Following Donna Summer’s death last week, tributes from musicians and celebrities poured in from all corners of pop culture, expressing admiration for the singer’s catalog of music. But was she snubbed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Two very influential voices think so.
Elton John told E! News that “Her records sound as good today as they ever did. That she has never been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a total disgrace, especially when I see the second-rate talent that has been inducted.” As an inductee, Elton is a voting member of the Hall. But as the Chairman of the Rock Hall’s nominating committee, Jon Landau may have even more pull than Sir Elton. Landau told The New York Times in a statement “There is absolutely no doubt that the extraordinary Donna Summer belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Regrettably, despite being nominated on a number of occasions, our voting group has failed to recognize her — an error I can only hope is finally and permanently rectified next year.”
While some rock and roll fans might be put off by the idea of one of disco’s biggest stars being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she was respected by a number of bona fide legends, including Bruce Springsteen (who is managed by Landau). In his book, Songs, Springsteen wrote, “‘Cover Me’ I’d originally written for Donna Summer. She could really sing and I disliked the veiled racism of the anti-disco movement. When I cut the demo, it came out so good that I held on to it. I later wrote another song, ‘Protection,’ and recorded it with Donna and Quincy Jones in L.A.” Springsteen played lead guitar on the song, and his backing vocals are audible. In the liner notes of a Springsteen tribute album which featured the previously-released recording, Summer wrote “Bruce wrote the song for me, and in fact, came to my house in Los Angeles for several days to get it done. I love the song as well as being a big Bruce Springsteen fan. It was the icing on the cake and a big moment in my life.”
KISS frontman Gene Simmons paid tribute after Summers’ passing, pointing out that Summer guested on his 1978 self-titled album, tweeting: “A sad goodbye to Donna Summer. Gracious. Caring. She sang on Burnin’ Up With Fever on my solo album. She will be missed.”
In the liner notes of his Sound + Vision box set, David Bowie wrote ““One day in Berlin, (producer Brian) Eno came running in and said, ‘I have heard the sound of the future’ … he puts on ‘I Feel Love’ by Donna Summer … He said, ‘This is it, look no further. This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next fifteen years.”)
Even recent inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame The Red Hot Chili Peppers are fans: in recent years, they’ve covered “I Feel Love.” The song is on their 2004 live album (available as an import) Live In Hyde Park.
Summer wouldn’t be the first artist from the dance music world to be inducted (if she is inducted): The Bee Gees, ABBA, Madonna and Michael Jackson are all members of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
–Brian Ives, CBS Local