Donna Summer will be lauded as the Queen of Disco in most obits, but many of these will miss the important role she played in integrating faith into pop culture, for it was Summer who, faced with a religious conversion at the height of her popularity in 1979, resisted efforts to get her to leave her pop culture perch and plunge into a religious subculture like Cat Stevens and so many other born-again artists had done. As I write in my book, The Rock & Roll Rebellion: Why People of Faith Abandoned Rock Music and Why They're Coming Back, one of the reasons for this was Al Kasha, an Academy Award winning composer, himself a convert to Christianity, who mentored the likes of Summer and Bob Dylan and urged them to not move to the fringes of popular culture but stay put and set about the difficult task of maintaining their careers and fans while at the same time being true to their newfound beliefs. While some artists' work has suffered after such conversions, Summer's flourished, and the tension of trying to integrate traditionalist Christian beliefs with a rock and roll lifestyle produced this gem of a song which won Summer a Grammy nod, as well as two amazing albums, She Works Hard For The Money and Cats Without Claws both which won Summer additional Grammy's.
On a personal note, I was working with her and her husband Bruce on a song for a film I'd produced, but things had stalled in the demo stage because of Bruce's mother's illness and subsequent passing. Now I realize they had stalled for an additional reason. As I listened to the song again today, I realized that the words penned by Bruce seemed appropriate to the passing of one of the greatest singers of the rock era, Donna Summer, as they describe his beloved wife perfectly:
"And there might be some danger, but you never are alone. Cause you're walking with your purpose and you'll find your way back home."
Rest in peace, Donna Summer.
Follow Mark Joseph on Twitter: www.twitter.com/markmjm