In the spring and summer of 1978 I was madly in love with a girl named Patty. She had a boyfriend at the time, a guy named John who was on the football team and frankly he terrified me, but not enough to stay away from her. Even after he blindsided me one day on the school quad, hitting me in the side of the head so hard I was knocked flat to the ground, I didn't give up, even though I spent most of that summer with one eye constantly looking over my shoulder for him and his friends on the football team, who seemed intent on beating me to a pulp.
There used to be a place on Victory Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley called the Teen Center, where kids could go dance. I used to meet Patty there during the summer of '78, and though there are many songs that remind me of then, especially "Miss You" by the Stones and Patti Smith's version of "Because the Night," the one that's indelibly etched in my mind is the first one she and I ever danced to together- Donna Summer's "I Feel Love." To this day I remember that night whenever I hear it, and the ineluctable, thrilling terror of dancing with the most beautiful girl I'd ever known at that point in my life.
I have only the faintest knowledge of Patty's whereabouts these days, courtesy of John of all people, but around 1988 she unexpectedly popped into my life again when she walked into a strip joint I was working in to take part in an amateur contest. We were both shocked to see the other there. I made sure she won that night, which she likely would have even without my help, and she was offered a job on the spot, which she immediately took. The first night she came in as a pro, she handed me the music for her first set: "Because the Night," Joe Cocker's "You Can Leave Your Hat On," and "I Feel Love."
While the summer of '88 and what happened during it was quite different from ten years earlier, she still had a powerful effect on me and easily pulled me into her thrall once again, if only for a short time. I had moved on to other "Bad Girls."
Donna Summer died today. What set her apart from the other disco and R&B divas of her era was her superior voice and a knack for choosing great material. It didn't hurt that the quality of her voice made the top talent in music industry want to work with her- Giorgio Moroder, David Geffen and Quincy Jones among others, in creating a long string of hits which bore her distinct stamp even as her music evolved far beyond disco. Summer stood out as a smart voice in a genre riddled with mediocre talents. She could sing anything.
And though I'll always have a soft spot for "I Feel Love," her version of Richard Harris' "MacArthur Park" was the best thing she ever did. A soaring epic of a song, an irresistible dance track, and one of the few remakes that seriously improves on the original. Enjoy this seventeen minute version of it, cause we'll never have that recipe again.
|With Patty in the Summer of 1978.|