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Disco queen Donna Summer dies at 63

Donna Summer, the voice behind such disco classics as "Last Dance," "Hot Stuff" and "Bad Girls," has died of cancer at the age of 63.

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Disco queen Donna Summer, whose pulsing anthems such as Love to Love You Baby became the soundtrack for a glittery age of sex, drugs, dance and flashy clothes, has died at 63.

Her family released a statement saying Summer died on Thursday morning and they "are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy".

That she has never been inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame is a total disgrace. 

The family did not disclose the cause of death, but reports said she had battled cancer. She had been living in Englewood, Florida, with her husband Bruce Sudano.

Disco queen ... Donna Summer.

Disco queen ... Donna Summer. Photo: AFP

"Words truly can't express how much we appreciate your prayers and love for our family at this sensitive time," the statement said.

Summer came to prominence just as disco was burgeoning, and came to define the era with a string of No.1 hits and her luxurious hair and glossy, open lips.

Disco became as much defined by her sultry, sexual vocals - her bedroom moans and sighs - as the relentless, pulsing rhythms of the music itself.

Donna Summer poses with three awards she won at the American Music Awards in 1979.

Donna Summer poses with three awards she won at the American Music Awards in 1979. Photo: AP

Elton John said in a statement that Summer was more than the Queen of Disco.

"Her records sound as good today as they ever did. That she has never been inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame is a total disgrace, especially when I see the second-rate talent that has been inducted," he said. "She is a great friend to me and to the Elton John AIDS Foundation and I will miss her greatly."

Love to Love You Baby, with its erotic moans, was Summer's first hit and one of the most scandalous songs of the polyester-and-platform-heel era. The song was later sampled by LL Cool J, Timbaland and Beyonce, who interpolated the hit for her jam Naughty Girl.

Tribute ... a memorial wreath is placed on singer Donna Summer's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Tribute ... a memorial wreath is placed on singer Donna Summer's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Photo: AFP

Unlike some other stars of disco who faded as the music became less popular, Summer was able to grow beyond it and later segued to a pop-rock sound. She had one of her biggest hits in the 1980s with She Works Hard for the Money, which became another anthem, this time for women's rights.

Soon after, Summer became a born-again Christian and faced controversy when she was accused of making anti-gay comments in relation to the AIDS epidemic. Summer denied making the comments, but was the target of a boycott.

Summer, real name LaDonna Adrian Gaines, was born in 1948 in Boston. She was raised on gospel music and became the soloist in her church choir by age 10.

Donna Summer. Click for more photos

Queen of Disco

Donna Summer. Photo: Supplied

  • Donna Summer.
  • A portrait of US singer Donna Summer in 1979.
  • Undated file photo of Donna Summer.
  • Singer Donna Summer poses with three awards she won at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles, California on Jan. 12, 1979
  • Donna Summer poses with her award at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles, California on Jan. 18, 1980.
  • Donna Summer in 1977 holding her award at the Billboard Number 1 Music Awards.
  • Donna Summer swings the skirt of her leopard-print dress during her concert at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles.
  • Donna Summer, 27, arriving at Heathrow Airport from Paris.
  • Gerald and Betty Ford with Donna Summer and Cedars-Sinai Medical.
  • Donna Summer performs at the conclusion of the Nobel Peace concert in Oslo, Norway in 2009.
  • Donna Summer performs during the finale of 'American Idol' at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.

Love to Love You Baby, released in 1975, was her US chart debut and the first of 19 No.1 dance hits between 1975 and 2008 - second only to Madonna.

Singer Dionne Warwick said in a statement that she was sad to lose a great performer and "dear friend".

"My heart goes out to her husband and her children," Warwick said. "Prayers will be said to keep them strong."

Musician Nile Rodgers tweeted: "For the last half hour or so I've been lying in my bed crying and stunned. Donna Summer RIP."

Summer released her last album, Crayons, in 2008. It was her first full studio album in 17 years. She also performed on American Idol that year with its top female contestants.

In another sign of her continued relevance, the musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert features two versions of Summer songs with Hot Stuff and MacArthur Park.

AP