When I was in 7th grade, my music teacher, Miss Kaufman, was doing a unit on popular music. On a Friday morning in early December of 1978 (which incidentally was the same day we got a little kitten, but I digress), we were doing a study on original songs and remakes. She played the Richard Harris version of MacArthur Park, and then the Donna Summer version. I LOVED it and begged her to play it again, much to the annoyance of my classmates. That night I made my parents drive me to the Monmouth Mall, where I marched into Sam Goody and purchased the single. Nothing was ever the same again.
Since then, I was all about Donna… every song, every album, every image, every interview. I came from Springsteen Country, so I was in a minority. I would force family members to listen to a particular measure or verse of a song. “Listen to that! Have you ever heard anything so gorgeous? Listen to that voice!!!” They humored me, teased me. They didn’t really get it. Not really… But that didn’t matter. She has been a part of my life from that December day, accompanying me through my joys and sorrows. When I got very sick in 2008, I clung to Stamp Your Feet and drew strength from it. When I was having an MRI for a tumor and there was nothing I could listen to to get me through the experience, I listened to the Bad Girls album in my head. Each song, each measure, each vocal flourish. Her albums are emblazoned in my memory and I didn’t even need to actually listen to it to be able to hear it. On more than one occasion, I swear she saved me. I knew things were okay because there was Donna Summer music.
It wasn’t until the birth of the internet when I realized how I was SO not alone in my love for her, her music, and that unbelievable voice. I am so grateful for the Donna community. The memories I share with everyone were part of a continuum where we all rode the waves of her emotions that ranged from high highs and low lows, and these emotions were all tied to “toot toots” and “I’m going crazies” and moans and groans of disco ecstasy. I know when I hear a song, that somewhere, someone else is listening to the same song at the same time as I am, and I feel connected somehow to all the people who share my love of this music.
My first Donna concert was late in the game, in March of 1998 at Carnegie Hall, right around the block from where I live. And oh, what a concert that was! I nearly passed out when she walked out on the stage to the opening measures of MacArthur Park, because I was seeing her live, in the flesh, for the first time. And when she sang that first line of the first song I ever heard of hers all those years ago, I swooned. I am so glad for YouTube for all the concert clips of all the concerts I didn’t see, and of the ones where I got to be in the audience, because I get to relive those performances whenever I want! I still watch the same concert clips over and over, waiting to discover a new one (and I sometimes do…).
Not to mention all the studio recordings there are. I listen to her when I’m out walking or on an elliptical machine with my iPhone on shuffle, and think as each out of order track is revealed: “Yes! I love this one!” I am so grateful for all the music, and the friends I have made on Facebook and in real life because of her. She shaped my life, she follows me everywhere I go. I won’t talk about her passing here, there is no need. She is still alive for me. Every day she’s with me, through the songs that all live in my computer, on my iPhone, in the CDs displayed on my shelves, and in the people who share my love.
Thank you, Donna, for all the joy.
“There will be another song for me and I will sing it. There will be another dream for me, someone will bring it. I will drink the wine while it is warm and never let you catch me looking at the sun. And after all the loves of my life, you’ll still be the one…”