Her family released a statement Thursday saying Summer had died and that they “are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy.”‘
Summer died of cancer Thursday morning in Naples, Fla., said her publicist Brian Edwards.
TMZ first reported the news, noting that Summer was recently working on music for a new album.
Known as the “Queen of Disco,” Summer was born LaDonna Adrian Gaines in Boston, Mass., in 1948, as one of seven children. She was raised on gospel music and became the soloist in her church choir by age 10.
The five-time Grammy winner rose to fame in the 1970s, scoring hits with “Last Dance,” “Hot Stuff” and “Bad Girls.” She co-wrote the single “Love to Love You Baby” in 1975, and went on to co-write several other hits, including “She Works Hard For Her Money.”
“Love to Love You Baby” was her U.S. chart debut and the first of 19 No. 1 dance hits between 1975 and 2008 – second only to Madonna.
During the disco era, she burned up the charts: She was the only artist to have three consecutive double-LPs hit No. 1, “Live and More,” “Bad Girls” and “On the Radio.” She was also the first female artist with four No. 1 singles in a 13-month period, according to the Rock Hall of Fame, where she was a nominee this year.
Summer released a number of albums that have reached gold or platinum status, including the multiplatinum “Bad Girls” and “On the Radio, Volume I & II.” Her No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hits include “Hot Stuff” and “MacArthur Park.”
Summer also appeared in the 1978 film, “Thank God It’s Friday,” which took home the best original song Oscar for “Last Dance.”
The singer came to prominence just as disco was burgeoning, and came to define the era with a string of No. 1 hits and her beauty queen looks.
But unlike some other stars of disco who faded as the music became less popular, she was able to grow beyond it and later segued to a pop-rock sound. She had one of her biggest hits in the 1980s with “She Works Hard For The Money,” which became another anthem, this time for women’s rights.
Soon after, Summer became a born-again Christian and faced controversy when she was accused of making anti-gay comments in relation to the AIDS epidemic. Summer denied making the comments, but was the target of a boycott.
Still, even as disco went out of fashion, she remained a fixture in dance clubs, endlessly sampled and remixed into contemporary dance hits.
Summer’s last album, “Crayons,” came out in 2008. She also performed on “American Idol” that year with its top female contestants. In 2010, Summer appeared on “America’s Got Talent.”
Her sound was a mix of genres and helped her earn Grammy Awards in the dance, rock, R&B and inspirational categories.
Publicist Michael Levine, president of Levine Communications Office, represented Summer in 2002. He told CBSNews.com, “She had more energy in her early ’50s than most artists have in their ’20s.”
Levine also said Summer was very passionate about religion, noting how she used to hold a weekly bible study class at her home during that time.
He remembers Summer as “grateful” and “gracious.” She always brought a gift when she visited the office, Levine said.
Singer Dionne Warwick said in a statement that she was sad to lose a great performer and “dear friend.”
“My heart goes out to her husband and her children,” Warwick said. “Prayers will be said to keep them strong.”
Elton John said in a statement that Summer was more than the Queen of Disco.
“Her records sound as good today as they ever did. That she has never been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a total disgrace especially when I see the second-rate talent that has been inducted,” he said. “She is a great friend to me and to the Elton John AIDS Foundation and I will miss her greatly.”
Summer married Brooklyn Dreams vocalist Bruce Sudano in 1980. She is survived by her husband, three daughters (Brooklyn, Mimi and Amanda) and four grandchildren.