It's interesting how in the late seventies she was quickly crowned the Queen of Disco, spent much of the eighties in a dated wilderness, and thereafter made a few odd stabs back at the mainstream every now and then, by which time her contributions to music were more secure, the threads picked up by successive generations.
Unfortunately, one of the problems with dance music is that it often dates, and the classic Bad Girls album which launched hits like the title track, Macarthur Park and Hot Stuff was an example how time can often be cruel; for the two decades that followed its release in 1979 it was the stuff of cliches, of those disco bumper stickers and the kind of music that you would have probably expected to hear in some club that time seemed to have forgotten.
But the reality is that as much as Donna Summer's music defined and was defined by the era that it ushered in, her effect was, and continues to be, felt. Pop today would be impossible to imagine without her Moroder collobarations like I Feel Love and Love To Love You which basically rewrote the rules on what dance and pop music were about, and continue to be sampled ad nauseum year after year from all spectrums of artists.
Much is said of Donna Summer's gay audience, but in reality, Donna was an every woman; her music transcended boundaries and borders the way that ABBA's did, and the relationship with gays was not always a comfortable fit, particularly in the face of the confusion that the emergence of AIDS brought with it in the early eighties, at which time, some particularly vitriolic comments on her behalf seemed to fly in the face of an endless Gay Summer. It would be unfair to paint her as a cliched gay artist, especially as much of her current fan base were only born around the time of her ascent even if there is something genetically in her music that makes it so irresistable to so many GLBTs (though probably no more than non GLBTs). If anything, they have helped sustain her appeal and importance where the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and their ilk have failed to do so (repeatedly, year after year). They might not have always supported her like she thy, but, they always appreciated and admired her, fuelled by their own younger memories of her amazing voice, those songs, and the way in which her music often seemed to suggest some happy marriage between dance, liberation and sex. RIP Donna Summer..