Summer credits Gloria Gaynor as the precursor to the disco explosion during the 1970s. One song that has particular importance to Summer is Gaynor's "I Will Survive."
"You know, I've used that song in my life and it's helped me through moments where I've thought, 'I've gotta get through this, I've gotta survive,'" Summer said.
She and Gaynor are friends now, Summer said, and occasionally bump into each other and share notes on each other's music.
Summer saw Janis Joplin perform live in Boston and didn't know what to think of her at first.
"She was just wild," Summer said. "She didn't have a bra on. That was so out — you don't understand what that was like. Women didn't walk around without a bra back then. Not women with those size boobs."
However, as soon as Joplin opened her mouth and started singing "Little Piece of My Heart," Summer was hooked.
"I was like, 'Oh my gosh.' You died and went to heaven. It was just riveting," she said. "It was such a great song. It pierced me and I thought, 'Wow, she's got it. She's got the gift.'"
One song that Summer said she goes back to again and again is Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On."
"It's pertinent, it's relevant and whenever I seem to listen to it, it always has something to do with what's going on," she said.
Summer said she can sometimes be caught singing the song out loud when nobody's around.
"When I go to the beach house, I throw that song on and I'm running around dancing in the house singing out loud," she said laughing. "You know, it's fine. No one knows I'm there."
Summer finds inspiration in Mariah Carey's 'Hero.'
"First of all, 'Hero' is really encouraging," Summer said. "People need to know they can rise to the occasion and they need to know that they can go beyond themselves."
The inspiration and encouragement echoed in "Hero" are important to Summer.
These emotions also reflected in her latest album, "Crayons."
"I approached this album as though I was out of the box — without rules; without regulations; without restrictions," Summer said.
This "out of the box" sentiment is something Summer brought to a popular single off of "Crayons," "Stamp Your Feet."
"'Stamp Your Feet' is a song of encouragement and being in the game of life," she said.
"You can get knocked down. It's OK. You can get up and keep going," she said. "You'll turn a corner and some day it will change."
Summer said people have come up to her after listening to "Stamp Your Feet" and said the song changed their lives — something Summer finds rewarding.
"If I can do it at my age and put myself on the line, I don't know what will come of it, but you know what, I'm going for it," Summer said. "I'm going to kick this ball as far as I can and hopefully I'll kick it out of the stadium."
Despite all she has accomplished, Summer said she feels she still has room to improve.
"My goal is to have Grammies in all categories, just to conquer every style and to succeed at it," Summer said.
"The voice is the instrument — it's not about the song."
"I Found the Answer" MAHALIA JACKSON
"I Will Survive" GLORIA GAINER
"A Little Piece of My Heart" JANIS JOPLIN
"What's Going On" MARVIN GAYE
"Hero" MARIAH CAREY