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11 Donna Summer Songs to Channel Your Inner Disco Diva All Summer Long, Ranked

The evocative sounds of Donna Summer songs are instantly recognizable. While her music was decidedly disco in tempo, her groundbreaking use of synthesizers set her sound apart and set the stage for a whole new category of electronic dance music. She also had a knack for mixing different genres of music and influences, such as pop, R&B and rock — and the end result always kept listeners dancing the night away.

Donna Summer was more than just a diva, she was a trailblazer. Not only was she the first Black woman to have a music video in rotation on MTV, she also earned multiple Platinum records and was the very first musician to win the Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. On top of that, she had 32 singles (including 14 in the top 10 and four number-ones) hit the Billboard Hot 100 in her lifetime. She truly earned her title as the Queen of Disco.

woman singing on stage
Donna Summer in 1983Getty

The Queen came from humble beginnings. Summer was born LaDonna Adrian Gaines on New Year’s Eve 1948 in Boston, Massachusetts. She was one of seven children, and her father was a butcher, while her mother was a teacher.

Summer began her musical career singing in her church choir. Her professional career started in the late ’60s, when she moved to New York City to perform in the famed musical Hair. In 1968, she headed to Munich, Germany, where she continued in theater and worked as a session singer.

In the mid-’70s, she began recording with producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. Her breakthrough hit came in 1975 with “Love to Love You Baby.” The song’s extended 17-minute version became a massive hit in clubs and reached the top of the charts. In 1979, she became the first female artist in music history to simultaneously have two hits in the Billboard Top 3.

Donna Summer in 1978
Donna Summer in 1978Getty

Recently, a documentary highlighting Summer’s amazing life and career was released, bringing her a new wave of attention following her sad death in 2012 at the age of 63.

Over 40 years after they were released, Donna Summer songs still transport us to a wonderfully glamorous place. Here’s our ranking of her top 11 hits, sure to make you get up and boogie.

11. “She Works Hard for the Money” (1983): Donna Summer songs

Summer breezed effortlessly from the disco era of the ’70s into the new wave pop of the ’80s. Her chameleon-like ability to transform genres kept her at the top of the charts with hits like “She Works Hard for the Money.” The song became an anthem for hardworking women seeking respect.

10. “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)” (1979)

We love it when two musical divas collaborate on one song! Such is the case with “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough),” Summers’ post-breakup anthem with the legendary Barbra Streisand.

The song, which brought together two of the era’s biggest music stars, is notable for its powerful vocal performances and empowering lyrics, in which both singers declare their intention to leave behind a situation that no longer serves them.

9. “Bad Girls” (1979): Donna Summer songs

One of the singer’s biggest hits, “Bad Girls” reached the top of the Billboard 200, where it stayed for six weeks. The song is said to be about prostitutes, also known as “working girls,” and the judgments these women face.

Summer reportedly wrote the tune while working at the Los Angeles office of her record label, Casablanca. She sent her assistant to run an errand, which took her down Sunset Boulevard, a street known for illicit activities like prostitution. She told Summer that she was harassed by the police for being Black because they assumed she was a working girl — sparking the idea for the lyrics, and reclaiming a discriminatory situation into a powerful song.

8. “MacArthur Park” (1978)

Originally recorded in 1968 by Richard Harris, Summer gave “MacArthur Park” a disco twist a decade later. The song’s outlandish and dramatic lyrics (including a famous line about a cake left out in the rain) turned out to be a perfect match for Summer’s powerhouse vocals.

7. “On the Radio” (1979): Donna Summer songs

This song from Summer’s iconic Bad Girls album became one of her signature hits. It highlights people’s universal connection with music and how it can speak to our emotions, and was featured in the soundtrack of the coming-of-age film Foxes.

6. “Heaven Knows” (1978)

In this collaboration with the group Brooklyn Dreams, Donna Summer and Joe Esposito‘s voices blend seamlessly, creating a dynamic and engaging duet.

The song includes orchestral elements typical of disco music, with strings and horns complementing the driving rhythm section. It was a commercial success, reaching #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and becoming one of Summer’s most popular hits.

5. “Dim All the Lights” (1979): Donna Summer songs

This was Summer’s only hit song for which she received the sole writing credit. Originally intended for Rod Stewart, Summer decided to record the song herself, and it became one of her biggest and catchiest hits. The song is also notable for the fact that Summer holds a note for 16 seconds — which is said to be the longest-held note by any female vocalist!

4. “I Feel Love” (1977)

Summer was a pioneer of electronic dance music, which started with the gorgeous, transporting “I Feel Love.” The song was intended to represent the future, and its revolutionary sound certainly lived up to that goal. The mix of simple, repetitive lyrics and layers of synths creates a groove that still stops us in our tracks decades later.

3. “Hot Stuff” (1979): Donna Summer songs

1979 was a record-breaking year for Donna Summer, with five chart-topping hits. One of them is the iconic “Hot Stuff,” which marked a departure from her earlier disco sound, incorporating rock elements that broadened her appeal and demonstrated her versatility as an artist.

2. “Last Dance” (1978)

Attend any wedding and chances are, this song is played at the end of the night. Written specifically for the soundtrack of the disco-themed film Thank God It’s Friday, which she also starred in, Donna Summer’s anthem became a massive hit and earned her critical acclaim, including an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

1. “Love to Love You Baby” (1975): Donna Summer songs

This sultry song put Summer on the map. Initially conceived as a demo, “Love to Love You Baby” was released as a full-length track after Summer’s breathy vocals caught the producers’ attention. The groundbreaking song pushed the boundaries of mainstream music with explicit lyrics and suggestive, sexy vocals, forever shaping the disco genre and establishing her as its queen.

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