She was incidentally the most played artiste on AIR, Hyderabad in the 70s and 80s

For many Hyderabadi music buffs who grew up listening to Donna Summer's songs, her demise came as a shock on Friday.

In a Bollywood-heavy music-scape of the 70s and 80s that was abuzz with Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan hits, Donna Summer was incidentally the most played artiste on AIR, Hyderabad. Her LPs and cassettes were in demand alike.

Swaroop Devadas, deputy production in-charge, SIET, who was associated with AIR, Hyderabad, recollects, “All the RJs played her songs. Musical features were produced on her.”

What made her stand out in times of stiff competition from contemporary female pop stars such as Linda Ronstadt and Olivia Newton John were her glamorous LP covers that also packed in powerful scores, he says.

“We were flooded with mails requesting for her songs. Her LPs were sought after. She was gorgeous, had a remarkable stage presence and was probably one of the few singers then to cut a stunning video. Even now, I prefer to watch her songs on YouTube, my favourite being ‘Sunset people'. Donna Summer has been an inseparable part of my teenage years,” says Surekha Aithabathula, News Editor, Doordarshan, Hyderabad and an ex-RJ with Yuva Vani English, AIR, Hyderabad.

Donna Summer, popular as the ‘Disco Queen', definitely raised the bar as a female pop star.

Controversial songs

One of the controversial songs ‘I love to love you baby', the title track of her 1976 album, made it to US Billboard Hot 100. “It was a chart buster in the mid 70s. We did not have stereos and decks then. Many radio stations had banned the song for its explicit lyrics. A friend of mine got the cassette from Mumbai, then Bombay, that we played in the hostel on the tape recorder. It was the talk of the boys' hostel,” recollects T. Sreenivasa Prabhu, a lecturer of English and alumni of Sardar Patel College, Secunderabad.

Hostel walls of the college featured the diva's posters taken out from Sun Magazine that often carried a centre spread, wall paper and other trivia on the artiste, he recollects.

“Techno probably began with her that is reflected in ‘I love to love'. She was not just bold enough to bring out such a track but equally confident to go ahead and release it,” says Surekha. Many artistes such as Kylie Minogue and Madonna have sung her songs since.

Donna Summer might not be a rage in current times like Lady Gaga or Katy Perry, but this multi-Grammy winner's contribution to the realm of music is commendable.

Her songs will continue to hold a special place in the hearts of her many fans.


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