NPR logo Donna Summer: A Diva Who Understood The Everyday

Donna Summer: A Diva Who Understood The Everyday


Song: "She Works Hard for the Money"

Artist: Donna Summer

Album: She Works Hard for the Money (1983)

Genre: Pop

Remembrances of Donna Summer have understandably revolved around her long-standing status as the "Queen of Disco," a diva whose floor-filling anthems remain singing-show staples. But Summer, who died Thursday at 63, also gave the dance and pop worlds a true, ground-level working-class anthem in 1983's "She Works Hard for the Money," which celebrates everyday strivers and survivors without unduly glorifying or pandering. The song's video, seen here, seems genuinely groundbreaking in hindsight: For all its '80s trappings, including Summer's strangely indifferent lip-synching, it's as unglamorous as empowerment-themed videos get. Summer could seem larger than life. But she made some of her finest work by understanding and appreciating the way others live — pop ecstasy, shot through with empathy.