After the demise of Whitney Houston, music fans last May 17 mourned the loss of disco diva Donna Summer to cancer.
Though belatedly, show biz chroniclers credited her as the flashy queen of disco, whose sensual and pulsating anthems in the ‘70s, paced by “Last Dance,” symbolized the heady exuberance of the era.
Praises have been lavishly heaped on Summer’s head, but we would like to add a more personal appreciation, because we got to interact with the dance-dervish diva when she came to Manila decades ago, at the peak of her celebrated reign.
With the late great Elvira Manahan, an icon in her own right, we interviewed Summer at length on the TV show “Two for the Road” (TFTR) a few days before her local concert—and we recall being bowled over by her rare combination of beauty, sinuous soprano riffs, and love for performing, and living.
She was already a big star then, but she didn’t let her celebrity get in the way of her performance, which was breathlessly exuberant and unstinting. She was beautiful and sexy, but she was also “just folks,” and quickly warmed up to her new friends in Manila.
We recall that Donna and Elvira, in particular, got on swimmingly well together. Like the dazzling disco diva, Elvira was famous for her unstinting love for life.
Elvira had a particularly soft spot in her heart for young artists, so she was extravagant in her praise of and approval for the visiting star. The usual 15 minutes’ exposure for each stellar interviewee on the show was expanded to a full focus on the trend-setting guest, who sang not just a couple, but a veritable suite of her new hits, to the home and studio audience’s delight! It goes without saying that her extended exposure on “TFTR” made Summer’s Manila concert a smashing success.
For our part, we were quite surprised to discover that, aside from being a sensational singing, dancing and grooving star, Summer was also a deep thinker and “feeler,” and an impressively versatile artist. True enough, in succeeding decades, she unveiled her other creative and interpretative gifts in allied artistic fields, like the visual arts.
Unlike Houston, who was hounded and sidetracked by personal demons off and on throughout her long career, Summer was brought down mainly by her medical travails. She may have become a star by jumping on the trendy disco music bandwagon, but she went beyond her initial popularity and emerged as a creative musical artist for all seasons—and reasons.
Truly, she will be missed—and mourned.