Donna Summer is famous for her disco and pop career, but before she hit the big time she was already an accomplished singer who sang in musicals, folk opera and in the studio as a session musician.
The Boston-born singer started out in a rock band before moving to central Europe to make a living. She was singing in the musical ‘Hair’ in Munich when she came to the attention of Moroder’s writing partner Pete Belotte.
Like most of Summer’s early disco hits, I Feel Love was written and produced by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte.
Co-writer Pete Bellotte in Independent on Sundaymagazine July 1, 2007: “This was the last track on the concept album I Remember Yesterday, on which Donna sang the first track in a 1940s style, going through various other genres until the final song was intended to represent the future. We used a Moog synthesizer to give the song this futuristic feel, and discovered a new way to layer level upon level of sound on to the track in perfect sync. We had no idea it was going to sound so special… Donna was one of those phenomenal one-take artists – she could just come in, sing the song and go. She was always spot on.”
This song expresses Summer’s sensuality and her ability to “Feel Love.” Being subtly sexual, her managers were concerned that radio stations wouldn’t play it due to Donna’s sexual moaning of “I Feel Love.”
With its entirely synthesized backing track, “I Feel Love” was enormously influential in the development of disco, electronica and techno music. However, Summer was initially unconvinced. “Giorgio brought me this popcorn track he had recorded,” she later recalled, “and I said, ‘What the hell is this, Giorgio?'”
When producer Brian Eno first listened to this song, he told David Bowie, “I’ve heard the sound of the future.”
Speaking to Mojo magazine September 2012 about this song, Giorgio Moroder recalled: “When we mixed it, by accident the engineer added a delay at the same tempo as the beat, which suddenly doubled the speed of the synth pulse. That became the key sound of the record and the signature on my own songs like ‘From Here to Eternity’ and on things like Sparks’ ‘The Number One Song in Heaven.'”
The song was inspired by the jazzy little tune performed by four fish-headed aliens in the Star WarsCantina scene. When Giorgio Moroder viewed the movie he was dissatisfied by the unfuturistic music the Cantina band played. That disappointment served as the initial spark for “I Feel Love.”
“I Feel Love” was a number one hit in Australia, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, number three in Germany and Italy, number six on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, and also topped the charts in many other countries.
In 2011, the Library of Congress added the song to the National Recording Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important”. It has been covered by acts including Bronski Beat, Messiah and Sam Smith.
Watch the video below to learn more about Donna Summer and her iconic hit I Feel Love!