Summer rose to prominence in late 1975 when she stepped out of her career as a back-up singer for acts like Three Dog Night, and released her expansive erotic anthem “Love to Love You Baby,” helping generate enthusiasm for the “new sound” now called Disco, as well as popularize the 12″ single format.
Dubbed “The Queen of Disco” at the time, Summer helped popularize the dance genre popular at nightclubs and gay bars throughout the late 70s and early 80s known for its funk, soul and latin influence. Summer’s biggest disco hits include “Love On & On,” “I Feel Love,” “Heaven Knows,” “Dim All the Lights,” “On the Radio,” and “Last Dance.”
In 1979, Summer cooled to the disco sound and embraced a heavier rock sound, working with some of the recording industry’s biggest producers, most notably openly gay producer David Geffen and Quincy Jones, releasing hits “Bad Girls,” “Hot Stuff,” “This Time I Know its for Real,” and her last major hit in 1983, “She Works Hard for Her Money.”
Though known as a gay icon, Summer’s born-again-Christian status began alienating the diva from her gay fans, and in the mid-1980s, a false report that she’d called AIDS “the wrath of God” on gay people began circulating widely, an allegation she has flatly denied since. According to Jet Magazine, in 1989, she wrote to the New York chapter of ACT UP calling the entire thing a “terrible misunderstanding”
“I was unknowingly protected by those around me from the bad press and hate letters. …If I have caused you pain, forgive me.”
Summer is survived by her husband of 32 years, Bruce Sudano, and their two daughters, Brooklyn and Amanda Grace. She also has a third daughter, Mimi Sommer, from her first marriage.
Appropriately, here is “Last Dance.”