Disco queen, North Naples resident Donna Summer dies at 63

FILE - In this May 21, 2008 file photo, Donna Summer performs during the finale of 'American Idol' at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. Summer, the Queen of Disco who ruled the dance floors with anthems like "Last Dance," "Love to Love You Baby" and "Bad Girl," has died. Her family announced her death in a statement Thursday, May 17, 2012.  She was 63. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian, File)

FILE - In this May 21, 2008 file photo, Donna Summer performs during the finale of "American Idol" at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. Summer, the Queen of Disco who ruled the dance floors with anthems like "Last Dance," "Love to Love You Baby" and "Bad Girl," has died. Her family announced her death in a statement Thursday, May 17, 2012. She was 63. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian, File)

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Disco queen Donna Summer, whose pulsing anthems such as “Last Dance,” ‘’Love to Love You Baby” and “Bad Girls” became the soundtrack for a glittery age of sex, drugs, dance and flashy clothes, has died. She was 63.

Summer and her husband, Bruce Sudano, own a condominium in Tiburon Golf Club, part of the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort development in North Naples.

Her family released a statement Thursday saying Summer died in Naples and that they “are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continue legacy.” Summer had discreetly been battling lung cancer.

“Words truly can’t express how much we appreciate your prayers and love for our family at this sensitive time,” the statement said.

Although she was famous for glitz and glam, Summer lived a private life in Naples with her husband. Whether at home, eating breakfast at Sunburst Café off Pine Ridge Road or shopping at Costco, Summer “would put on a floppy hat and blend in with the community,” Sunburst owner Jerome Tocio said.

“She didn’t look like a diva, she looked like an ordinary person,” said Nic Stones, one of Summer’s neighbors. “She looked like an ordinary person you’d see at the fitness center, or pool. You wouldn’t know she was a big star unless someone told you.”

Tocio said he’ll never forget the first time Summer ate at his restaurant back in 2003.

“ Here, the ‘Queen of Disco’ is sitting in my restaurant, it’s packed, and no one knows,” he said. “Of course you want to respect a celebrity’s privacy so I didn’t say anything, but inside, I was a giddy little kid.”

Summer, real name LaDonna Adrian Gaines, was born in 1948 in Boston. Tocio, who also grew up in the Boston area, said they bonded over that. Soon, he was attending her concerts and supporting her backstage.

“She signed all my pictures I had of her, and all my albums,” Tocio said. “Thirty-five years ago I did a drawing of her in an art class, and she signed that too. I look at them now and I’m just shocked. I can’t believe she’s gone.”

Summer came to prominence just as disco was burgeoning, and came to define the era with a string of No. 1 hits and her luxurious hair and glossy, open lips.

A number of her albums reached gold or platinum status, including the multiplatinum “Bad Girls” and “On the Radio, Volume I & II.” Her No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hits include “Hot Stuff” and “MacArthur Park.”

Summer was raised on gospel music and became the soloist in her church choir by age 10.

“There was no question I would be a singer, I just always knew. I had credit in my neighborhood, people would lend me money and tell me to pay it back when I got famous,” Summer said in a 1989 interview with The Associated Press.

”Love to Love You Baby,” released in 1975, was her U.S. chart debut and the first of 19 No. 1 dance hits between 1975 and 2008 — second only to Madonna. The song was later sampled by LL Cool J, Timbaland and Beyoncé, who interpolated the hit for her jam “Naughty Girl.”

“I’ve just seen on Twitter and Facebook, everyone is heartbroken, shocked and surprised,” said David Burnum, 18, who also lives in the Tiburon community. “First we lose Whitney (Houston) one of the biggest stars, and now we lose Donna Summer, one of the biggest stars of the older generation, so it’s a really big loss.”

Unlike some other stars of disco who faded as the music became less popular, Summer was able to grow beyond it and later segued to a pop-rock sound. She had one of her biggest hits in the 1980s with “She Works Hard for the Money,” which became another anthem, this time for women’s rights.

Soon after, Summer became a born-again Christian and faced controversy when she was accused of making anti-gay comments in relation to the AIDS epidemic. Summer denied making the comments, but was the target of a boycott.

She was never comfortable with the “Disco Queen” label. Musically, she began to change in 1979 with “Hot Stuff,” which had a tough, rock ‘n’ roll beat. Her diverse sound helped her earn Grammy Awards in the dance, rock, R&B and inspirational categories.

Summer said grew up on rock ‘n’ roll and later covered the Bruce Springsteen song “Protection.”

“I like the Moody Blues, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones as well as Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, the Supremes and Temptations,” she said. “I didn’t know many white kids who didn’t know the Supremes; I don’t know many black kids who don’t know the Moody Blues.”

She released her last album, “Crayons,” in 2008. She also performed on “American Idol” that year with its top female contestants.

“She was an incredible human being,” Tocio said. “I feel like I’ve lost a friend. Such a gentle soul.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© 2012 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 29

Max_Headroom writes:

R.I.P. The TRUE queen of disco!

Max_Headroom writes:

in response to firedragon:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

It's 'scene', not 'seen'.

lilme writes:

It was just last year that she was in a production with David Foster which aired on PBS. She will be missed.

mangy_coon writes:

missed your last chance for romance Firedragon

BobbyLupo writes:

I have so many memories of her music, especially at Brown’s Guest House in Brooklyn. If you could get past the front door back in ’78 it was a great place.
R.I.P.

alexia6ciula writes:

Her music is timeless!! RIP

swfljim writes:

I saw her in concert last year for the first time. She sounded and looked great. So sad to hear this.

Pistolnyc2001 writes:

Dance to you everynight in Vergina's...
Rest in Peace you are the Queen

Klaatu writes:

"Dim all the lights"
sweet darling the Queen has passed!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEV7Tr...
Her music will live on!

Beachglow writes:

Makes us all realize how precious and short life is, and we shouldn't sweat the small stuff and learn to be happy and look at the big picture.

Creep writes:

Not only Hot Stuff but an inspiration to any inner city kid who feels life is hopeless.

Becksperado writes:

Wow, I didn't know she lived in Naples. RIP, Donna Summer!

manforpeace writes:

you'd be surprised who calls naples home.

illuminati haven!
they don't like anyone that is known to be king or queen of anything.

opheliac (Inactive) writes:

I had no idea she lived here. What other big names are here (besides judge Judy and Spielberg)?

Lawliette writes:

She was a Mission Hill and Dorchester native in Massachusetts originally. My dad knew her brother...

InCognitogirl writes:

Her music was priceless, rest in peace Donna.

zoaves writes:

in response to opheliac:

I had no idea she lived here. What other big names are here (besides judge Judy and Spielberg)?

The other big shots that live in Naples are the $70 million dollar swindler Gov. Scott

Donna was a lady who found god and chose to live here in paradise.
May her family find peace and solice knowing that she was loved.

paul_vincent_zecchino writes:

The Sarasota Feral Tribune, www.heraldtribune.com, erred in saying Ms. Summer died at her Englewood home?

Naples jumping in front of the camera again? Tch tch.

Englewood in many ways remains a small town and though not everyone may know their neighbor, they know who they are.

Cursory research would show this to be Ms. Summer's second home on Manasota Key. The first, across the street, the second, up the North Key.

A condo in Naples? Spare us. Please.

What won't you do to catch notoriety?

What price glory, Napoli? What will you next claim? That Judge Crater and the Lindbergh Baby will play duets at the Captain's Table?

pvz
mk,fl
17 May, '12

"I'm goin' down Naples. Gonna
move there, Naples.
Where alla money is."
- Wm. "Billy" D., June, 1993

almasonlybar writes:

in response to paul_vincent_zecchino:

The Sarasota Feral Tribune, www.heraldtribune.com, erred in saying Ms. Summer died at her Englewood home?

