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Donna Summer's Hall of Fame induction came too late

Posted by Sarah Rodman  December 12, 2012 10:49 AM

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On the radio and now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

When I interviewed Donna Summer last year, she had just been passed over again for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I asked if it was, as is so often said, just an honor to be nominated.

"No, it's an honor to win," she said with a laugh. "That's a bunch of baloney. I don't care about the honor of being nominated, honor me and let me win! After about the third time, stop nominating me, I'm starting to feel like a loser." Summer, a Boston native, continued to laugh a robust laugh and added "I'm just kidding. It is an honor to be nominated, seriously."

When the inductees for the 2013 Rock Hall class were announced yesterday I was excited that Summer's name was finally on the roster. I was also sad-- and to be honest a little angry-- that she was not here to experience the moment, having passed away earlier this year at 63 after a battle with cancer. Even though she clearly understood that no one is entitled to any particular honor and had a sense of humor about it, the induction obviously meant a lot to her.

In the wake of the disco/pop/r&b/rock/gospel singer-songwriter's death many artists spoke lovingly of her influence on popular music. Yes, she was known as the "queen of disco," but that title was reductive given that her reach extended beyond the dance floor.

Her work with Giorgio Moroder, particularly the shimmery sleek classic "I Feel Love," made an indelible imprint on dance, rock, pop, and new wave artists from Prince to Duran Duran to Madonna to contemporary pop tunesmiths like Max Martin. Harder-edged jams like "Bad Girls" and "Hot Stuff" were pioneering in terms of marrying rock guitars and dance music in ways that artists like Michael Jackson would adopt as the norm. And her mighty voice was the type to which many pop and R&B singers still aspire.

Among those paying homage earlier this year were artists already ensconced in the Hall including Aretha Franklin, Elton John, and Madonna as well as fellow 2013 inductee Quincy Jones. Other artists chiming in included acts as diverse as Beyonce, Dolly Parton, Questlove of the Roots, Kylie Minogue, Nicki Minaj, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Mary J. Blige, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Timbaland, and Summer's former duet partner Barbra Streisand. Even President Obama weighed in, saying that he and the First Lady were fans.

Before we parted, I asked Summer what she was listening to lately. She said she had just discovered an Iranian pop singer. She couldn't put her finger on the artists' name in the moment but she exulted in how the tune she was listening to moved her, literally. "I was dancing around in my bathrobe, I was jiggling around and thinking, 'If somebody could see me they would think I was insane!' But it was really cool," she said with another laugh, demonstrating a few moves.

In an appreciation I wrote at the time of her passing, I talked about how Summer had a similar effect: "That's the way Summer's music made many of her fans feel, too: safe in a bubble of beats and beauty, and moved to dance like no one was watching."

Wherever she is, I hope that's what she is doing now.


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About Sound Effects

The latest news, commentary, and reviews on music in Boston and beyond.

Contributors

Sarah Rodman is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.

James Reed is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.

Jonathan Perry is the Globe's Scene & Heard columnist, covering local music.

Michael Brodeur is the assistant arts editor for the Boston Globe, covering pop music, TV, and nightlife.

Julian Benbow is a staff writer at the Boston Globe, covering sports and music.

Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.

Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.

Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.

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