Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rest in Peace, Donna Summer (born LaDonna Adrian Gaines) 31 December 1948 – 17 May 2012

photograph of Donna Summer is from here

Here at this blog, I endeaver to honor the contributions by women of color to music and the arts in general. Donna Summer was a major figure in the music scene of the mid to late 1970s. Her work continued beyond that time but in the late '70s, if you lived in the US and had access to popular media, it was almost impossible to not know what her latest hits were. Her voice was powerful and amazing. I was very sad to learn of her battle with lung cancer and that she didn't survive it.

Before reaching adulthood, I moved into and through the Disco era. It occurred during a time when some white het men's music was creating a punk rock scene: the music was anti-authoritarian, anarchistic, and deeply white het male supremacist. This branch of white het men's music was overtly condescendingly hostile to the music of women of color and of gay men regardless of race or ethnicity. At least that's how I experienced it. The white het male anger, though righteous, was generally indifferent to the plight of most people on Earth who are neither male nor white yet was assumed by the white men to be speaking for or about all of humanity. The attitude about artists putting out Disco hits, by anti-Disco white men, was that they were unserious and frivolous. They didn't understand the role of celebration and expressiveness of spirit and body that wasn't geared toward fury and destruction. Apparently they'd also never read the work of anarchist Emma Goldman. From Wikipedia:
At the dances I was one of the most untiring and gayest. One evening a cousin of Sasha, a young boy, took me aside. With a grave face, as if he were about to announce the death of a dear comrade, he whispered to me that it did not behoove an agitator to dance. Certainly not with such reckless abandon, anyway. It was undignified for one who was on the way to become a force in the anarchist movement. My frivolity would only hurt the Cause. 
I grew furious at the impudent interference of the boy. I told him to mind his own business. I was tired of having the Cause constantly thrown into my face. I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from convention and prejudice, should demand the denial of life and joy. I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to become a nun and that the movement would not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it. "I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things." Anarchism meant that to me, and I would live it in spite of the whole world — prisons, persecution, everything. Yes, even in spite of the condemnation of my own closest comrades I would live my beautiful ideal. (p. 56) 
This incident was the source of a statement commonly attributed to Goldman that occurs in several variants[, including:] 
If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution!
One of her most pro-woman songs was "She Works Hard For The Money". Closing this post is a link to that 1983 music video. I hope that anarchist, anti-authoritarian white men learn about sexual, racial, and economic politics from this song and from the many voices of so many women of color in and beyond North America who have been speaking out and singing out for a very long time.

Please click on the following link to view the video on YouTube: