Chart Watch Extra: The Queen Of Disco (And More)
Donna Summer was universally hailed as "the Queen of Disco," but the title didn't really do her justice. Summer had a big, powerful voice that would have served her well in any era. Such Summer hits as "Heaven Knows" and "On The Radio" were really just great pop records with a dance beat. But because of her strong association with disco, when the disco bubble burst in the early 1980s, Summer's career also suffered.
But while she was hot, she was on fire. Summer had eight consecutive top 10 hits, from "Last Dance" in July 1978 to "On The Radio" in February 1980. All eight were certified gold by the Recording Industry Assn. of America. "Last Dance," which Summer sang in the 1978 movie Thank God It's Friday, won an Oscar as Best Song.
Few would have guessed that Summer would become a major star from the sound of her first chart hit, "Love To Love You Baby." The steamy hit was noteworthy mostly for Summer's orgasmic moaning and its epic length. The heavy-breathing novelty was an inauspicious debut for an artist who turned out to have genuine talent.
Summer had 14 top 10 hits between "Love To Love You Baby" in January 1976 and "This Time I Know It's For Real" in June 1989. When she scored her 14th top 10 hit, she became only the fifth female solo artist to have so many top 10 hits in the rock era. She followed Aretha Franklin, who was then the leader among female solo artists with 17 top 10 hits; Connie Francis (16) and Olivia Newton-John and Madonna, who were then tied with 15 each. (Madonna has since moved up to 38 top 10 hits. Several other women, including Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston and Rihanna, have also pulled ahead.)
Summer was far and away the hottest artist of 1979. Bad Girls topped The Billboard 200 for six weeks that year. That same year, she had three #1 hits on the Hot 100: "Hot Stuff," "Bad Girls" and "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)," a collabo with Barbra Streisand. The latter song was the first collaboration by two female stars to reach #1 on the Hot 100. (At the time, Summer was the hotter recording star, though Streisand was already an entertainment legend.) Two other Summer hits went top five that year: "Heaven Knows" (with Brooklyn Dreams) and "Dim All The Lights."
Summer landed her first #1 hit in November 1978 with a disco version of Richard Harris' epic ballad "MacArthur Park." Her version eclipsed the original, which had reached #2 in 1968. Summer's version remains the only #1 hit for legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb. Summer also charted with two other cover versions of major pop hits. In 1976, she scored with a disco version of Barry Manilow's 1975 hit "Could It Be Magic." In 1984, she had a hit with a remake of the Drifters' 1959 classic "There Goes My Baby."