I was caught off guard by the recent death of Donna Summer, a pop recording star from my college years.
She was very popular for a time, with a voice that would not quit. From time to time, we hear a stand-by favorite on the oldies station, but not much else.
I had heard at first that the cause of death was not released.
Then I heard that she had been battling cancer.
Now, I've heard that she blamed her cancer on the dust from 9/11/01. Say what?!
I wasn't aware that she was near the twin towers when they went down. I had not heard her story, though there were thousands upon thousands who told there version of what went down.
But while eating Friday evening, the waitress says CNN had just reported that Summer's family had passed along her belief that it was 9/11 that had caused her cancer.
I don't know. But it makes sense in that the first few reports I heard had not mentioned a cause, so this lends believability to the waitress's claim that it was on CNN, late in the day.
I remember when Donna's hits were coming out, they all had a certain edge to them in addition to the disco beat. The content of the songs all spoke of the hard life on the street... Bad Girls, Cops She Works Hard for the Money, Love to Love you Baby, Save the Last Dance for Me. (Even MacArthur's park has a dark side to it, but that's another story.)
I remember there was some debate when her hits first came out whether they were suitable to play "On the Radio". Some felt that her back-story of being a streetwalker made her accomplishments less acceptable. But I remember when the story broke, that it was a scandal, for about 15 minutes. Then it just faded into the background of all TOP 40 radio, and was forgotten.
Except, her next album dealt with "Bad Girls" on the street. "She Works Hard for the Money", and similar themed songs seemed to verify the back-story or capitalize upon it.
It seems sad to me that now that I think back on her hits, her career and her reputation, that is what pops to mind first.
She came so far, so fast, and escaped "the life"... only to be remembered for her background? It just doesn't seem fair.
Lauren took the high road in the story of her passing. She added a fact that I was not aware that Donna Summer had been an accomplished trained painter, as well.
Now that's how I'd like to remember her. As someone who accomplished something with her life.
And now, I'll remember that fact, every time I hear her on the radio.