The seventies was an era fueled by the rhythms of a new electronic sound called disco, energy on the dancefloor, and accented by sequins. The lush voice of Donna Summer was a driving force of the sound with hits like Love to Love You Baby, I Feel Love, and Last Dance, earning her the title of the undisputed Queen of Disco. Donna’s sound borrows itself from the funk and soul elements that were emerging out of the New York and Philadelphia but it was her powerful gospel trained voice that set her apart.
“Fun, classic, and beautiful” were the words my mother used to describe her style (she used to roller skate to “Bad Girls”). Her style wasn’t outrageous and she wasn’t a trendsetter, as say, The Pointer Sisters, but Donna was the paradigm of how a lady should dress. Long sparkling dresses, rich hair accented by flowers tucked behind her ear, flawless makeup, and plunging necklines made up her stage look.
Why did you decide to do an album after 17 years?
I was sitting around thinking I should do something. I was thinking about design school. A friend said, ‘Are you out of your mind? Do an album.’ But I like privacy and I like my space. I like being with my family. You have to be in the right frame of mind. You can’t be like ‘don’t touch me’ to your fans or saying ‘I don’t want to sign autographs.’ I think I was exhausted for a lot of years. I have to take my hat off to people like Madonna. They keep doing it.
Why the title Crayons?
Every song is a different color and a different style. I just wanted to play like a kid with some building blocks or something and tell stories. I really think of myself as an actress who sings. That’s where I come from you know. I did [in Europe] Hair, Porgy & Bess, Godspell, Showboat, The Me Nobody Knows.
What is your work process?
A song will sit in your chest. All you have to do is play the right sound and it will come out. You tap into the emotion of the sound you hear. I don’t write a song. I grew up in the church. I’m really a psalmist. A psalmist would sing what comes out. I got really adept at doing that.
To what do you ascribe your longevity in the music business?
I have no idea what the biz is doing. Twenty years ago, you could almost set a pattern for success in the music industry. Today there are no norms. All I can say is don’t do it for the reward, do it for the pleasure. I write songs all the time. It is my joy. It’s not about making money every second. I don’t think the record companies want to take the time to let an artist develop anymore. And that’s a shame. An artist goes through colors and moods.
The five-time Grammy winner is currently enjoying the success of her latest effort with three singles hitting number one on the Billboard Dance chart. She is also one of twelve nominees being considered for induction to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Only five acts will be honored in the 2010 class; the announcement comes in December. Other acts include, LL Cool J, KISS, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
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