It’s Friday. Time to cut loose after a long week to start the year new, especially here in Chicago where we’ve been inundated with snow, vortexes, wind chills, and now perma-slush (imagine it was raining SlurpeesTM except without the flavor and all over you), leaving the City quiet and strangely calm. Awake out there? If not, it is time to get the evening started with the help one of the pioneers of Disco and Dance (and by extension down-tempo electronic music).
To many, Donna Summer is the type of artist or music your parents or older siblings listened to. Fine, what is wrong with that? (My siblings generally had good taste. Well with the exception of those Boston and Kansas records my brother had.) When Donna Summer released “Love to Love You” in 1975, there was really nothing else like it. While downtown New York and Detroit were awash in the first generation of punk populism, kids turning away from the peace and love of the flower power generation, another set of musicians were starting to redefine music that had a much different sense of euphoria, escape, and joi de vivre. In the early 70s, there was no genre known as dance, no late night or all-night clubs where young adults wasted their precious youth away, synths and moog keyboards had yet to permeate popular music culture. When you danced, it was to standards. You grooved to soul. Twisted the night away to Sam Cooke and Chuck Berry. Swayed, bopped, swung, or simply tuned out to rock. But sliding across dance floors with multicolored lights all Saturday Night Fever style? That wasn’t part of the vocabulary.
Donna was a vanguard and pioneer along with producers like Giorgio Moroder, who worked on her early singles (coincidentally he also appeared on last year’s Daft Punk record). But don’t take my word, check out this collection of Donna Summer dance cuts remixed and updated by some of the most well-regarded Club DJs and producers including Frankie Knuckles, Duke Dumont, Afrojack, and Hot Chip. While these tracks are reimagined for a newer generation with increased BPMs and massive bass drops, underneath the new layers you can still hear the heart of the original, how fresh, vibrant, and resonant the music still is. Donna Summer was ahead of her time in a way. She was also working at a time when there was such a fecund free-form experimentation across genres like soul, R&B, jazz, salsa, and even early hip-hop culture that lead to some amazing cross-pollination of musical forms.
Check out Love to Love You Donna… it’s guaranteed to help get your weekend grove on.
Favourite tracks: “Love to Love You Baby” r’mixd by G. Moroder, “Hot Stuff” r’mixd by Frankie Knuckles, “MacArthur Park” r’mixd by Laidback Luke.
Also, if you never have listen to Donna Summer’s first single “Love to Love You Baby”, arguable one of the first and most influential songs of the nascent Disco and Dance scene of 70s New York