Update: Donna Summer was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Class of 2013.
It is a shame that Donna Summer, the queen of disco, never got to see herself inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, an honor she greatly deserved, whatever one thinks about disco. Though the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame keeps trying to induct Chic, nominating them over and over again, Donna Summer has been snubbed (though the Bee Gees have not), even though Donna Summer has an enduring place with her lengthy career and great influence as one of the voices for an entire era of music. It seems that Donna Summer’s snub, as well as a substantial amount of her own loss of success in the 1980’s, was the result of some false accusations made by some that she had made anti-gay remarks, a kiss of death for anyone involved in disco (given the origin of disco music and the worldviews of the fan base for dance music in general) . At any rate, the queen of disco long deserved her spot in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and it’s a tragedy that she has been denied this long.
Donna Summer’s Contribution
Donna Summer’s contribution to rock and roll is mostly in her popularization of dance music, bringing disco into mainstream popularity and respectability and keeping dance music as part of the mainstream even after the disco craze ended. Along with the Bee Gees, she was a prolific musician whose large and successful body of work not only encouraged others to enter dance music and provided a model of how to do so both critically and commercially successfully, but also showed how to mix a variety of elements, including reggae, new wage, and rock into dance music, showing her versatility as more than just a disco singer. Furthermore, some of Donna Summer’s songs and interpretations were definitive parts of Rock & Roll music history and retain their cultural relevance even today.
Why Donna Summer Is A No-Brainer For The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
Let’s look at the statistics. 5 Grammy awards, 16 #1 Dance singles, 4 #1 hits on the Hot 100 (along with 14 top 10s and 20 top 40 hits on the Hot 100), 11 gold albums (including several which went platinum and multi-platinum), including being the first artist to have three straight double albums go to number one. Her immensely successful career in the charts extended from 1974 to 2010 and she not only personified the era of disco but showed herself to be more than just a disco singer by the longevity and excellence of her career .
Even if you dislike disco, it is hard to avoid the fact that songs of hers such as “Love To Love You Baby,” “I Feel Love,” “Last Dance,” “Hot Stuff,” No More Tears, Enough Is Enough,” and “She Works Hard For The Money,” are enduring songs, some of which remain deeply embedded within pop culture (witness, for example, the Simpson’s episode where Homer sings “She Works Hard For The Money” in a recording while skiving off of work). Far beyond the reaches of disco, Donna Summer’s music (particularly the song “Starting Over Again”) has been covered by multiple generations of country singers. Donna Summer’s legacy in music history is secure, and deserves recognition.
Why Donna Summer Is Not In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
It’s possible the people choosing nominees are only looking at her disco career and are not looking at the bigger picture, seeing her as a disco superstar who, like the Bee Gees, was much more than just a disco act. Additionally, there may be some among the Rock & Roll nominating committee who have underestimated the immense influence of her material, her major and continuing role in dance music (on the level of Madonna–also inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame), and have believed the stories about her slurs against homosexuals. Either that or Donna Summer is just someone on Jan Werner’s bad list.
Verdict: Donna Summer will be a pretty good “sympathy” candidate now that she has died without proper recognition for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Her career longevity and the massive influence of her music even today, along with her pivotal role in bringing lasting mainstream success to dance music are enough to induct her into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. She shouldn’t have to wait too much longer. With her contemporaries the Bee Gees and ABBA in the Hall of Fame, Donna Summer’s wait is almost certainly over, even if it will end up being a posthumous induction, unfortunately.
Update: Donna Summer was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, class of 2013.