point, had ten consecutive Top #5 hits. She made famous some of the most innovative and popular songs of all time such as “Love To Love You, Baby”, “Hot Stuff”, “Bad Girls”, a terrific cover of “MacArthur Park”, “Dim All the Lights”, “She Works Hard for the Money”, “On The Radio” and a duet with the great Barbra Streisand called “No More Tears (Enough is Enough). Summer won 5 Grammy Awards and was posthumously inducted to The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. She passed away from lung cancer in 2012.
Donna Summer was a performer her whole life. From her childhood days spent singing in Church, to her high school days singing in a local band in her hometown of Boston, to touring with the musical Hair, Donna Summer was a natural-born entertainer. Being in the touring cast of Hair took her to Europe while she was in her early 20s. Summer decided to settle down in Germany (becoming fluent in German while she was there). Soon she began performing in German stage plays. A few years later, she married an Austrian actor and started a family. It looked as though Donna Summer was set to enjoy a happy domestic life, with a touch of local theatre thrown in. However, while performing in and around Germany that summer, she crossed paths with producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. They were looking for new talent and Donna Summer certainly fit the bill. Long story short, the trio recorded a demo tape of some songs that they wrote together (including “Love to Love You, Baby” and sent them to the head of Casablanca Records, Neil Bogart. He played the tape at a party he was hosting and the crowd really loved, “Love to Love You, Baby” and asked for it to be played on repeat. Bogart signed Summer to Casablanca Records. Her first release was a 17-minute, extended play version of “Love to Love You, Baby”. The rest was music history for Donna Summer.
The second song she released (with Moroder and Bellotte) was “I Feel Love”. It was this song that really introduced the world to Disco. What made “I Feel Love” so revolutionary was the inclusion of a machine called a Moog Synthesizer. Normally, I don’t discuss the specific instruments used but, in this case, it is important to talk a little about the Moog Synthesizer. To begin with, “I Feel Love” was the first popular song to make use of this technology. By the time the mid-1970s rolled around, lots of musicians and bands were fooling around with sounds in the form of how sounds were recorded, mixed, etc., but it was Summer with the use of the Moog Synthesizer to establish a blistering backbeat that changed everything! Nowadays, this sort of technology is used by most bands/singers to manipulate the sound of their music by creating sound loops that repeat, amplifying/softening/extending sounds and a whole set of other capabilities that increase the range of musical possibilities available to musical artists. Back when “I Feel Love” was first released, the combination of Summer’s strong, steady vocals against the backdrop of pulsating beats was completely fresh and new. It took the music world by storm and changed everything for Summer and so many who have followed in her wake.
Donna Summer’s final big hit was also one of her most important. The video for the song “She Works Hard For The Money” was the very first music video by a black female artist to make it into heavy rotation on MTV when it started in the early 80s. In addition, the song was used in rallies for causes that affected women, such as pay equity and other issues that dealt with the rights of women. Throughout the first half of her career, Summer wrote and performed songs that portrayed her in a sexually provocative manner. In her later years, Summer renounced that aspect of her career and adopted a more Christian-oriented outlook on her life. When Donna Summer passed away in 2012 from lung cancer, it was said by her that she got the disease from inhaling toxic dust from 9/11 (she lived near Ground Zero). Others have claimed that her cancer came from all of the second-hand smoke she inhaled in the venues she performed at over the years. Whatever the case, her death was mourned by many who recognized the enormity of the contribution she made to modern music. Please enjoy one of the songs that started it all off for Donna Summer. Here is “I Feel Love”. Enjoy
The link to the official website for Donna Summer can be found here.
Thanks, as always, to KEXP for supporting god music in all its many forms. The link to their official website can be found here.
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