You love to love her: Almost 900 readers shared their Donna Summer favorites
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You love to love her: Almost 900 readers shared their Donna Summer favorites

Music

People from Boston and around the world universally praised Mission Hill’s own “Queen of Disco.”

Readers had nothing but love for all eras of Donna Summer. Chris Helgren/Reuters; AP Photo/File; Janet Knott/Boston Globe; HBO

Judging from the responses from almost 900 Boston.com readers, Mission Hill’s own Donna Summer (née Donna Gaines) wasn’t just the Queen of Disco — she was The Queen, period.

Our poll about Donna Summer’s music in advance of the 10th Donna Summer Disco Party in Boston June 27 drew hundreds of comments from Boston and Massachusetts, around the country, and even around the world. (Hello, Japan and Saudi Arabia!) All were emphatic in their praise for the singer, who sold 100 million records and had 32 chart singles in her lifetime, including 14 top 10’s and four No. 1’s. 

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But beyond records sold, fans were quick to point out Summer’s grace, empathy, and beauty. “Thank you Donna for sharing your voice, your talent, your resilience and your heart,” wrote James W.R. of Hopewell, Virginia, echoing the thoughts of many of the fans who responded.

And some of those fans had been with Summer since the very beginning: “I went to high school with Donna Gaines,” wrote Jeanette C. of Revere. “I still remember her in our high school play, ‘Hair.’ Little did I know what she would become. Truly an icon.”

As for the songs they picked as favorites, there was a clear winner: the Oscar-, Golden Globe-, and Grammy-winning “Last Dance” from the 1978 film “Thank God It’s Friday,” in which Donna Summer was actually featured as an aspiring disco singer (granted, not much of a stretch).

“You just can’t beat ‘Last Dance’ in all of its joyous, 8+-minute glory,” wrote Michael E. of Indianapolis. “The now-classic slow start, the build, the explosion, the cool down. Glorious.”

“Last Dance” accumulated 21% of the total vote, with Summer’s version of “MacArthur Park” (so much better than the original, sorry Richard Harris) coming in second with 13%. Several respondents were quick to mention the 17 1/2-minute “MacArthur Park Suite” version of that track, which also incorporates segments of “Heaven Knows” and “One of a Kind.” “The MacArthur Park Suite is one of the most beautiful and stunning pieces of music ever recorded,” wrote Vicken of Manchester, U.K.

Which of these is your favorite Donna Summer song?

Any Way At All

Could It Be Magic

Dim All The Lights

Faster and Faster to Nowhere

Heaven Knows

I Feel Love

I Love You

I Remember Yesterday

Last Dance

Love Is In Control (Finger On The Trigger)

Love To Love You Baby

MacArthur Park

Melody Of Love (Wanna Be Loved)

No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)

On My Honor

On The Radio

Pandora’s Box

She Works Hard For The Money

State Of Independence

The Wanderer

The Woman in Me

Theme from The Deep (Down, Deep Inside)

There Goes My Baby

This Time I Know It’s For Real

Unconditional Love

The other thing everyone agrees on is that Donna Summer, who died of lung cancer at age 63 in 2012, is sorely missed. “She left us all a great legacy. She left this earth too soon,” wrote Rose C. from Cleveland. “I know God is also enjoying her music very very much.” And Loren from Dearborn, Michigan, maybe said it best: “She truly was the queen of all queens. And she had incredible pipes.”

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Below, a playlist of your top 20 favorite Donna Summer songs (plus one extra — readers’ most-mentioned “Other” song, “Dinner with Gershwin”), and comments from readers across the globe about Boston’s local disco legend.

Some responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Massachusetts:

“A huge fan as a kid — I painted my bedroom walls with the titles and lyrics of her songs.” (Favorite song: “Bad Girls”) 

— Alisha J., Dorchester, now Cambridge

“I have a fond memory of Donna Summer performing with her sisters on her back porch at 16 Parker Hill Avenue. They called themselves the House Rocking Gaines Sisters and Donna’s talent was truly exceptional. We all greatly miss her. In a touching tribute to her legacy, the city of Boston has erected a sign at the corner of Parker Hill Avenue and Huntington Avenue which now bears the name Donna Summer Avenue. Her memory will forever live on in our hearts.” (Favorite song: “Bad Girls”) 

