When I heard that disco queen Donna Summer had passed away from cancer at age 63, I felt a deep sadness, not because I was a fan but more because she dominated the music scene during the time in which I grew up, and I felt like yet another page had been turned in my book of life.
As a teenager I was deeply into rock and roll, wearing a leather jacket and Led Zeppelin T-shirts and growing my hair longer and having long sideburns and a mustache. I would be lying if I said I ever listened to any Donna Summer songs at home, but they were hard to avoid anywhere else. In 1975 it seemed Summer's "Love to Love You Baby" was omnipresent in stores, on car radios, and at parties. I definitely heard the song and it seemed very different and had a catchy hook, but it was still disco and in my world disco was garbage.
When I got older and went to bars and clubs, Summer's songs were always pounding through the speakers. Girls seemed to love to dance to her songs like "Hot Stuff," "Bad Girls," and "Last Dance." Coming way before artists like Madonna and Lady Gaga, she certainly had an enormous impact on popular music and culture. Disco was everywhere and was evident in people wearing their spandex and glittery outfits, and the girls in their rabbit coats lined up outside Studio 54 here in New York City.
As disco seemed to become the predominant music of the era, we rock and roll boys dug our heels in deeper and fought back harder. Punk emerged as a rock and roll phenomenon largely as a response to disco, and my friends and I felt that Bob Seeger's song "That Old Time Rock and Roll" was our anthem. I was determined to not ever go to a disco never mind going out on the floor. Ever!
Of course, as fate would have it, I started dating a girl who loved to dance and loved disco music in 1978. She wanted to listen to the old WKTU in the car, and I heard my share of songs that made me cringe, but what we do in the name of love is what I did. She dragged me to see Saturday Night Fever, and I even managed to enjoy that film despite the music that I loathed.