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Donna Summer Dead: David Bowie Describes Her Influence on His Music

Donna Summer / David Bowie
Frank Micelotta/Evening Standard-Hulton Archive,Getty Images

After a long battle with cancer, disco icon Donna Summer succumbed to the illness today (May 17) at age 63. Her music influenced a long line of her fellow performers, and you might be surprised to learn David Bowie was among those artists.

Disco, long the enemy of rock and rollers, hit its peak in the late-’70s, and oversaturated the market with more plastic puppets than you could shake a mirror ball at. Donna Summer, however, was not plastic.

Early in her career, Summer was hired to sing on demo recordings by record producer Giorgio Moroder, who took her under his wing and thrust her into the disco spotlight with 1975′s ‘Love To Love You Baby,’ a 17-minute trance like dance floor hit that would set the template for everything from disco to house music.

The electronic pulse of her next record, ‘I Feel Love,‘ was one of the most influential records of the era. It’s robotic, motorik production was a second cousin to the pioneering works of Kraftwerk and would impact Bowie and producer Brian Eno as they were recording the classic ‘Low’ album in 1976.

In the liner notes to his ‘Sound And Vision’ retrospective collection, Bowie explains, “One day in Berlin, Eno came running in and said, ‘I have heard the sound of the future’ … he puts on ‘I Feel Love’ by Donna Summer … He said, ‘This is it, look no further. This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next fifteen years.”

He was right — the record would later influence acts like Depeche Mode and New Order. Even the Red Hot Chili Peppers covered the song on their ‘Live In Hyde Park’ album. Summer went on to have fourteen Top 10 hits, including four No. 1 records. She was nominated for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 2010, but did not get the nod.

Next: See Other Rockers We've Lost in 2012

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