Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Reflections on Donna Summer by her former music director.

Scott Hallgren is a friend of mine who had the privilege of working with Donna Summer for seven years. Since her death, I had been hoping to get some thoughts and stories. Hope you enjoy reading them as well. His website is:  http://scootmanmusic.com/

I had the pleasure of working with Donna 1998 - 2005; all of it on keyboards, 4 of them as her pianist, 3 as her musical director. If I'd only known as an 8 year old, driving around in my Mom's Chevette, listening to Donna on AM radio...

Ahh, the stories - WAY too many to tell, whether it was:

- the Rod Stewart impersonator we sent onstage with flowers in El Paso during "Dim All The Lights" (she'd originally written the song for Rod and talked about that every show) that made her freak out and fall off her stool laughing during our 'acoustic' segment,

- performing as the 'house band' at the reception following Sony label prez Tommy Mottola's 3rd wedding (before he was legally divorced from Mariah), and having my rig directly in front of a table - at which were seated Joe Pesci, Rhea Perlman, Rosie O'Donnell, Danny DeVito, and Michael Jackson (who planned THAT table?),

- me getting to perform with my hero Elton John's band, play his piano, and accompany him and Donna on "Enough Is Enough" for the AIDS Foundation's 2003 benefit at Elton's home, then Barry Manilow get up to join them and say, "I can't believe I'm up here with Donna & Elton - this is fuckin' great! Isn't this fuckin' great?" to the horror of many glitterati,

- or the number of times something went awry during "On The Radio", where Donna would invite 3 audience members (females, for reasons you might expect) up to sing background vocals; once, in Columbus, a girl took the mic and walked out front and sang the second verse with an astonished Donna looking on; another time, at a Sony PGA Open, only 2 females were willing to come up, so the audience begged Donna to take the guy 'in the red windbreaker'... he promptly flew up the stairs, grabbed the mic, and said, "Donna, I'm not a girl, but I do have a very small penis", just as she had taken a sip of Dr. Pepper from the cup on my piano. ***It was Adam Sandler.*** (You can imagine how long it took her to stop laughing, and us to clean off the piano!)

Donna never wanted to be an 'oldies' act, and struggled with the box that many tried to put her in. She could sing ANYTHING. We used to do 'Someone To Watch Over Me' as a duet, Fleetwood Mac's 'Dreams', 'Nights In White Satin', 'New York, New York'. She sounded INCREDIBLE on the 2010 David Foster & Friends show (with Seal).

None of us had any idea she was sick, and I only hope that I'll be able to attend the memorial here in Nashville - she had so many real friends I don't know where they'd put everyone. The fact that she's gone too soon makes it that much harder.

She never stopped creating, was always musical, and my life is so much better and richer for having known her.

- S

Scott Hallgren


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