— Jeff K., Roxbury

“I never saw Donna Summer live in concert (regret city!) but I’ve seen footage from various shows that are posted online and wow! What a legendary performer! A strong, clear, beautiful voice … sonic perfection.” (Favorite Song: “Dim All The Lights”)

— Derek G., Marshfield

“The first concert I ever went to was Donna Summer’s Once Upon a Time tour at the Boston Music Hall in the late ’70s. It was the night before Halloween and it was the performance of a lifetime. Donna appeared on a huge staircase, surrounded by a massive orchestra with her arms outstretched to the heavens … It was a magical time.” (Favorite song: “I Feel Love”)

— Tony D., Everett

“I had the ‘On the Radio’ album and I listened to it whenever I was in my bedroom. I was 11 years old and my record player created magic when I put that on! And … there was a poster inside the album! I tried to hit the high notes and sustain them along with Donna Summer. I loved her! When ‘No More Tears’ came out, I thought Barbra Streisand was trying to take over as the Queen of Disco. No way! It was ALWAYS Donna Summer! (And it will always be Donna Summer!)” (Favorite song: “Last Dance”)

— Julie N. B., Haverhill

“I just remember going roller skating at the Wallex as a 12-year-old and skating to ‘Last Dance’ and thinking that was the greatest thing to be doing to the greatest song ever! I loved and still love Donna Summer!” (Favorite song: “Last Dance”) 

— Frances J., Cambridge

“I grew up outside of Boston. I remember when ‘disco’ was in full swing but I was pretty young. But as I got older, Donna Summer was releasing song after song, hit after hit. One of my favorites was ‘On The Radio’ — her voice was angelic. I was lucky enough to see her live at the pavilion in Boston. She looked so beautiful and as always, sounded amazing … She left this world way too soon.” (Favorite song: “On The Radio”)

— Laurie B., Boston

Around the U.S.:

“As a kid, I remember very vividly Donna Summer’s music being played around. I was instantly attracted to the high-energy music that she gave out. I remember hearing ‘Bad Girls’ for the first time and the ‘Toot Toot Beep Beep’ staying in my head. Growing up and later discovering her entire discography, I fell in love with all her music, especially ‘I Feel Love’ and ‘Love to Love You Baby.’ She had a variety of seductive songs, and nobody has come near or topped her music in the way she displayed different characters or personas. A true pioneer!” (Favorite song: “Bad Girls”) 

— Kevin A., Monsey, NY

“Her songs were something that cannot be replicated so easily, inspiring people of her time, the people of now, and definitely the people of the future. Her mark in this world will be something that won’t be easily forgotten.” (Favorite song: “Could It Be Magic”)

— Evon N., Miami, Florida

“My friend and I were about 12 when the Album ‘Bad Girls’ came out. We absolutely loved that album and danced and sang to every song so many evenings in her bedroom. The album cover was exciting and different, the music was modern and took us to another world. We made up a dance to the song ‘Bad Girls,’ and it made us feel older than we really were — it was glamorous! I have never stopped listening to Donna Summer, and in my 30s bought a Greatest Hits album. All those great memories of being 12 and feeling glamorous and wild came pouring back to me, and filled my mind with happiness and youth … I love her voice; it is magical! She has a way of taking you, the listener, away to a very cool, and glamorous place! She was ahead of her time for sure.” (Favorite song: “Dim All The Lights”)

— Nancy Q., Sarasota, Florida

“During the latter part of the ’70s, Olivia Newton-John, Barbra Streisand, and Donna Summer were in a three-way tie as my favorite female vocalist. That all changed in 1979 the moment I first heard ‘Hot Stuff’ on the radio. She instantly became my all-time favorite singer from that moment on … Every night after supper, I would run up to my bedroom and wait for the DJ to play it. This lasted until the weekend, when our family would go to the mall (or Kmart), at which point I could buy the 45 and play it as much as I wanted … and as loud as I wanted (LOL). I’m sure I purchased the album soon afterwards.” (Favorite song: “Hot Stuff”)

— Dale C., Waterloo, Iowa

“As the youngest in a family with three older sisters, I was the last to have his own record player (or to be able to buy his own records). I remember loving music and during the late ’70s, when disco music was all the rage, my sisters were of working age and all had jobs during the daytime. The sister closest to my age had bought the Donna Summer ‘Bad Girls’ double album that included glorious extended versions of her songs. When my sisters left the house each day to attend their jobs, I would secretly play the Donna Summer album on their stereo over and over all day every day! I danced wildly and adopted the music of the ‘queen of disco’ as the soundtrack to my life growing up just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, where Donna Summer eventually made her home for several years later in her life.” (Favorite song: “I Feel Love”)

— Russell Y., Nashville, Tenn.

