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Disco Queen Donna Summer dies after battle with cancer

Donna Summer, whose soaring voice and effervescent stage presence ignited the disco craze of the 1970s, kick-starting a glittering career that spanned four decades, died yesterday aged 63.

The family of the singer, who was known as the "Queen of Disco", issued a short statement last night confirming that she had passed away following what is reported to have been a short but acute battle with cancer.

"Early this morning, surrounded by family, we lost Donna Summer Sudano," it read. "While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy. Words truly can't express how much we appreciate your prayers and love for our family."

Ms Summer, who is best known for pulsating dance hits such as 'Hot Stuff', 'Bad Girls' and 'Last Dance', had attempted to keep the extent of her illness from fans, an acquaintance told the tabloid website TMZ, which broke news of her death.


She was in Florida attempting to put the finishing touches to a final album -- her 24th -- when she passed away. As little as a fortnight ago, she had seemed cheerful and in robust health, the source added.

The combative nature of Ms Summer's response to her final illness was true to form, given the energetic performances. Such early hits as 'Love to Love You Baby' and 'I Feel Love' are credited with ushering in the hedonistic disco era.

"My heart goes out to her husband and her children," said her contemporary Dionne Warwick. "Prayers will be said to keep them strong."

While Ms Summer's music provided the soundtrack to a dance movement defined by sex, drugs and extravagant clothes, she was the very antithesis of a fast-living disco diva off-stage.

Born LaDonna Adrian Gaines, and brought up as one of seven children of a devoutly Christian Boston family, she had learned to sing in the local church choir and began performing professionally in the late 1960s after landing a part in 'Hair'. She achieved fame after signing as a solo artist to the pioneering disco label Casablanca in 1975.

They helped propel her first single 'Love to Love You Baby' to number two in the charts. A debut album of the same name sold more than a million copies.

In the 1980s, her hit single 'She Works Hard for the Money' became an anthem for the women's rights movement. Yet Ms Summer's fanbase often seemed at odds with her conservative values.

She became a born-again Christian in the 1980s and was reported to have said Aids was "divine punishment" against homosexuals. Later she denied that, and described the ensuing controversy as a "terrible misunderstanding".

She won five Grammys and was this year a nominee for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She achieved happiness after meeting second husband, Bruce Sudano, to whom she was married for more than three decades. He survives her, along with three children. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent