The career of Donna Summer, who died last month of cancer at the age of 63, never fully recovered after she was quoted by the Village Voice in 1983 as saying AIDS was God’s punishment to gays.
Summer later denied ever making the comments but in this pre-GLAAD era, she did not respond to the controversy quickly. Gay fans were a huge portion of her audience and many felt betrayed by the comments attributed to the singer.
On Tuesday (12 June), AIDS and gay rights activist Peter Staley shared on his blog the text of a letter Summer wrote to the group ACT UP in 1989 after some members of the group were involved in a shoving match at a Boston Pride event as they tried to stop the playing of one of her songs.
Summer, who had become a Born Again Christian in the early 80s, wrote a letter to ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) trying to clear things up.
The singer said she had not responded immediately after the comments attributed to her were published because at around that time she gave birth to two babies in 18 months, was involved in a major lawsuit and had suffered through some deaths in her family.
‘My manager at the time felt my life and emotional health was at stake so there was no response,’ she explained.
‘Since then, however, I have made numerous replies and spoken openly to try and clear up this misunderstanding,’ she wrote. ‘I cannot force you to believe what I tell you, so if you choose to continue on with this fighting and arguing, that’s up to you. I did not say God is punishing gays with aids, I did not sit with ill intentions in judgement over your lives. I haven’t stopped talking to my friends who are gay, nor have I ever chosen my friends by their sexual preferences.’
‘We have too many good memories together to live in this state of unforgiveness,’ she added. ‘I never denied you or turned you away. … It as never my intention to reject you but to extend myself in love.’
After an unbroken string of hits that included Bad Girls, Hot Stuff, MacArthur Park, Love to Love You Baby, Heaven Knows, Enough is Enough, On the Radio, She Works Hard for the Money, Dim All the Lights, and Last Dance, Summer would only have one more hit single after 1983: This Time I Know It’s For Real.
Her most recent album of original recordings was 2008’s Crayons and that came after a nearly two-decade hiatus from recording.