Undeniably talented but such a conflicted character. As the “Queen of Disco” Donna Summer was a gay icon. As a reborn Christian she said some amazingly ignorant things about gay people. When the gay backlash began she began to deny that she ever said that AIDS was a punishment from God for the immoral lifestyles of homosexuals. She wrote letters to Act-Up and the Advocate Magazine but the gay boycott was in full effect. From 1987 to 2012 I never heard a Donna Summer song ever played in a gay bar, restaurant or dance club.
During her “Geffen Years” which coincided with the height of the boycott, she released the single “Dinner With Gershwin” and I heard it on the radio while driving around LA. I always liked that song but because of what she allegedly said I couldn’t bring myself to buy the single. Even now, decades later it’s still painful to think about how the allegations affected all my sick friends, now dead, who loved her music in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
The statements alleged to be hers were quite common from the “reborn” at that time. There was much fear and loathing not just of gay people but also of the newly discovered disease of AIDS which seemed to only affect gay people as far as the mainstream media was concerned. I will never know for sure if she was misquoted or if her denials were motivated by commerce or conviction. I do know that my friend Charles died believing she turned her back on people like him who loved her so much. I also know that to this day, I can’t hear a Donna Summer song without thinking about Charles.
Such an amazing talent, squandered by personal demons… hopefully now she can finally be at peace.