Remembering Donna Summer’s Faith

WORKING HARD: Donna Summer in the recording studio in 1977.

Disco great Donna Summer died yesterday at the age of 63. She was reportedly suffering from lung cancer and believed it to have been caused by exposure to toxins during the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.

The Sun reported that Summer was in a nearby apartment on September 11, 2001 and quoted her as saying, “I couldn’t go out, I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I had to keep the blinds down and stay in my bedroom. I went to church and light came back into my soul. That heaviness was gone.” It also described Summer as a “devout Christian.”

In a 2008 interview with ABC News’ “Nightline,” Summer recalled discovering her voice in church as a child. “I opened my mouth and … this voice just shot out of me. It shocked me and it shocked everybody in the room. I started crying, and I heard the voice of God say to me, ‘You’re going to be famous, and this is power and you’re never to misuse this power.”

CBN News reported that “Summer’s family said in a statement that they ‘are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy.'” The network also said her former publicist Michael Levine said Christian faith was increasingly important to her as she got older. “She was very committed to God, spirituality, and religion,” Levine is quoted as saying. “Her passion in her life, besides music, was God, spirituality and religion.”

According to Elev8, Summer was “born again” in 1983 after a number of family tragedies and personal trials. “As her sudden, disco-era fame knocked her sideways Summer, who had already been suffering from headaches, insomnia and ulcers, was prescribed antidepressants, and developed what she described in a 1981 interview as ‘a very heavy’ dependence. In her 2003 autobiography,Ordinary Girl: The Journey, she describes how she almost committed suicide by jumping out of a hotel window,” the article said. It quotes the singer as saying, “I was Christian my whole life, but I didn’t really execute it – I didn’t live it. And I came back to realizing that without it I couldn’t get through this stuff I had to go through. I needed something that grounded me and it had to be really strong.”

Update: Terry Mattingly, editor of the media criticism site Get Religion, says some media sites got the timeline of Summer’s conversion wrong and attempted to link it to a decline in her career. “The actual sequence is more complex and looks like this — disco queen, depression, attempted suicide, reborn faith and then more hits in a variety of musical styles,” Mattingly wrote. It’s unclear from the post, however, when she was “born again.”

Were you a fan of Donna Summer? If so, which of her songs get your feet moving?