Friday, May 18, 2012

Cusp Song of the Day: Love to Love You Baby

From Chapter 12: Donna Summer's "Love to Love You Baby" was released around Thanksgiving 1975 and entered the pop charts Christmas week, ultimately climbing to number 2. Essentially an extended orgasm you could dance to, the song was shocking at the time, especially in its 17-minute-long form. In The Cusp of Everything, to deflect the awkwardness of sharing the listening experience with Mark, Karen compares it to "In-a-Gadda-da-Vida," a non-orgasmic song that also filled an album side.

Summer herself was never comfortable with the sexual nature of the song, although she came up with the concept and wrote it with Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte (it was produced by Bellotte). From a debut derided as a pornographic novelty, Donna Summer and her "Love to Love You" collaborators went on to have a remarkable string of hits over the course of six more albums.

Unlike lesser artists who are unable to shake off their early embarrassments, Summer was instead defined by her incredible vocal range, effortless artistry, success in multiple musical formats and striking beauty. She in turn defined a generation. Her untimely death yesterday receives a fitting tribute from my former Billboard colleague and friend Paul Grein.

I can't resist sharing a classic Donna Summer performance. I'll never get sick of "Last Dance," a huge hit at the end of my final semester of college that beautifully defines that time for me. This is a particularly nice version. Thanks to my sister Lisa for the link.

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