Donna Summer, whose real name was LaDonna Gaines, was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. She died of lung cancer in 2012.
Summer grew up as an incredibly devout Christian. She said that before her career began, she would sometimes go to church seven days a week. She started singing in her church choir at the age of eight, and after her first performance for her congregation, she said God spoke to her:
And I started crying, and I heard the voice of God say to me, 'You’re going to be famous, and this is power and you’re never to misuse this power.
But along the way, Summer says she lost sight of God. During her successful career during the 1970’s, she stopped going to church, began drinking and taking drugs, and allowed herself to be marketed as a sex symbol (see “Love to Love You Baby” and its constant stream of simulated orgasms). She became so depressed that she even attempted suicide.
But then she reconnected with God, became a born-again Christian, and never looked back. She said about the experience:
Immediately I received the holy spirit, I spoke in tongues, and I felt a weight of a ton of bricks lift off my shoulders: the guilt, the lies, all of the perversion. Everything.
Summers wasn’t a very political person. She didn’t even endorse Obama as far as I could tell, which is unusual for a black celebrity. She also wasn’t surprised that the country had elected a black president. It’s possible she didn’t endorse the president because she was a Republican, as Rush Limbaugh has claimed, but we don’t have any confirmation of that.
She was an icon of the gay community during her career, but it wasn’t always an easy relationship. She allegedly made comments about how AIDS was God’s curse on gay people, but she denied having said it. Regardless, the controversy did serious damage to her gay fan base.
And even though she did participate in gay pride events and contributed to charities committed to fighting AIDS and HIV, she wasn’t exactly a spokeswoman for gay rights. When asked about gay marriage, she said,
I don’t really have an opinion on it, to tell you the truth. I think people have to do what they feel they have to do. Not being gay myself, I don’t have the same frame of reference.
Not exactly a raging liberal endorsement. Maybe Rush was right after all.