Backstage Pass: Donna Summer draws with ‘Crayons’

“The Queen is Back” is the name of a song on Crayons, Donna Summer’s first new album in 17 years.

A welcome return to form, the beloved diva hasn’t lost a step, infusing the sweeping melodies and percolating dance grooves of the material with a knowing confidence and finesse.

From the evocative title track, which features Ziggy Marley, to the silky, Latin-flavored “Drivin’ Down Brazil,” the 12 tracks, all co-written by Summer with a host of collaborators including Ziggy Marley, Danielle Brisebois and Evan “Kidd” Bogart, the son of Summer’s Casablanca Records mentor, the late Neil Bogart, resound with the sound of an artist comfortable in her own skin and ready to take on the world… again.
Arriving on the music scene in the mid-’70s with the slinky, hypnotic groove of the Giorgio Moroder-and-Pete Bellotte-produced smash, “Love to Love You Baby,” the music world was introduced to a spectacular talent. Packing dance floors at discos around the country, Donna’s music mined an exciting cross-pollination of genres and stylistic sensibilities numbering rock, soul, R&B, funk, gospel, new wave and avant-garde.

In the process, she racked up a series of worldwide smash hits including “On The Radio,” “Hot Stuff,” the Jimmy Web-penned “MacArthur Park,” “I Feel Love,” “Bad Girls,” “Heaven Knows,“ “Dim All The Lights,” “Last Dance” and “She Works Hard For The Money.”

Nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Donna Summer’s music continues to be embraced by generation after generation, enraptured by her spectacular voice and trailblazing dance songs.

Newly committed and re-energized by her return to music, Summer talks about Crayons and her incomparable musical past.

It’s been 17 years since your last solo CD, why did you stay away so long?

Donna Summer: When people told me it’s been 17 years since I last released a CD of new music, I said, “17 years? Are you insane? Wow!” But they were right, it has been that long.

They say eight is the number of completion in new beginnings. One and seven makes it eight, so I guess I’m back to square one (laughs). The truth of the matter is if you’re a songwriter, you’re a songwriter, and you write songs all of the time. It’s not like I stopped writing. I have kids, and I have a life outside of music, and that takes precedence over everything in my life other than breathing probably.

My kids were at an age when they needed me. I mostly worked in the summertime and did a couple dates during the year here and there. I tried to be home more physically, especially in their teenage years and in the years when they were starting to go away to school. They just need you there, but I still worked. Producing a record and getting out there and promoting it is really demanding, and you’ve gotta have that kind of time.

You’re one of those artists whose audience will stick with you decade after decade; that’s certainly not a given in today’s musical climate.

DS: First of all, I’m very thankful to God that I have a loyal audience. That’s not something you can write for yourself. It’s been my prayer for my whole career that I can translate through the generations, because I think that’s the only way you can have longevity.

If people don’t appreciate your music from 20 years ago, then they’re probably not gonna get the music you make now. But, I see people like Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett singing until the end of their careers. There’s no reason why I can&rs

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