Disco diva works “Hard for
BY JOAN CARTWRIGHT
Summer is an American Diva who, like her Disco-era hit singles,
works Hard for the Money with Hot Stuff!
She's adored by fans and, after attending her concert at the Sinatra
Theater of the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise on Feb. 16, I love La
Diva Donna, too!
Summer is the first African-American ever to win a Grammy award for
rock, in the Best Female Rock Vocal Performance category for the
single, “Hot Stuff.’’
On the way in, I met four men in Afro wigs, two white and two black.
I asked them why they were there, and they said, “We were with Donna
in the beginning and we'll be there with her until the end.’’
Someone else said, “Disco is coming back around. Ms. Summer was
there at the very beginning and she'll be there at the end.’’
So Summer, a five-time Grammy Award-winner, is the Alpha and Omega,
Queen of Disco, the dance craze that took over the world in the
‘70s, particularly, in Holland, France and Belgium.
The Peter Graves Orchestra, comprising strings, horns, percussion,
drums, bass and lead guitars opened the show with a revue of
Summer’s hits. Two background singers were there, Summer sister Mary
Bernard and Yvonne.
Yens Wenklebough played trombone and is musical director for Summer,
who appeared, seemingly out of thin air, in a gorgeous, beaded white
gown. She was under a huge glass menagerie, commonly known as a
disco ball, and standing on top of a white grand piano in the shape
of a chaise lounge.
Go, Diva, go!
She opened with “McArthur Park’’ to a screaming audience that sang
the words, “someone left the cake out in the rain and I don’t think
I can take ‘cause it took so long to make it and I’ll never have
that recipe again, oh nooooo!’’
Well, I couldn’t agree with her because her recipe was working
wonders. After the next two songs, “After All The Loves Of My Life’’
and “This Time,’’ Donna spoke about her newest recording in 17
Then, she sang the ‘80s hit, “This Time I Know It’s For Real.’’
She said that each time she comes onstage she becomes something new.
This was the last show of the tour that started last year at this
same venue. On the way out, I met a couple who was at the first show
of the tour, and they said she was just as good at the beginning of
the tour as she was at this last show. “She Works Hard For The
Money’’ is an understatement.
Donna's show was non-stop with beautiful segues. She talked about
getting older and being a grandmother, then sang, “With A Little
Help From My Friends,’’ another song we all sang. Then she called
for three volunteers and two women and a man named Marco came up to
sing “On The Radio,’’ one of
Donna's most famous songs. Donna noted that the three of them were
“ethnically challenged,’’ but Marco had us in stitches with his
“This is a dance party!” Donna exclaimed, before singing a song she
wrote for an album by the same name, “Once Upon A Time,’’ dedicated
to her daughter. She has at least 11 albums to her credit.
Then, she sang “A Natural Woman,’’ reminiscent of Aretha Franklin.
Donna's voice was clear as a bell and we hung on each note. Her
success at the age of 59 goes to show that real talent is
everlasting. She's come a long way from being a background singer
with the band Three Dog Night. The mother of three girls, Donna
continues to broaden her fan base.
She invited her husband, Bruce Sudano, to play guitar and sing
“L'Imagine Cafe,’’ while she changed into a tuxedo. That’s when the
music changed and Donna with Bruce on piano paid tribute to classic
jazz composers, singing “The Man I Love,’’ “I've Got It Bad’’ and
“Some Of These Days.’’
The music flowed into “The Night Is On Its Way,’’ making a smooth
segue from the string section. She teased us with snippets of “Love
To Love You, Baby’’ as the crowd called for more of this hit, but
she went into a spiel about seeing a singer on her first TV set when
she was only 11 years old, and knowing that was what she wanted to
do with her life.
The audience rose when she hit the first few notes of “Bad Girls,’’
and I saw the four men in Afro wigs dancing to “Toot toot, hey, beep
Finally, in a long black gown, Donna hit us with “Last Dance,’’ and
to my amazement, an 85-year-old man stood up and pointed to a
younger woman to come and dance with him. He was disco-all-the-way.
I asked his wife his age and she told me they'd been married for 65
years and he was still in love with Donna Summer and dancing to her
What a great way to end a concert. I'm looking out for Donna's new
CD and you should too!
Last Updated (
Friday, 22 February 2008 )
EARTH, Wind and Fire: Retro 1969
their fourth decade of making music that unifies music-loving Americans
of all races, creeds and colors; and people the world over, Earth Wind
and Fire remains one of the tightest, funkiest, most rhythmic bands to
grace a stage. People from 11 to 70 were dancing at their seats, in the
aisles and at the back of the theater.
Starting with “Boogie Wonder-land,’’ Philip Bailey commanded the
audience to “stand on your feet!” We obeyed him, shooting straight
up and standing during most of this exhilarating retro 70s concert
Friday, April 18 at the new Fillmore at the Jackie Gleason Theater in
Fans sang along on the next hit, “Sing a Song,’’ easily
demonstrating our knowledge of the lyrics to every tune the “elements
of man” brought to our lives.
From “Shining Star’’ to “Reasons,’’ concert goers were
en-grossed in the music that had us jumping in the ‘70s and, now, has
teenagers thrilling to its groove.
Three young girls, Lou (11), Lena (12) and Ilidja (13) are proof that
great music stands the test of time. They left the Fillmore smiling,
intrigued by the music their mothers shared with them that evening.
Light was in the eyes of attendees who poured out of the theater -
satiated by EWF’s excellent musicianship.
The band has three original members – Verdine White on bass, former
drummer turned vocalist Ralph Johnson and lead vocalist Philip Bailey,
also on percussion. The group’s creator, Maurice White, who is
Verdine’s brother, was absent from the tour due to a health condition.
White’s other brother, Fred White, played drums from 1974 to 1983. To
date, Verdine remains the only brother on tour.
The members are phenomenal musicians, each bringing a crucial part to
the whole. But it’s the songs that are golden, even platinum, and we
recognized every one.
Verdine lay flat on his back as he plucked his bass to tumultuous
applause on “Serpentine Fire.’’ Then, with his trademark high
energy, threw kisses to the packed house before skipping stage right
like a 20-year-old rocker.
Guitarist Morris O’Connor set off the blues during “Deliver the
Message,’’ a song that assured us that what we considered EWF’s
purpose 40 years ago is the same today - keep our heads to the sky!
On timbales, Ralph Johnson echoed the congas of Phil Bailey, while
Reggie Young gave an incredible trombone solo. The message was
Reggie Young on trombone, Bobby Burns on trumpets and Gary Bias on tenor
sax form the horn section, “rivaled only by the James Brown Band,”
according to Juanita Hernandez, a concert attendee. This 12-piece
musical caravan features Myron McKinley on keyboards and young drummer
John Paris, born one year before EWF was formulated.
Famous for his falsetto, Bailey sang lead on “Devotion,’’ “Head
to the Sky,’’ “Reasons’’ and “Fantasy.’’ Rounding out
the group are Bailey’s sister-in-law, vocalist Kimberly Johnson, and
percussionist and vocalist B. David Whitworth, who joined the group in
1996 (making him the group’s forth front man.)
Ambassadors of peace and unity, the group’s goal was to “bring
theater to Rock & Roll,” said Bailey. His assertion that “when
it’s right, it’s real” sums up the value of the music spun by EWF.
The group’s seventh album, That's the Way of the World, was the most
successful release in the band's history, reaching #1 on Billboard 200
and Billboard Top 100 R&B charts.
At last week’s concert, we recognized the ability of EWF to cross not
only generations, but cultures too. The music’s Latin flavor
electrified the Hispanic patrons enthralled with the band. The joint was
swaying with Afro-Cuban beats, not surprising to EWF’s multi-ethnic
Folks 60 and 70 were rocking back and forth. A man sat while his wife
danced. Then, on a reprise of “Boogie Wonderland,’’ he jumped up
and stayed on his feet until the encore.
The band bid us goodbye and left the stage, but we weren’t having it!
They came back with more of the happy music we can never forget,
“Fantasy,’’ then segued into “Hearts of Fire’’ and we were
done, through, satisfied. They could go.
Verdine, however, was jumping up and down on the stage, and Phil said,
“come on, jump, ya’ll,” until we joined in, feeling young again,
like back in the ‘70s!
April 25, 2008
Photos of Joan Cartwright with B. B.
articles. . .