Disco! Donna Summer’s Awards History
Disco dominated the 21st annual Grammys in February 1979. The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack won for Album of the Year. For their work on the album, Bee Gees won five awards, including Producer of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. A Taste of Honey, which had a #1 smash with "Boogie Oogie Oogie," won for Best New Artist. Donna Summer's "Last Dance" won for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female. That last-call anthem, written by Paul Jabara, won for Best Rhythm & Blues Song.
There was just one little problem. Even with 52 categories that year, the Grammys didn't have a category devoted exclusively to disco. Feeling a little bit "out of it," the Trustees ratified a new category, Best Disco Recording, which was introduced at the 22nd annual Grammys in February 1980.
The competition was fierce: Donna Summer's "Bad Girls," Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy," Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" and Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" and "Boogie Wonderland" by Earth, Wind & Fire and the Emotions.
The winner was Gaynor's "I Will Survive." Jackson's hit won for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male. Earth, Wind & Fire's instrumental version of "Boogie Wonderland" won for Best R&B Instrumental Performance.
Summer was expected to sweep the Grammys that year. Her Bad Girls was nominated for Album of the Year. She was thought to have a good chance of winning in the new Disco Recording category. She was also vying for female vocal performance honors in pop (for the album), rock (for "Hot Stuff") and R&B (for "Dim All The Lights"). But when all the envelopes had been opened, Summer won just one award that night—the rock prize for "Hot Stuff." Grammy favorite Billy Joel took Album of the Year for 52nd Street. And, in an upset, Dionne Warwick won both the pop and R&B awards for her comeback hits "I'll Never Love This Way Again" and "Déjà vu." (I still remember Summer cheering as Warwick won those awards. They clearly meant a lot to Warwick, who had struggled on the charts for several years before her convincing comeback.)
(Summer left it to Michael Jackson to become the first artist to win Grammys for pop, rock and R&B in one night. Jackson won the male performance awards in those fields in February 1984 for, respectively, Thriller, "Beat It" and "Billie Jean.")