In 1979 Summer took a surprising new direction with Bad Girls, which fused Moroder's electro-dance sounds with elements of funk and hard rock. The double-album produced three hits: the rocking title track; the incendiary "Hot Stuff"; "and the warm, slow number "Dim All the Lights." With the crossover success of additional hits "Heaven Knows" and "Enough Is Enough (No More Tears)," a duet with Barbra Streisand, Summer was at the top of her game in 1979.
The following year, however, brought a mixture of success and heartache for Summer. She married Brooklyn Dreams vocalist Bruce Sudano and switched over to Geffen after suing Casablanca president Neil Bogart and his wife Joyce, Summer's manager, for mismanagement. Her critically acclaimed rock- and new-wave-flavored album The Wanderer didn't live up to sales expectations despite producing a Number Three pop hit with the title cut and a Top 40 rocker in "Cold Love." It was also the place where Summer revealed her born-again Christian passions with the self-explanatory "I Believe in Jesus." The Eighties continued to reveal the extent of Summer's versatility, with five more albums of new and far-ranging material, including 1982's self-titled album (produced by Quincy Jones), and 1983's She Works Hard for the Money (the title track yielded a big MTV hit video). Her 1984 album Cats Without Claws contained "Forgive Me," which earned Summer her fourth Grammy, for Best Inspirational Vocal.
The late Eighties and early Nineties were a quieter time for Summer: she continued to release new and modestly successful material such as 1989's dance-oriented Another Time, Another Place and 1991's soulful Mistaken Identity, but she spent less time touring and more time raising her three daughters. "I try my best to spend quality time with them, and to give them the love and attention they need," she says of her relationship with her children. "And I try not to make mistakes." Still, she finds time to work: "When you have down time, use it. You have to cut things back, like you do to rose bushes, so you can grow in areas that are much deeper, and the fruit and flower are more intense. Gardening is a great metaphor for life, and it's very spiritual. God shows by example in the garden."
The past three years have seen Summer's career start to bloom again, with the 1994 release of the definitive compilation Endless Summer and an album of holiday standards, Christmas Spirit, plus a 1995 road blitz that took her through the U.S. and Brazil. Her current tour marks the second summer jaunt in as many years. In between tour dates, Summer has managed to squeeze in a few small projects, such as a duet with Bruce Roberts for the soundtrack of the latest Sly Stallone flick Daylight and a recent appearance on an episode of ABC's Family Matters.
Summer is also working on an album of new material slated for release later this year, as well as on a semiautobiographical musical, which she hopes to take to the road in the fall. "It's based on the life of someone, to some extent," she says cryptically. "Truth is better than fiction. If you can find the truths in people's lives, that's what cuts. It's freeing to them, because it shows people you can get out of bad situations. I didn't always pick the right road, and that's part of what I'm able to speak about."
Donna Summer performs tonight (Thursday) at the Jackie Gleason Theater of the Performing Arts, 1700 Washington Ave, Miami Beach, 673-7300. Tickets range from $28 to $50.