Devin Robins, NPR News
Donna Summer in Tavis Smiley's Crenshaw District studio.
Cover for The Journey: The Very Best of Donna Summer (UTV Records)
She started singing gospel in a Boston church and rose to fame in the 1970s as the "Queen of Disco." In 1975, legendary singer-songwriter Donna Summer moaned her way to the top of the charts with her breakthrough hit "Love to Love You, Baby."
Her runaway success continued with 14 top-10 hits, four No. 1 singles and album sales in the tens of millions worldwide. Summer was also showered with awards — her music has earned her five Grammys and an Oscar.
She's considered the voice that ignited the disco generation. Now, more than a quarter of a century later, she's still making music.
Her latest double-disk CD set, The Journey: The Very Best of Donna Summer, was just released. She's also penned a new autobiography, Ordinary Girl: The Journey.
Summer mostly stays out of the spotlight nowadays — she's married, with three daughters and two grandchildren, and likes to spend time with her family and her garden.
Her autobiography is a candid account of the pressures of being at the top of the music world. She attempted suicide at the height of her fame in 1979, turned to religion and becoming a born-again Christian.
Today she embraces the title "Queen of Disco" and says she'll keep performing her Oscar-winning song "Last Dance" until she drops — and swears she can still nail the glass-shattering high notes.
Summer has ambitions to turn her story into a Broadway musical, and would like to do another studio album.