Donna Summer was born LaDonna Gaines on New Year’s Eve 1948 in Boston and started her singing career at church. Becoming the reigning disco queen of the ‘70s, her music has been played at gay clubs for decades. In the ‘80s she was surrounded by controversy over alleged comments she made suggesting that AIDS was punishment from god for the immoral life of homosexuals. Donna, a devote Christian, denied making the comments, and in a letter sent to AIDS campaign group ACT UP in 1989, she wrote that it was “a terrible misunderstanding. I was unknowingly protected by those around me from the bad press and hate letters . . . If I have caused you pain, please forgive me.” Also that year, she told The Advocate that “a couple people I write with are gay and they have been since I met them. What people want to do with their bodies is their personal preference."
Despite the controversy and the naivete of her statements, for many, Donna Summer remained a gay icon until losing her battle with breast cancer on May 17, 2012, at the age of 63. Her disco music was very much a part of the post-Stonewall gay revolution of the 1970s and beyond.