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Disco Legend Donna Summer Dead At 63

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A musical legend who helped define the music of the '70s and continued to have hits in the '80s and popularity beyond has died. The music world is mourning the loss of Donna Summer. NY1's Stephanie Simon filed this report.

The discotheque era may have ended a long time ago but Donna Summer's moniker as the Queen of Disco endured and so did she.

With incredible range in both her vocal prowess and her musical stylings, Donna Summer was responsible for some of the biggest hits of the '70s, including "Love To Love You Baby,'' "Hot Stuff," "MacArthur Park" and of course, "Last Dance."

Summer sang her signature song in the 1978 film "Thank God its Friday." In it, she played an aspiring singer trying to get a break at the local disco.

Born LaDonna Adrian Gaines, Summer grew up on gospel music, and despite being known as the disco queen, she won Grammy Awards in the dance, rock, R&B and inspirational categories. She had 19 No. 1 dance hits, second only to Madonna.

Of course, she paved the way for all the future sexy songstresses and divas who would come later.

Summer is featured in photographer Allan Tannenbaum's book, "New York In The '70s." Looking through old slides on Thursday, Tannenbaum reminisced about their days at Studio 54 and other clubs.

He said Summer, like her hit song, was "Hot Stuff."

"To be able to exude this feminity and this sexiness was something that kicked it up a big notch," said Tannenbaum.

Randy Jones, the original Village People cowboy, knew Summer since their '70s chart-topping disco days. They were on the same label and he saw her perform many times.

At one concert, Jones climbed on a table for a better view.

"And I spent the whole show clapping my hands," Jones said. "From the audience it was almost like she was singing and for performing for me."

Summer was a performer for all seasons. Long after disco faded, she continued to evolve as a singer and performer.

In the '80s, her women's rights anthem "She Works Hard for The Money" exploded on the charts and MTV. Newer fans may remember her appearance on "American Idol" in 2008.
Summer's family issued a statement saying the singer died Thursday morning and said are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy.

President Barack Obama said in a statement, "Michelle and I were saddened to hear about the passing of Donna Summer. A five-time Grammy Award winner, Donna truly was the 'Queen of Disco.' Her voice was unforgettable, and the music industry has lost a legend far too soon. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Donna's family and her dedicated fans."

Summer was on the minds of many stars at the Apollo Theater Thursday night, where a fundraiser was held for the Jazz Foundation of America.

"I think we've lost a wonderful, wonderful source of fell good, you know?" said singer Roberta Flack. "There's a lot of talent in the world, but there's not a lot of feel good and Donna Summer was, you know, 'I love to love you, baby.' What can be more positive than that?"

"She defined what disco is all about. She put the disco in it," said music producer Quincy Jones.

"She invited the idea of the disco diva and the way she dressed, she was really, really incredible and it was a very sad day for me," said singer Macy Gray.

Summer was 63 and had been living in Florida with her husband at the time of her death.

Despite a career that started over 40 years ago, to this day you can still hear Donna Summer "on the radio." ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP