Contemporary Christian Music (June
Donna Summer's next release - a two record set tentatively titled I Am
A Rainbow will neither be the gospel album that might finally convince
skeptics that she is truly born-again nor the moan 'n' groan orgy on vinyl
that had been her trademark. Instead, Summer has recorded an album that is
more akin to The Wanderer's subtle repudiation of the "bad girl" personae
than to Love To Love You Baby, the album and song that vaulted Donna
to the top of the charts and marked her as disco's first lady of erotica.
The newest album contains a mix of material that should appeal, prove largely
inoffensive to most Christian listeners, and do little to mollify hardboiled
"religious snobs" who have refused to embrace Donna despite her profession
"Everybody is subject to the rules of the game that they play," she says
with more than a hint of resignation in her voice. "I have two producers
who write alot of my songs and they are not Christians. I have been with
them since the beginning and I am still subject to then in some ways. So
until the whole situation is altered, there aren't going to be any drastic,
drastic, drastic, drastic changes. There are going to be subtle changes."
At face value, Summer's statement seems to indicate that she has conceded
compromise in order to maintain her career. But her situation is complex,
she says, and doing what she has done on the new album, and will be doing
on the upcoming tour has not been the easy way out.
Donna often speaks in terms of "being where I should be" and becoming "what
God would have me be in Christ." She says she covets the day when she can
denounce her repertoire of sexy, suggestive songs. But for reasons of her
own - and they go beyond career considerations - she feels unable to do so
now. With a tour scheduled to begin in July, her dilemma of living her faith
in public while giving her fans what they have paid lots of money to see,
is just one of several perplexing choices Donna must face.
"If I have to perform those songs, it's part of the weight I have to carry
because of the wrong I've done. I have to acknowledge that I built this bed
and I've gotta lay in it. There will come a time when I won't have to ever
do those things again. But it's like the old remnants that you still have
to clear out of your house. You can't clean your house in one day so I'm
going about it methodically."
Whether or not God wants Donna burdened with the "weight" of continuing to
sing songs like "Hot Stuff" and "Bad Girls" is debatable. But she is convinced
that God wants her to function as a "bridge" to the unsaved. And the only
way she can maintain that contact with her audience, she believes, is to
give them, with some modifications, the Donna Summer they know and love.
"I think that if I were to do an about-face and do spiritual songs, I would
lose contact with all those people that would buy my records," she says.
"I feel like I'm doing what I have to do. I could give it up altogether,
but I don't believe...
"In the Bible it says when God healed the people, he told some people not
to tell anyone but just go to the temple and tell the priest they had been
healed. Other people he sent back and said to tell the people and witness
to them. He did not say the same things to everybody. When I was born again
and went to the Bible and read all these things, I realized that each person
had a different function, and if I kept my ears open to God, I'd find out
what my function was to be."
Donna became unswervingly sure of her present path following an aborted attempt
to sign with a Christian record company not long after becoming a Christian
in October 1979.
"I was trying to separate and start myself in that direction, but I met so
many obstacles. I actually had trouble getting on a gospel label. A lot of
people were defensive and it was very strange. Instead of being more
forgiving, or whatever it takes, and saying, 'Hey look, this is a person
who could potential sell a lot of records,' we didn't get that reaction.
"We prayed over it, and it didn't come through that way. So we felt it wasn't
right. I know that anything I have needed from God that is right for me always
comes. I totally rely on that. And when that didn't come through, we realized
that it had to be God's desire for it [The Wanderer] to be the record
that it was."
Had Donna recorded that gospel album, she would undoubtedly have received
a much warmer welcome into the Church that she has to date. The inclusion
of "I Believe In Jesus" on The Wanderer was apparently not enough
to convince some believers that Donna Summer actually had been born again.
Many scoffed at the song's childlike simplicity.
Ironically, secular music critics, who easily might have been expected to
disparage Donna's testimony, seemed most receptive to it. Because the song
had been written as a witness to the unsaved, that positive reception was
a great encouragement to Donna and seemed to confirm her ministry.
"Christians are being ministered to all over the place, " she says. "But
who's ministering to the sheep out there? How do you get to them what they
don't want to hear? What makes them listen? I know I'm a bridge in that gap
and He wants me to stand in that gap.
"And you know, that's probably one of the hardest places to be because you're
always on the borderline. You're dealing with people that are out there,
and you see the decadence. You don't have the protection of the Christians
surrounding you like when you just go Christian. It's so much easier, believe
me, than to be where I have to stand.
"But I know that's where God wants me to be. I didn't choose Him. He chose
me to be where I am, and He gave me what I have. And I believe the reason
why is because He knew I would pay attention to Him when the time came."
Donna's "programming" of the unsaved with positive, inspirational messages
continues on the new album with songs like "Where Would I Be Without You,"
"I'm A Rainbow'," "I Believe In You," and "You'll Never Walk Alone." As for
the rest of the material, producers/writers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte
have been "toning down" their songs in deference to Donna's commitment "not
to put out negativity."
The album was recorded at the Hit Factory in New York, at Musicland in Munich,
and in Los Angeles and will be released just prior to Donna's summer tour.
The tour is scheduled to run from July through September and will include
stops in New York, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, Los Angeles,
Las Vegas and other major cities. Just before the tour begins, Donna will
film a TV special for NBC to be aired sometime next fall.