By Brent Lang
Legendary disco diva Donna Summer has died, a spokesman confirmed to TheWrap.
The “Hot Stuff” and “Last Dance” singer was 63.
No cause of death was given, but TMZ reports Summer had been battling cancer.
In a statement, Summer’s family praise the singer’s religious faith.
“While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy,” the statement reads. “Words truly can’t express how much we appreciate your prayers and love for our family at this sensitive time.”
Summer’s soaring mezzo-soprano voice and catchy lyrics provided the soundtrack to the 1970s, making it nearly impossible to think of many of that decade’s cultural touchstones, be they bellbottoms or disco balls, without calling to mind her hit singles.
Among the hits that helped cement Summer’s legacy were “She Works Hard for the Money,” “Bad Girls” and “Dim All the Lights.” She would earn five Grammy awards and 17 nominations over the course of her career.
In a 2003 interview with The New York Times, Summer said she felt that her propulsive, candy-coated dance numbers captured the national zeitgeist of the 1970s and helped people turn the page on the chaotic social upheaval of the previous decade.
“In that period people were in a dance mood,” Summer said. “They wanted to be lifted up, they wanted to have fun, they didn’t want to think.”
”You were coming out of the Vietnam war, the 60′s , the protest era, and I was coming out of it as well,” she added. ”I think people were just in a different mindset. When dance music came out, with that beat and that movement, it was a switch.”
Yet while Summer may have downplayed her political significance, one group who embraced her music was the gay community. Emboldened by the Stonewall Riots, Summer’s anthems of empowerment struck a chord with a group that was beginning to agitate for greater political rights and freedoms.
That relationship endured throughout her career, but it did undergo significant strain after reports surfaced that Summer made anti-gay remarks about AIDS victims in the mid-1980s and called the disease divine retribution.
She claimed that she never made the statements and would later sue New York magazine in 1991 for libel when it reprinted the allegations.
In a 1989 letter to an AIDS activist group, Summer wrote, “I was unknowingly protected by those around me from the bad press and hate letters. … If I have caused you pain, forgive me.”
Though Summer and disco were nearly interchangeable, she proved herself to be a musical chameleon, one who survived the end of the Studio 54 era and continued to produce chart-topping songs into the 1980s and beyond.
Over the ensuing three decades, Summer branched into new genres, such as new wave, with her 1980 album “The Wanderer”; swing on her poorly received 1991 album “Mistaken Identity”; and gospel with her 1994 holiday album “Christmas Spirit.”
The singer is survived by her husband, singer and producer Bruce Sudano; their daughters, Brooklyn and Amanda; and Summer’s daughter, Mimi, from a previous marriage.