'Nightline' Playlist: Donna Summer

Ths superstar has claimed a number-one dance hit in each decade since 1970.

ByABC News
June 11, 2008, 12:00 PM

June 13, 2008— -- The queen of disco is back.

Almost 60 years old and after a 17-year hiatus, Donna Summer, the five-time Grammy winner and disco superstar, released a new album last month titled "Crayons."

While Summer can currently claim a number-one dance hit in each decade since 1970, she came from humble beginnings.

Born outside of Boston, Summer was raised by devout Christian parents who introduced her to both gospel and classical music.

Summer remembers her mom singing songs to her before going to bed each night.

When Summer would throw a tantrum, to calm her down her mother would sit her in front of the radio tuned to a classical music station, something she credits for expanding her musical understanding from an early age.

"As long as the classical station was playing on the radio, I wouldn't cry," Summer told ABC News. "If it was on for 20 hours, I would sleep for 20 hours. I would be calm. So I think that my mother probably helped my sense of musicality just by doing that."

At age 18, Summer left home and auditioned for a part in the Broadway musical "Hair," and she received a part in the show when it moved to Germany.

Germany would prove a life-changer for Summer. She performed in several other musicals and worked as a backup singer for many artists, including Three Dog Night and the pop band Munich Machine.

While in Germany, she also met producer Giorgio Moroder, the man who would launch her solo career and continue to have a profound impact on her for the next several decades.

After initial success in Europe, Summer made the jump back to the United States with her single, "Love to Love You Baby."

Summer's success continued across many different genres, from disco and R&B to rock and funk, as she continued to push her own musical boundaries.

She went on to produce hits like "Bad Girls," "Last Dance," and "She Works Hard for the Money," a song that was inspired by a washroom attendant.

"I was at a Grammies party and I went to the ladies room and on my way in I saw this little old lady sitting at the end of the bar. And she was asleep," Summers said. "She was the bathroom attendant. And at that same moment, a group of ladies walked into the room and started spraying their hair and doing all these things. And my first thought was 'God, she works hard for her money, that lady.'

"And then I thought, 'man, that's a song,'" she continued. "So I went and grabbed my manager and we went back into the bathroom and started writing the song on a piece of toilet paper."

Throughout her career, Summer said, she has always gathered much of her inspiration from other musicians and from those people around her.

"You know songs are there for the moments," Summer said. "I think music is the one thing that gets into your body and you can't get it out."