Donna Summer and her music changed my life at a very early age. The “Donna Summer-Live and More” double album never left my record player in 6th grade. It was the first time I remember hearing a live audience on a record that wasn’t a comedy album and being so mesmerized by every single song. It was not the disco tracks that I kept playing, but her versions of “The Man I Love”, “I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good” and “Some Of These Days” in her “My Man Medley”. I had never heard these songs before and fell in love, love, love with them and the way Donna delivered them. (My mom later informed me that they were “old” songs redone, but I didn’t care). Donna has been in my DJ music bag since I started in 7th grade and never disappointed. In 2005, I had the pleasure of performing to an unreleased track “You’re So Beautiful”, a ballad DJ Tony Moran produced with Donna but later remixed, at a Halloween event in New Orleans and a circuit party in Hawaii. When she exploded back onto the dance floors in 1999 with “I Will Go With You (Con te par tiro )” I could not wait to perform to the track. The dance floor hits kept coming year after year, but my crowning Donna Summer moment would be in 2007 when she performed at Universal Studios for Gay Disney. The energy at that outdoor party lit up the universe in anticipation for her to take the stage. 7000 gay men and women dancing in the rain to DJ Roland Belmares and watching while they set up a full orchestra on stage. Would she show up? Would she cancel because it was raining? Would my heart be able to not explode out of my chest if she does walk out on stage and sing???? My friend Ryan and I positioned ourselves just far enough back to not only feel her energy, but be in the thick of the very excited crowd and hopefully experience the love and unity we all wanted to share with the diva. The diva that had suffered bad press over the years for allegedly not supporting the LGBT community, but finally here she was at her first (to my knowledge) completely gay event. Rain, rain, rain. Dance in place and pray. Dance in place and pray. Chat. Dance some more and wait.
Suddenly, the DJ music faded out and the crowd roared in hopeful excitement. Although, the rain had slowed to a light drizzle, there was still nothing happening on the stage. Slowly, in the dark, you saw musicians taking their places at their chairs and back up singers standing at their microphones and then a moment later you heard the first four chords of “MacArthur’s Park” which sent the crowd into a frenzy so loud your ears cracked. It was the most amazing feeling on the planet. Finally, two football player sized bodyguard sporting gigantic golf umbrellas walked on stage and then….she made her entrance. Dressed in a white gown with the biggest smile I have ever seen. As “MacArthur’s Park” was vamping underneath her, she waited for the cheering to slow down–which it did not. Finally, she raised her microphone and said “You know, if you can stand “out here in the rain” (see what she did there?) to see me, I can stand out here in the rain to be with you”-and went into the song. I am not sure if anyone even heard the first verse because people were yelling so loudly. It was unbelievable. I watched her so intently for the first 5 or 6 songs, but then I actually turned and faced the audience for that last two songs to see what it must be like to be in a place filled with so much love. Donna was so powerful vocally, she drew that audience in and never let go. Even the 20 something’s that had no interest initially in “the old music” were mesmerized. I could not help but wonder if people truly realized how fortunate they were to be standing there at that moment, experiencing a dance music legend and pioneer to everything they loved about DJ’s and current dance and club music? Without Donna, we may not have ever had the Madonna, Gaga, Kristine W and every other dance diva you can think of to carry us through the clubs night with soaring vocals, diva key changes and a hot beat. As she finished her set, the park was on fire with energy. She thanked everyone and asked if we wanted to hear one more…..”Ooooooh, oooohhhhh, ooooohhhh oooh, oooh……last dance……last chance for love….” I just stood and cried (I’m a big girl, I know, shut it), but what a dream to have the defining song of my disco child hood being sung live, only to me(that’s how I felt), a mere 20 feet away by Donna Summer. I turned back to watch the crowd as Donna kicked in “Soooooooooooooooo, let’s dance! The last dance” and the sky lit up in a fireworks display to rival any July 4th celebration. Homo’s heads were exploding into glitter bombs, people were on each others shoulders singing and cheering and everyone was dancing like it WAS the last dance of the world. That memory and experience will never end in my heart. And you, Miss Donna Summer, will forever be a defining, positive, sensational part of my being. Thank you for making the music that carried me through some very lonely and scary years. Thank you for filling my heart and life with beautiful music. Carry On, beautiful lady.