The death of Donna Summer isn’t political. I’d be remiss, though, if I didn’t write a brief post on the impact this woman had on my life. This five-time Grammy winner gave us great hits like Last Dance, MacArthur Park, Bad Girls, and She Works Hard for the Money. But what she gave me, with my stacks and stacks of “45’s,” was an ability to “escape.” Like many kids my age, the ability to dive into a world of rhythmic beats, glamour, fashion, and Disco was transformational. Summer sang about so many issues: sex, love, not being loved, women’s equality, and the like. To a 12 year old struggling with his sexual identity, this was heady stuff.
I can’t believe I’m admitting this here, but as a kid I’d sneak into my room shut the door, and dance to her records in front of my mirror. The real world went away and I was in a place where I could think and feel the way I wanted without fear of being called a sissy or faggot. On more than one occasion, my mother would bang on my door and implore me to “turn that music down!” I assume I wasn’t the only kid with the desire to “escape” and by the widespread sympathy being reported in the media, I definitely wasn’t the only kid who Ms. Summer affected so deeply.
Even though growing up gay in 1970’s South Carolina was at times stifling, Donna Summer was there with me. Like millions of other gay (and straight) kids, I was moved in a very positive way by her message and her rhythm. I can’t say that about many other musical artists from that time period.
It’s not lost on me that a fierce black woman I never even met helped me get through some pretty tough spots as a child. I guess that’s why today, nearly 40 years later, her death is a loss for me. No doubt, “I Feel Love” for her and the legacy she leaves behind.