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How Did Donna Summer Die? Queen Of Disco Got Cancer Despite Not Smoking

She attributed the diagnosis to the 9/11 attacks.
How Donna Summer Die
Image: HBO

The iconic Queen of Disco has a new documentary out. Many music fans might want to know how Donna Summer died after decades of successful number-one hits and more than 100 million copies of hit singles sold. More than 10 years after her death, a new perspective of the “Last Dance” singer comes in the form of this documentary directed by her daughter Brooklyn Sudano and Oscar winner Roger Ross Williams.

According to the HBO doc’s sypnosis, “Love to Love You, Donna Summer is an in-depth look at the iconic artist as her voice and artistry takes her from the avant-garde music scene in Germany, to the glitter and bright lights of dance clubs in New York. A deeply personal portrait of Summer on and off stage, the film features a wealth of photographs and never-before-seen home video footage – often shot by Summer herself. Through a rich window into the surprising range of her artistry, from songwriting to painting, Love to Love You, Donna Summer explores the highs and lows of a life lived on the global stage.”

So how did Donna Summer die? Read more to find out.

How did Donna Summer die?

Donna Summer
Image: HBO

How did Donna Summer die? Donna Summer died on May 17, 2012 after a battle with lung cancer. “Early this morning, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith,” her family released in a statement.
“While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy. Words truly can’t express how much we appreciate your prayers and love for our family at this sensitive time.”

Summer was diagnosed with lung cancer and theorized that it was caused by the 9/11 attacks since she did not smoke. She was living in an apartment in downtown Manhattan when the towers were struck. “I was really freaked out by the horrific experiences of that day,” she said of the experience. “I couldn’t go out; I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I had to keep the blinds down and stay in my bedroom. I went to church and light came back into my soul. That heaviness was gone.”

After her death, reports came out about how she got lung cancer attributed to smoking, though the family denied it. “Various reports currently surfacing about the cause of Ms. Summer’s death are not accurate,” representative Brian Edward said.“Obviously, numerous factors can be attributed to the cause of cancer in general, but any details regarding the diagnosis and subsequent treatment of Ms. Summer’s case remain between her family and team of doctors.”

Star tributes

Donna Summer
Image: HBO

After her death, many musicians celebrated the “Love to Love You, Baby” singer’s legacy with heartfelt tributes.

Elton John released a statement, “That she has never been inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame is a total disgrace, especially when I see the second-rate talent that has been inducted. She is a great friend to me and to the Elton John Aids Foundation and I will miss her greatly.” Kylie Minogue described her as “one of my earliest musical inspirations.”

Renowned actress and singer Liza Minelli posted, “When you lose a friend you feel like they are gone forever … that is not true with my dear friend Donna. She was a queen, the Queen of disco, and we will be dancing to her music forever. My thoughts and prayers are with her family always.”

Summer was not inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame before her death—something that chairman of the nominating committee Jon Landau wanted to fix according to The New York Times. “There is absolutely no doubt that the extraordinary Donna Summer belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” Landau wrote. “Regrettably, despite being nominated on a number of occasions, our voting group has failed to recognize her — an error I can only hope is finally and permanently rectified next year.” Her family accepted the award on her behalf the following year in 2013.

On why she wanted to create a documentary for her mother’s legacy, Brooklyn Sudano told Jezebel, “There were a lot of tears some days. There were certain revelations and conversations that really brought up a lot,” she said. “But I’m so happy that I was able to have them.” Sudano was proud of the doc that was about showing Donna Summer as “a complex, layered artist, not just this figurehead for a movement.”

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