Thursday, July 25, 2024

Donna Summer Remembered by Nile Rodgers

December 22, 2012

Donna Summer: 'the real deal'. Photograph: Fin Costello/Redferns

Singer Donna Summer was a leading light of the 70s disco movement, as was guitarist Nile Rodgers of the band CHIC.

Before I knew who Donna Summer was, I walked into a nightclub in Greenwich Village with a girlfriend and the song that was playing was Love to Love You Baby. I'd never heard anything like it before. It sounded like an angel was whispering in my ear trying to seduce me on the dancefloor. Next day I went out and bought a copy and it just blew me away. This was about the time when I was trying to formulate the concept for Chic, and I would be less than honest if I tried to say that record didn't have a big influence on me.

Donna was what I would call a soul sister. She was sophisticated, she had great taste, she was beautiful, she was cool, and she could sing her ass off. She had this thing … a swagger, that's what it was. Donna and I were probably as close as could be in terms of respect and admiration, but we never made any recordings together, although it seems like it would have been the perfect pairing. We were cast from the same mould, if you will, and yet the first big artist Bernard Edwards and I worked with was Diana Ross, not Donna Summer. I'm not sure how that happened.

We only played together live once. It was a TV special for Diana Ross. Mariah Carey, Beyoncé and Donna Summer were on the show, and I was the music director. Go back and watch that performance on YouTube and just look what Donna did: she sang the paint off the walls, as we say in my style of music. Check the evidence, your honour: she absolutely killed it.

I didn't know Donna as a wild person. If she was, I never saw that part of her and, believe me, I was in the thick of it. Almost every time I saw Donna, it was in very genteel settings. She was spiritual, she was very protective of her family, she had a different life.

I was shocked when I heard the news. Maybe it hit me harder because I had no idea she was sick. I was doing a big show in Montreux, Switzerland, and I was hoping she'd perform with me. Her husband Bruce, who was her manager, said to me: "If Donna can make it, she'll be there." And then she was gone. I couldn't believe it.

Donna felt to me like a comet in the universe that came around and burned brightly and was reliable every time. She had a string of amazing hit records. It wasn't just Love to Love You Baby: albums such as Four Seasons of Love were incredibly well orchestrated and well thought out. I hope history winds up seeing Donna in the proper light, because she was the real deal: a mega musician. That comet burned out way too early.

Read the original article from The Guardian HERE