DONNA SUMMER

By: Nancy Marchbanks
Donna Summer’s music swept us away in the 70’s, with one of the most powerful and amazing voices ever.  She has sold over 100 million records, won 5 Grammys, had 4 – # 1 singles, and garnered 14 Top 10 Pop singles. Her name and Disco are synonymous, but this breathtakingly beautiful songwriter also expresses herself through many other styles and genres. On Friday, August 20th, the IP will proudly present the incomparable Donna Summer.
GTP: I know touring is second nature to you, but is the journey sweeter now or was it sweeter when your career was new?
DS: “I think I am smarter now and I do things differently. When I was younger, I used to burn the candle at both ends and it was too much. Now I know how to pace myself, I know what I need to do but I do it gracefully. It all turns out pretty well.”
GTP: Turning out # 1 hits has always been a breeze for you. Did you expect your latest release, “Crayons” to be such a hit or did it take you by surprise?
DS:  “I did not expect it, I didn’t know what would happen. The industry has changed so much, it is morphing! Artists need to follow a new mind set, and I think the ultimate blow to the head is about to come soon.”
GTP: How do you feel about the changes in the music business?
DS: “Well, in some ways its bad and it has made it extremely difficult for songwriters. It is noble and wonderful to give what you do away for free, but not everyone can afford to do that or wants to do it. There must be safeguards in place to protect the songwriter. However, the accessibility of the public to your music is wonderful. You can pretty much live without a record company today. You can market yourself on ITUNES, or on the internet. I have offers all the time to record albums with different companies but I really think that old model is dead and I don’t think I want to go that route anymore. The songwriter gets lost in the shuffle.”
GTP: Do you have one specific genre that speaks to you more than anything else?
DS: “I honestly don’t. I love music across the board. And I don’t want to be put in a specific category.  I am a singer! I am a trumpet, blowing in all different directions at any given time. When you categorize artists, it inhibits them from moving into new places, and trying new things.”
GTP: What do you think of American Idol?
DS: “I think is a great. They really get in there and work with those kids and make them stage and performance ready.  There are so many kids with talent out there and of course the record companies want someone that looks good optically, someone that can move – someone that they can produce. American Idol is a wonderful vehicle.”
GTP: You were a pioneer as a female artist and your contribution to the world of music is legendary. What has meant the most to you on a personal level, out of all your successes?
DS: “The year that I won the Rock and Roll Grammy. I was the first woman to ever win that coveted award.  I was so proud because I wanted to break new ground. I must always move forward and surprise my audience. Dance music? Sure! But there is a lot more to me than that.  Musicians paint with sound and with words – with colors of various temperatures. It constantly changes and develops and we must be allowed to be creative and not be stuck in a box.”
GTP: Are artists given free reign when making a record, or are they told how it is going to be by the executives?
DS: “They look at me today and tell me that I have to do standards!  I love the standards but I think that telling artists that they have to go in that direction because we aren’t kids anymore is ludicrous!  It’s like they don’t think we are creative after a certain age, and that we have to fit in a certain genre now. It is quite insulting actually.”
GTP: Do you have a favorite song that you perform in concert that you never tire of?  Something that still gives you the chill up your spine, no matter how often you sing it?
DS: “Last Dance – it is so emotional for me because it was written especially for me by Paul Jabar. He died quite some time ago but whenever I sing it, I sense him so profoundly and it is very powerful.  There is something quite special about Last Dance because it sort of holds us in that special place and time, puts you back in that moment. It is a magical song, it really is.”
GTP: You have all over the world, and experienced life abroad and in the United States. What are the differences?
DS: “ Americans  are caught up in today’s technology and tend to get so wrapped up in these things. Whereas in Europe, the technology does not have the same importance or appeal.”
GTP: Did you have voice lessons when you were a child?  How were you discovered?
DS: “I started singing in church. When I was 8 years old, this big voice came out and it would echo through the church…everyone would turn around and look at me! My voice was just as powerful then when I was a little kid as it is now – maybe more so. I knew I was destined for something extraordinary, in fact I mean this with all sincerity, I heard the voice of God tell me that I would be famous – that my gift was very powerful and I was never to misuse it. My mother took me to a local vocal coach for training, who promptly sent me home with a note saying that my voice could not be improved upon and leave her alone. When you have a gift from God, it is not for you, it is not about you – it is about sharing your gift and sharing your blessing with others.”

