LaDonna Adrian Gaines (born December 31, 1948), known by her stage name, Donna Summer, is an American singer/songwriter who gained prominence during the disco era of the 1970s. Summer is a five time Grammy winner and was the first artist to have three consecutive double albums reach number one on the US Billboard chart. She also charted four number-one singles in the US within a thirteen-month period.
Born on New Year's Eve 1948 in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, Summer was one of seven children raised by devout Christian parents. Influenced by Mahalia Jackson, Summer began singing in the church at a young age. In her teens, she formed several musical groups including one with her sister and a cousin, imitating Motown girl groups such as The Supremes and Martha and the Vandellas in Boston.
In the late 1960s, Summer was influenced by Janis Joplin after listening to her albums as member of Big Brother and the Holding Company, and joined the psychedelic rock group the Crow as lead singer. Beforehand, Summer dropped out of school convinced that music was her way out of Boston, where she had always felt herself to be an outsider, even among her own family who ridiculed her for her voice and her looks. The group was short-lived, as they split upon their arrival in New York. In 1968, Summer auditioned for a role in the Broadway musical, Hair. She lost the part of Sheila to Melba Moore. When the musical moved to Europe, Summer was offered the role. She took it and moved to Germany for several years. While in Germany, she participated in the musicals Godspell and Show Boat. After settling in Munich, she began performing in several ensembles including the Viennese Folk Opera and even sang as a member of the pop group FamilyTree – "invented" and created by the German music producer Guenter "Yogi" Lauke & the Munich Machine. She came to the group in 1973 and toured with the 11-people pop group throughout Europe. She also sang as a studio session singer and in theaters. In 1971, while still using her birth name Donna Gaines, she released her first single, a cover of "Sally Go 'Round the Roses", though it was not a hit. In 1972, she married Austrian actor Helmuth Sommer and gave birth to their daughter Mimi Sommer in 1973. Citing marital problems caused by his frequent absences, she divorced him but kept his last name, changing the "o" to a "u".