Donna Summer: The Country Connection

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May 17, 2012

Donna Summer, disco legend, passed away today at the age of 63.

Much like my earlier post on Whitney Houston's untimely passing, writing about Summer's death isn't completely foreign to our topic of country music.

Whereas Dolly Parton wrote a #1 pop hit by Whitney Houston, Donna Summer wrote a #1 country hit for Dolly Parton.

“Starting Over Again” is anything but a disco number.  It's a tender tale of a middle-aged couple divorcing after their children are grown:

Reba McEntire also covered the song in 1995, taking it back to the top twenty:

Summer co-wrote many of her classic hits, including “Love to Love You Baby”, “Dim All the Lights”, “I Feel Love”, “Bad Girls”, and “She Works Hard for the Money.” But my favorite of her compositions is “On the Radio”, which I actually heard first by Emmylou Harris as a straight-up heartbreaking ballad:

Needless to say, I was taken aback by the disco beat when I finally heard Summer's original version.

I haven't been writing much lately, but I couldn't let the passing of this timeless talent go by without comment.  Like Houston before her, she was a great singer who went too soon, and country music's legacy was just a little bit richer for her passing through.

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  1. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    Great write-up, Kevin. Nice spotlight of Summer’s contribution’s to country music. Indeed a talented legend gone far too soon.

    I was surprised when I learned that “Starting Over Again” was written by Donna Summer. It’s such a great song, and Dolly sang it beautifully.

  2. Cha ChoNo Gravatar says:

    Fierce Mama!

  3. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    Wonderful post.

  4. bobNo Gravatar says:

    They just played a recording of Donna Summer singing “God Bless America” at Yankee Stadium. What a voice she had.

  5. Forgot she wrote “Starting Over Again.” That’s been one of my favorite of Reba’s recordings for a long time. Will have to listen to Dolly’s version now.

    Excellent as always, Kevin. Love the line, “Whereas Dolly Parton wrote a #1 pop hit by Whitney Houston, Donna Summer wrote a #1 country hit for Dolly Parton.” Can’t believe two fabulous singers with a connection to Dolly died just mere months apart. There are too many great losses already in 2012.

  6. What is surprising to me is that this is so surprising. Donna Summer is obviously a talented songwriter and for her to pen something for Dolly does not strike me as a bolt from the blue. If Donna Summer was an orthodontist and wrote something for Dolly, then that would be surprising. But a good song is a good song and to pidgeonhole artists is a little bit unfair to them…not that I think it is ever going to stop! But from a musical perspective, I think Peter Paul and Mary had a lot in common with Earth Wind & Fire. Both groups were really great funk bands in that one instrument plays a fill and then someone else plays a fill and if it sounds seemless than it just sounds like one big instrument….PP&M just sang harmonies, which EW&F didn’t…

  7. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    In what way do you feel Donna Summer is being pigeonholed, Joshua?

    If you’re referring to my above comment, I think you may be reading into it a little too far. When I said I was surprised to learn that “Starting Over Again” was written by Summer, it was only because it is not the style of song with which Summer is most often associated. (I don’t think it was specifically written for Dolly Parton, but was rather inspired by the divorce of Summer’s husband’s parents) I wasn’t in any way meaning to suggest that Summer is not a good songwriter, if that’s what you got from it.

  8. ErikNo Gravatar says:

    Donna also covered Reba and Linda Davis’ “Does He Love You” together with Liza Minelli:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WN9pvFLArmc

  9. Great post, Kevin. I didn’t know about Donna Summer’s connections to country music. Thanks for filling us in. And RIP, Donna. We will miss you.

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