On May 17, 2012, the world lost a legend with the passing of Donna Summer, dubbed the “queen of disco.” In the following interview Bruce Sudano, Summer’s husband, discusses his contribution to Love to Love you Donna the new remix album on Verve Records celebrating the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and voice of the ages.
Let’s talk about Donna’s legacy and how you chose to honor her work?
Soon after Donna passed away, I began to recognize the desire and responsibility of caring for Donna’s legacy. My kids and I spoke about it at length, ‘What were the priorities, what would have the most impact and how would things layout time wise, going into the future?’ My thought was and is, whenever possible work with friends–very talented friends–but people who knew and loved Donna.
How did the LOVE TO LOVE YOU DONNA project take form?
One night at dinner in Malibu with David [Foster, Verve Chairman] and his wife Yolanda, I said I had an idea and asked for a meeting with his staff. I presented Verve with two ideas, a remix album, and an album of Donna hits–I already had a list of contemporary singers and Donna songs. I knew both ideas were long shots but for completely different reasons; however, it quickly became apparent that the album of new recordings was an unattainable goal. So onto the remix record–something Donna and I had discussed for years.
What were the next steps in the creation of LOVE TO LOVE YOU DONNA?
Well, there was one major problem…Universal couldn’t find the master recordings of Donna’s catalogue! Hard to believe but true, so we decided to search again anyway. In the end, as unbelievable as this sounds, Giorgio [Moroder] found some of the masters in his laundry room.” “For all the other vocals there’s a new technology that allows you to isolate and separate the vocal from a mix. It wasn’t cheap, but we tried and the results were mixed. Sometimes it worked great, sometimes it didn’t work as well, which was the case with ‘Working the Midnight Shift’ (the Donna shadow controversy), but I really wanted that song on the record, as well as ‘Our Love’–after all these were songs she also wrote. I was pushing for more obscure songs but for obvious reasons the label and some of the remixers wanted the hits.
How involved were you in the selection of the remixers?
I wasn’t involved specifically in the selection of the remixers–this complicated task fell to the very capable Dahlia Ambach-Caplin and Randall Poster, both of whom are experts in the genre and know all the players. This was no easy process either. They did it brilliantly, casting the record with a diverse group of contemporary remixers to re-imagine Donna’s songs for the current dance scene. It would have to cover many bases in order to hit all the different styles and moods of the scene currently in vogue, but they got it done. Donna was always about pushing the envelope and never wanted to repeat herself. She wanted to be in the moment, or even better a step ahead, so we knew not to play it safe in our approach. But at the same time, we had an understanding that some Donna purists might be put off. My thought always is, the originals exist. This record is about bringing Donna music into the current dance world, much of which is ambient and deconstructed and hard for older ears to digest, especially for those married to the originals. To them I say, try to imagine yourself as a 24-year old hitting the clubs! If you can’t do that, put the record on when you’re cleaning the house on a Saturday, it works perfectly! I know, I tried it.
Any favorite tracks on LOVE TO LOVE YOU DONNA?
I like all the tracks on the record obviously, but if I had to choose a favorite, today I’d say ‘Dim All The Lights,’ OMG!! I think the album works as a whole from start to finish–it takes you on a trip with different flourishes and remembrances of Donna along the way. I’ll tell you this, it’s always a challenge to reinterpret a masterpiece, but you have to try and separate yourself from it and view it as something new.
Let’s talk about “La Dolce Vita.” What made you decide to release the track now?
From the very beginning of the project, it was my desire to include a new song, especially for the fans. I knew they wanted new Donna as much as I did, but the label wasn’t convinced. I sent them a demo of the song ‘La Dolce Vita’ early on and they said they didn’t feel it would work. Somewhere along the way I brought it up again but they still weren’t feeling it. Finally, as we were getting ready to master the album, Giorgio [Moroder] asked me if I had any new Donna songs that he could possibly include on a project of his. I took this as an opportunity to approach the company again and said, ‘What if Giorgio would produce the new song?’ They liked this because it bookended the project in a beautiful way.
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