The Donna Summer Tribute Site


October 22, 2003

Donna Summer: 'Then I sought help'

NEW YORK (CNN) --Singer Donna Summer, the voice of 1970s disco, has written a memoir, "Ordinary Girl: The Journey," in which she discloses the pressures associated with being a superstar. At the peak of her popularity, the disco queen even contemplated suicide.

Accompanying the book is a CD set which features the very best of Donna Summer. CNN Anchor Soledad O'Brien spoke Wednesday with Summer about her new memoir and her life today.

O'BRIEN: I was surprised that the title of the book is "Ordinary Girl" and not "Queen of Disco." Why not?

SUMMER: Because I'm just an ordinary person that did some extraordinary things. But I think that I'm just a normal girl, you know. That's where the stretch is -- on the girl part! It's not on the ordinary part at all.

O'BRIEN: Your career really got under way in Germany. You went there, you were in musicals, four or five I think. Did really well. Came back to the U.S. and became a giant superstar. What was that like for you then?

SUMMER: It was sort of like being in Times Square on New Year's Eve, you know, and you want to go home. And you're in the middle and you can't get out. So it's a very, very, very busy, very stressful difficult time.

O'BRIEN: Overall bad?

SUMMER: I would say there were good things about it. But I think that just the labor, what you have to do to succeed is just really difficult.

O'BRIEN: You write about the depression that you felt... I mean, you talk about how you're at the height of your career, at the moment where everyone would think you would say "I finally I made it, I am a giant superstar."

You were depressed. You're contemplating suicide. You're at a hotel window, sticking your foot out to get a feel of maybe you should jump over the edge.

SUMMER: No, I wasn't getting a feel. I was jumping over. I was attempting to go. I didn't plan it. I just decided, I'm out of here.

O'BRIEN: Maid walks in and stops you essentially?

SUMMER: Yes, exactly.

O'BRIEN: What happened then?

SUMMER: Then I sought help. I got help. I realized that I had a serious problem with depression, and I went to a doctor and he gave me some medication.

O'BRIEN: You eventually decided that actually your career was going to have to take a back seat. You have children, you're married.

How hard was that to do? When you're surrounded, when you're wildly successful and you're surrounded by a bunch of people who are invested in seeing you not only succeed but continue to churn out hits and make money for the team, that's got to be hard to say, "I'm done."

SUMMER: Nobody wants you to stop, obviously because you're a moneymaking machine. But you have to make the decision and you have to move forward. So I took time off to have babies and do all that.

O'BRIEN: Any regrets now that you did that?

SUMMER: No, not at all. It was the best thing in my life.

O'BRIEN: You still sing and you've been married for some unheard of number of years.

SUMMER: In Hollywood.

O'BRIEN: You've got three grown children. What lessons do you talk to your girls about? They're all musical...

SUMMER: Yes, they all want to go in the business at some point.

O'BRIEN: Do you roll your eyes and say, "Oh, no, don't do it"?

SUMMER: Not at all. I think that they should. I think they have a good background and understanding that it's work, that it's painful and that it's not the glamour business that it looks like it is on the surface. And I think they're well prepared for it, actually.

O'BRIEN: You're still performing a lot, all the time. But you don't have the string of No. 1 hits that you had. It was always, next, next, next. Is that hard or do you feel like you've come to a new place?

SUMMER: Not really. I haven't really been recording in the last several years. I haven't wanted to. And even though I had to deal with Sony and now I'm on Universal again, I will probably put out a new record soon.

And no, having the hits is just more work. And I mean, I'm established. So I'm not worried about having a hit at this point in my career. It would be nice if you have a hit. But I don't think it's necessary to continue with my career at this point.

O'BRIEN: How hard was it to write the book after all these years? You have quite a story to tell. It must have been difficult.

SUMMER: Yes, very difficult.

O'BRIEN: It's a great book.

SUMMER: Painful.

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