onna Summer’s music swept us away in the 70’s, with one of the most powerful and amazing voices ever.  She has sold over 100 million records, won 5 Grammys, had 4 – # 1 singles, and garnered 14 Top 10 Pop singles. Her name and Disco are synonymous, but this breathtakingly beautiful songwriter also expresses herself through many other styles and genres. On Friday, August 20th, the IP will proudly present the incomparable Donna Summer.  GTP: I know touring is second nature to you, but is the journey sweeter now or was it sweeter when your career was new? DS: “I think I am smarter now and I do things differently. When I was younger, I used to burn the candle at both ends and it was too much. Now I know how to pace myself, I know what I need to do but I do it gracefully. It all turns out pretty well.” GTP: Turning out # 1 hits has always been a breeze for you. Did you expect your latest release, “Crayons” to be such a hit or did it take you by surprise? DS:  “I did not expect it, I didn’t know what would happen. The industry has changed so much, it is morphing! Artists need to follow a new mind set, and I think the ultimate blow to the head is about to come soon.” GTP: How do you feel about the changes in the music business? DS: “Well, in some ways its bad and it has made it extremely difficult for songwriters. It is noble and wonderful to give what you do away for free, but not everyone can afford to do that or wants to do it. There must be safeguards in place to protect the songwriter. However, the accessibility of the public to your music is wonderful. You can pretty much live without a record company today. You can market yourself on ITUNES, or on the internet. I have offers all the time to record albums with different companies but I really think that old model is dead and I don’t think I want to go that route anymore. The songwriter gets lost in the shuffle.” GTP: Do you have one specific genre that speaks to you more than anything else? DS: “I honestly don’t. I love music across the board. And I don’t want to be put in a specific category.  I am a singer! I am a trumpet, blowing in all different directions at any given time. When you categorize artists, it inhibits them from moving into new places, and trying new things.” GTP: What do you think of American Idol? DS: “I think is a great. They really get in there and work with those kids and make them stage and performance ready.  There are so many kids with talent out there and of course the record companies want someone that looks good optically, someone that can move – someone that they can produce. American Idol is a wonderful vehicle.” GTP: You were a pioneer as a female artist and your contribution to the world of music is legendary. What has meant the most to you on a personal level, out of all your successes? DS: “The year that I won the Rock and Roll Grammy. I was the first woman to ever win that coveted award.  I was so proud because I wanted to break new ground. I must always move forward and surprise my audience. Dance music? Sure! But there is a lot more to me than that.  Musicians paint with sound and with words – with colors of various temperatures. It constantly changes and develops and we must be allowed to be creative and not be stuck in a box.” GTP: Are artists given free reign when making a record, or are they told how it is going to be by the executives? DS: “They look at me today and tell me that I have to do standards!  I love the standards but I think that telling artists that they have to go in that direction because we aren’t kids anymore is ludicrous!  It’s like they don’t think we are creative after a certain age, and that we have to fit in a certain genre now. It is quite insulting actually.” GTP: Do you have a favorite song that you perform in concert that you never tire of?  Something that still gives you the chill up your spine, no matter how often you sing it? DS: “Last Dance – it is so emotional for me because it was written especially for me by Paul Jabar. He died quite some time ago but whenever I sing it, I sense him so profoundly and it is very powerful.  There is something quite special about Last Dance because it sort of holds us in that special place and time, puts you back in that moment. It is a magical song, it really is.” GTP: You have all over the world, and experienced life abroad and in the United States. What are the differences? DS: “ Americans  are caught up in today’s technology and tend to get so wrapped up in these things. Whereas in Europe, the technology does not have the same importance or appeal.” GTP: Did you have voice lessons when you were a child?  How were you discovered? DS: “I started singing in church. When I was 8 years old, this big voice came out and it would echo through the church…everyone would turn around and look at me! My voice was just as powerful then when I was a little kid as it is now – maybe more so. I knew I was destined for something extraordinary, in fact I mean this with all sincerity, I heard the voice of God tell me that I would be famous – that my gift was very powerful and I was never to misuse it. My mother took me to a local vocal coach for training, who promptly sent me home with a note saying that my voice could not be improved upon and leave her alone. When you have a gift from God, it is not for you, it is not about you – it is about sharing your gift and sharing your blessing with others.”

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