By Jeremy Kinser
Originally published on Advocate.com May 17 2012 11:33 AM ET
Donna Summer, whose hit songs like "I Feel Love," "Bad Girls," and "Last Dance" made her name synonymous with the hedonistic disco era of the late 1970s, has died of lung cancer at age 63, TMZ reports.
The Grammy Award-winning singer is reported to have died in Florida and had been trying to complete work on a new album.
"Early this morning, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith," Summer's family said Thursday, in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. "While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy. Words truly can't express how much we appreciate your prayers and love for our family at this sensitive time."
In a 2008 interview with PrideSource, the singer acknowledged that gay men were largely responsible for helping to launch her career.
"From the beginning, my whole scene broke out in the gay clubs," Summer said. "I don't know if I would have a career if it hadn't been, in some ways, for the way 'Love to Love You Baby' started off and everybody jumped on it. It was really in the gay clubs the song took off —they really embraced that new sound. I have to give credit where credit is due."
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Summer made her film debut in 1979's Thank God It's Friday, in which she performed "Last Dance," which would win the Academy Award as best song. Following a string of chart topping songs, including "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" a number 1 duet with Barbra Streisand, and albums that defined the disco era, Summer initially made a smooth transition into the 1980s and had hits such as "She Works Hard For the Money" and "Love Is In Control (Finger on the Trigger)."
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Then by the mid-'80s, as the gay community was being ravaged by the AIDS epidemic, rumors began to swirl that Summer, a born-again Christian, had made antigay remarks. Summer denied making the comments attributed to her and during a 1989 interview with The Advocate, said, “I’ve lost a lot of friends who have died of AIDS. I’m hurtin as much as anyone else at the amount of people who are gone.”
Watch Summer perform "Last Dance" below.