Time for a reflection:
Donna Summer was a big deal, but more well-known in Europe than in America. Her songs didn’t really get played on American radio much, disco was really an urban experience, especially the clubs where you could dance to it.
Summer’s music was more R&B than rock and roll, featuring a driving beat that could go on for an entire album side, which is sometimes did. Her often breathy vocal style belied a very organic vocal strength, she had the power and range of some of the more successful vocalists in rock music, but she was confined to the disco category, until later in the decade.
Here’s an edited version. It’s too early in the day for eighteen minutes of this.
On her album A Love Trilogy (her third album), the song “Try Me, I Know, We Can Make It” occupies one album side, as it is composed of a suite of songs molded together in one seamless pulsating confection. Summer’s songs sounded very erotic with her breathlessness and sexual sounding style, along with very suggestive lyrics. This was part of the Donna Summers sensual appeal. If you danced through the eighteen minutes of “Try Me, I Know We Can Make It” you might think you had experienced an act of love with your partner.
Side two has much shorter songs with the most notable one being “Could It Be Magic” co-written by Barry Manilow. His version was grand, stylized pop, not the turbo-injected disco pop that producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte fashioned for Summers.
Summers’ albums did reasonably well on Billboard and achieved Gold Record status despite the low airplay. Late at night, FM radio was more relaxed and still locally programmed in those days, so you could hear the full version of “Try Me, I Know We Can Make It” or the seventeen minute “Love to Love You Baby” from Summers’ second album.
The 1970s with its full range of excesses is a fun place to visit. If you are at a wedding or other function, a few drinks are had, your partner is willing, you’ll be on the dance floor trying to do justice to one of these dance songs. Go ahead, admit it.
Toward the end of the decade, Summers would gain a lot of popularity as she crossed over into mainstream pop, although she kept the beat for awhile longer as she made her transition and occasionally revisited dance/pop. “Last Dance”, “MacArthur Park”, “Hot Stuff”, “Bad Girls” and “She Works Hard For Her Money” were some of her hits. During her career, she sang pop, show tunes, jazz standards, ballads and rock. Her vocal range was described as 3 octaves, 3 notes, and was a Mezzo-Soprano.