“As a young millennial, I always gravitated to Donna Summer as a kid, but it wasn’t until 2019, in my late 20s, that I started really listening to her music after a difficult time in my life. I adore her club records from ’75 to ’79 and listening to her records ‘Love to Love You Baby,’ ‘Once Upon a Time,’ ‘Four Seasons of Love,’ ‘A Love Trilogy,’ and ‘Bad Girls’ help me see how foundational she was to today’s music. Thank you Donna for sharing your voice, your talent, your resilience and your heart.” (Favorite songs: “I Feel Love” and “With Your Love”) 

 — James W.R., Hopewell, Virginia

“I’m 19 years old but I’d rather not listen to the music of my generation. I LOVE DISCO! But above all I love Donna Summer. She is my favorite artist! I loved watching her in ‘Thank God it’s Friday’ (1978) — that’s my favorite movie!” (Favorite songs: “Spring Affair” and “I Feel Love”)

— Danny M., Corpus Christi, Texas

Around the world:

“In the U.K. I heard ‘Dinner With Gershwin’ at the age of 11 — a hit in the U.K. — and was hooked on all things Donna. Now aged 48, I’m still obsessed. ‘Bad Girls’ is the perfect song, I never tire of it.” (Favorite song: “Bad Girls”) 

— Stephen, Manchester, U.K.

“She was a legend, and remains the greatest disco queen ever. I remember her with adoration. Rest in peace, my queen.” (Favorite song: “Dim All The Lights”) 

— Macdonald A., Mbaise, Nigeria

“I have met Donna Summer in person once, in London, in 1991. I couldn’t believe my eyes. She was wearing a dark blue suit in an art supply shop. My mind couldn’t register it was her. So I approached slowly, and I asked her: Excuse me! She answered with a long, ‘Yesssss!’ Can I ask you a question? She answered with a longer, ‘Yessssssssss!’ Are you Donna Summer? She answered with a short, shy, ‘Yes.’ She looked so beautiful with not a drop of makeup on her face … We chatted a little bit about art, and she mentioned that she wanted to start painting on canvases and express her other artistic thoughts. Then she gave me a photograph with her autograph on it. God bless you, Donna.” (Favorite song: “MacArthur Park”)

— Amar A., Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

“Live at Nippon Budokan, I got to see a great and authentic live act. She even performed ‘Hot Stuff’ in her ‘Live and More’ setlist. Maybe it was too early for a 16-year-old boy?” (Favorite song: “Heaven Knows”)

— Marco A., Kawasaki, Japan

“Saw her here in Germany in 2009 and she was great — strong voice as ever and she had an aura that is special. Love her forever.” (Favorite song: “Love’s Unkind”)

— Dieter K., Germany

“I traveled from Scotland to Manchester (England) to see Donna Summer in concert as part of the ‘All Systems Go’ tour. As I listened to her soundcheck (from outside the roller shutter next to the stage), every word and song was crystal clear and such a privilege to hear. A band guitarist, Keith, arranged for me to get an autograph on a cassette insert that I had in my pocket, just in case. A magic night indeed at the concert to see Donna Summer and Joe Esposito perform ‘Heaven Knows’ … bliss. Traveled down to London to see her again at the Royal Albert Hall. She was unique, very talented, and a gift to the world through genres of rock, pop, soul and disco.” (Favorite song: “On My Honor”)

— Tom L., Glasgow, Scotland

“When Donna worked with PWL [label] and Stock, Aitken and Waterman, all the heavens aligned. Wonderful! Previous to that she invented dance music with ‘I Feel Love,’ so massive and influential it was released three times in the U.K. and a hit each time. Donna, love you, miss you.” (Favorite song: “This Time I Know It’s For Real”)

— Barry, Eastleigh, U.K.

Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.

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