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Donna Summer: Memories of a Good 'Bad Girl'

Donna Summers

The following is a guest post by AARP Features Editor Barbranda Lumpkins Walls.

Big hair. Tight, sequin gowns. Sexy moans. Soaring voice. Donna Summer wasn't just any old singer - she was disco royalty, a queen whose music rocked clubs around the world. Many a girl in the 1970s wanted to be Donna, who could stop most men in their tracks with her unmistakable sultry soprano and body with curves that just wouldn't quit.

I have lots of good memories of the '70s and Donna Summer is among them. So I was shocked when co-workers told me that the beloved hit-making disco queen had died of cancer today at age 63. Thinking of her took me back to the campus of Ohio Wesleyan University. Donna Summer was on the playlist at every party and her voice resonated from dorm room to dorm room. We all did The Hustle to her songs.

See also: Donna Summer, Queen of Disco, Dies at 63.

While I was much too modest to try to emulate Donna's sexy coolness, I did love her voice. Girlfriend could belt it out, hitting notes that most singers could only dream about. I remember first hearing her sing Love to Love You Baby and thinking it was borderline pornographic with its slow, seductive beat, sexually charged lyrics and provocative groans. But later she cranked out the bust-a-move hits that would have you on the dance floor sweating up a storm and blowing a police whistle with wild abandon. Bad Girls ("toot, toot, beep, beep").  On the Radio. Dim All the Lights. Heaven Knows. Last Dance. She Works Hard for the Money. The list goes on and on.

One of my college buddies, Doc, loved - ok, worshipped - the bad girl herself. He had every album and would stop to cut a rug whenever he heard the opening bars of one of Donna's megahits. Didn't matter where he was. And that always made me smile. Just like Donna Summer's music.

Photo of Donna Summer's Once Upon a Time record cover via Flickr user spike55151.

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