Does Disco Legend Donna Summer Deserve A Monument Here In Her Hometown?
“Let’s Build a Donna Summer Statue in Boston,” the Facebook page announced when it was launched May 22.
“It’s just classic dance music,” David Wedge says of the late, Boston-raised disco queen. “She’s from right here and she’s one of the most successful female artists in any genre of all time. And I think people overlook that stuff.”
Wedge, a DJ, journalist and political strategist, and David Day, artistic director and co-founder of the Together festival, an “annual celebration” of electronic dance music, art and technology in Boston, dreamed up the proposal to erect a monument to the sultry singer after watching Mayor Marty Walsh launch the fifth-annual fest earlier this month. Wedge says, “He went behind the turntables, put on the headphones and put on a Donna Summer record.”
“At that kickoff,” Wedge adds, “we were both like this is a no-brainer. There’s no reason someone of this stature shouldn’t be recognized.”
When Summer died from lung cancer at age 63 in 2012, Rolling Stone called her “disco’s greatest diva—and defining voice of the era.” She scored some of the biggest, most luscious music hits of the 1970s and ‘80s, including “Love to Love You Baby” (complete with fake orgasm), “I Feel Love,” “MacArthur Park,” “Hot Stuff” and “Bad Girls.” She racked up five Grammys along the way. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame finally got around to inducting her the year after her death.
“She just exuded passion and lust and love. But it wasn’t cheap. It was very organic,” Wedge says. “Any memorial we make has to reflect that part of her.”
Summer was born LaDonna Adrian Gaines and grew up in Boston, singing at Grant AME Church in the South End. After studies at Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester, she moved to New York and then Europe, where she married a German by the name of Helmut Sommer. At the time of her death, she was living in Florida and Nashville, where she was buried.
The monument proposal is just getting off the ground, so considerations of possible locations, designs and funding have barely begun. But after not quite a week, that Facebook page has tallied more than 600 likes. And Wedge says he spoke with Walsh about the idea last week and the mayor is supportive. They also hope to get Summer’s family on board. (Watch her daughter Amanda Sudano’s April performance for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts with her band Johnnyswim. They play The Sinclair in Cambridge on June 24.)
“We’re people that get things done,” Wedge says. “We just think it’s a great thing for the city. I don’t care if it takes 10 years.”