This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
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. But, that is definitely true of today’s artist, Donna Summer who, along with producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, helped launch the genre of Disco (along with the future offshoots: Rave, House and Electronic Dance Music). The story of how this was accomplished will be told below but, there was much more to Donna Summer than her success in the world of Disco. Did you know that 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, she had ten consecutive Top #5 hits. She made famous some of the most innovative and popular songs of all time with hits 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 inducted, posthumously, 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, 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, in the process) and began performing in German stage plays. A few years later, she married an Austrian actor and started a family. It looked as though a happy domestic life, with a touch of local theatre thrown in, was to be her lot in life. It was while performing in and around Germany that Summer 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” and the rest, as they say, was history for Donna Summer.
The second song she released (with Moroder and Bellotte) was “I Feel Love” and it was this song that really introduced the world to Disco and, later on, helped pave the way for the big genre of Electronic Dance Music that exists today. 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 because “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…to create sound loops that repeat, to amplify/soften/extend sounds and a whole range of other capabilities that increase the range of musical possibilities available to musical artists. But, 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….”She Works Hard for the Money”. This song and, more specifically, the video for the this song, 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. That song, also, was used in rallies for causes that affected women, such as Pay Equity and other aspects of worker’s rights. 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, “I Feel Love” by the late, great Donna Summer.
The link to the music video for “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer, can be found here.
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.