Disco queen Donna Summer dies at 63

Thu May 17, 2012 4:17pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Disco queen Donna Summer, whose sultry voice and pulsing rhythms on hits like "Last Dance" and "Love to Love You Baby" defined the 1970s disco era, died of cancer on Thursday at age 63.

Summer, who won five Grammys and sold more than 130 million records worldwide, died surrounded by her family in Naples, Florida, publicist Brian Edwards said. He declined to specify what type of cancer caused her death.

"Early this morning, surrounded by family, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith. While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy," the singer's family said in a statement.

Summer had three children and married twice. Her second husband, musician Bruce Sudano, was at her bedside, Edwards said.

The music world swiftly paid tribute to Summer.

Gloria Gaynor, disco's other great diva, said Summer "forever changed ... how America danced and enjoyed themselves. She may have had her ‘Last Dance' here on earth, but ‘Heaven Knows' it is dancing with joy for her arrival."

Liza Minelli said, "We will be dancing to her music forever," and record producer Quincy Jones said her voice was "the heartbeat and soundtrack of a decade."

Born LaDonna Gaines in Boston, she made her debut as a church singer at age 10 and began her professional career in Germany at the age of 18, performing in the shows "Hair" and "Porgy and Bess" and working as a studio session singer.

But it wasn't until 1975 that she found fame with the breathy vocals and grinding beat of "Love to Love You Baby." The song was a huge hit in American and European nightclubs even though its overt sexuality made it controversial.   Continued...

Pop diva Donna Summer performs during the Nobel Peace Prize concert in Oslo December 11, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Helgren