In the 1970s, Donna Summer dominated the charts, winning a global following with disco hits like Hot Stuff, Love To Love You Baby and I Feel Love. By the time of her death in 2012, she’d sold over 100 million records worldwide, picked up five Grammy Awards, and become the first artist to chart four number-one singles in the US over a 12 month period. If anyone deserved the title of Queen of Disco, it was her. Here, we take a look back at some of her biggest hits with our pick of the 10 best Donna Summer songs of all time.
10. Last Dance
In 1978, Donna Summer landed the role of aspiring singer Nicole Sims in the movie “Thank God It’s Friday.” Despite featuring both Jeff Goldblum and Debra Winger, the film sank at the box office. Meanwhile, Last Dance, Summer’s main contribution to the film, soared, peaking at No. 1 on the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and snagging a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance Female and both the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.
9. The Wanderer
By 1980, the age of disco was already in its final days. In an effort to keep up with the times, Summer decided to swap disco for new wave. The result was The Wanderer, her eighth studio album and the first record to be released by David Geffen’s record label, Geffen. The titular cut’s shuffling beat and synth riffs were a world away from Summer’s old sound, but crucially, you could still dance to it. Released on September 11, 1980, it bopped its way to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 to become Summer’s eleventh single to exceed sales of 1 million in the US.
8. Dim All The Lights
Summer originally intended to give Dim All The Lights to Rod Stewart, but in the end, she decided to keep it for herself. It was a wise move. Released in August 1979, it became the first single she wrote herself to become a hit, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart. If its commercial success wasn’t enough to win it a place on our list, the fact it includes one of the longest single sustained notes on any Top 40 hit record (a whopping 16 seconds) definitely is.
7. No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)
Any song featuring both Donna Summer and Barbara Streisand was always going to be big, and No More Tears (Enough Is Enough) was, as you’d expect, absolutely massive. Released in 1979 at the peak of both artists’ popularity, the ballad/ disco mash-up shimmied its way to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and hung on to the No. 1 spot on the disco chart for four consecutive weeks. It was just as successful overseas, reaching the top three in both the UK and Canada. Strangely, Summer and Streisand never performed the song together again, although Summer did occasionally sing it with other female vocalists on tour.
6. Hot Stuff
On Hot Stuff, Summer got experimental, layering elements of rock and soul and an epic guitar solo by Jeff “Skunk” Baxter of the Doobie Brothers onto her signature disco sound. To say the experiment paid off would be an understatement. Released in April 1979, it spent three non-consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and fourteen weeks in the top 10, eventually becoming the seventh biggest song of 1979 in the US. It also scooped a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance and in 2010, was named to Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
5. MacArthur Park
In 1968, Irish actor and singer Richard Harris earned a No. 2 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with MacArthur Park, a dreamy piece of whimsy written by songwriter Jimmy Webb. The following year, Waylon Jennings took his version to No. 3 in the country charts, and in 1978, Donna Summer snagged her first pop hit with her disco version. In addition to spending three weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100, it also earned Summer her first Grammy nomination for Bst Female Pop Vocal Performance.
4. On the Radio
As Live About says, after the disco LP Bad Girls turned into one of the biggest hits of 1979, Summer decided the time was ripe for a greatest hits album. Although On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II comprised mainly of previous hits, the title track was a new song co-written by Summer and her longtime collaborator Giorgio Moroder. On its release, it took Summer to the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 for the tenth time, peaking at No. 5.
3. Bad Girls
Bad Girls, Summer’s seventh studio album and her final LP to be released by Casablanca Records, was the highest-selling and most critically acclaimed album of her career. Considering it has songs like the titular cut on its tracklist, it’s not hard to see why. Summer was inspired to write the song after one of her assistants got offended by a police officer who mistook her for a prostitute. Thanks to lines like “Now you and me, we are both the same / But you call yourself by different names,” it ended up becoming something of an anthem for sex workers. Released in June 1979, it spent five weeks at No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked in the top ten in seven other countries.
2. Love To Love You Baby
As GQ says, it’s impossible to talk about Donna Summer without referencing a couple of her songs, and Love To Love You Baby is one of them. A symphonic masterpiece that manages to make flutes sound funky, it’s the very definition of a dance floor filler. Released in November 1975, it became an international smash, spending two weeks at No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100, charting at No. 4 on the US SIngles Chart, and entering the Top 10 in countless other countries.
1. I Feel Love
As Time points out, there might be fewer than 20 different words in I Feel Love (and that’s counting “ooh”), but this isn’t a song where language matters too much. It’s all about the layers of feathery vocals, the fluttering synthesizers, and the dreamy rhythms. After hearing it, Brian Eno said it would change the sound of club music for the next 15 years. It did, and then some. Over forty years after its release, it’s still as big an influence as ever.