Naples jumping in front of the camera again? Tch tch.

Englewood in many ways remains a small town and though not everyone may know their neighbor, they know who they are.

Cursory research would show this to be Ms. Summer's second home on Manasota Key. The first, across the street, the second, up the North Key.

A condo in Naples? Spare us. Please.

What won't you do to catch notoriety?

What price glory, Napoli? What will you next claim? That Judge Crater and the Lindbergh Baby will play duets at the Captain's Table?

pvz
mk,fl
17 May, '12

"I'm goin' down Naples. Gonna
move there, Naples.
Where alla money is."
- Wm. "Billy" D., June, 1993

She and her husband own a carriage home in Tiburon at 2643 Bolero Dr. Look it up.

voltihs writes:

I have so many fond memories of Ms. Summer when I was into the disco thing in NY in the 70's/80's. Here she was living just down the street from me. I can't believe it. I wish I had a chance to thank her for all the joy and fun she brought to my youth. Love to Love ya Baby.

paleo777 writes:

She was great - go see the Donna Summer/Whitney Houston Tribute at The English Pub May 26! The singer LOOKS and SOUNDS just like the diva - uncanny!!!

cozyboy writes:

in response to paleo777:

She was great - go see the Donna Summer/Whitney Houston Tribute at The English Pub May 26! The singer LOOKS and SOUNDS just like the diva - uncanny!!!

oh here come the s----- plugs for some 2 bit tribute show. Let her RIP for a day or two.Have you no shame

paleo777 writes:

in response to cozyboy:

oh here come the s----- plugs for some 2 bit tribute show. Let her RIP for a day or two.Have you no shame

Meant no disrespect - just noted the show was advertised weeks ago and a good chance to enjoy the music of the diva from a singer who idolizes the two women....

Max_Headroom writes:

in response to zoaves:

The other big shots that live in Naples are the $70 million dollar swindler Gov. Scott

Donna was a lady who found god and chose to live here in paradise.
May her family find peace and solice knowing that she was loved.

Give it a rest and go give your $10.00s of dollars to Obama, he will NEED EVERY penny to win in November.

paleo777 writes:

in response to voltihs:

I have so many fond memories of Ms. Summer when I was into the disco thing in NY in the 70's/80's. Here she was living just down the street from me. I can't believe it. I wish I had a chance to thank her for all the joy and fun she brought to my youth. Love to Love ya Baby.

I too was in the NJ club scene at that time - probably "bumped" into you in the clubs... Do you remember "The Factory?"

SandnSurf writes:

RIP Ms. Summer - although I'm not old enough to have participated in the disco scene, I did tear up a rug or two in my bedroom dancing to her awesome songs!!!

itsfact writes:

To set the record straight, Donna Summer's primary residence has been the Nashville area since 1995 which is where she raised her children. She also spent time at properties she owned in Naples & Manasota Key. Since Nashville was her home, her funeral service will be here next week. Nashville is home to many well known celebrities (i.e. Reese Witherspoon, Michael McDonald, Nicole Kidman, Scott Hamilton, George Lindsey to name just a few) who choose to live there because they are treated with respect and not harrassed or gawked at. I hope the people Ms. Summer encountered in Naples treated her with the same dignity.

GadsdenGirl writes:

R.I.P. to a true Diva, in the most complimentary sense of the word. I hated most disco back in the day (I grew up in NYC/Jersey and was more of a Punk Rock girl (CBGB's, the Pyramid) - but Donna Summer made some fine, fine music.

reallifeswfla writes:

RIP Donna!!! You had a great run. TV says that your estate is worth $70 Large. Not too bad even in tony Naples. You had class and a nice voice, seemed like a grand lady. The Sunburst owner sure was enamored by you (he probably had platform shoes and polyester dance clothes too, back in the day). Never was a big fan of disco tho. Glad you saw the light and evolved to rock n' roll. Tell Elvis and Jimi we said hello.

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