(May 27, 2024).  Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer in the U.S.  

In 1979, it marked the official beginning of Summer!

Donna Summer’s summer, that is.

Exactly 45 years ago this week, on the Billboard chart dated Saturday, June 2, 1979, which covered the period from May 27-June 2, Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” moved from No. 2 to No. 1 where it spent three non-consecutive weeks.  It was her second chart-topping single on the pop chart in less than seven months (“MacArthur Park” became her first in November 1978).

“Hot Stuff” was the first single from Summer’s newly issued double-vinyl album Bad Girls.  That album, thanks to “Hot Stuff” and the singles that followed, would become the Boston-born singer’s biggest seller, peaking at No. 1 for six weeks that summer and selling more than four million copies.

More Summer: See how Donna Summer and Supertramp owned the summer of ‘79 with albums featuring uncanny similarities

The vinyl single label for Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” (1979)

Released at the height of the disco queen’s ascendancy, “Hot Stuff” itself had experienced the kind of chart moves not seen in years, at one point making a single bound from No. 20 to No. 3 in just its fourth week on the entire Hot 100 — a rarity at that time.

“Hot Stuff” was Summer’s foray into rock/disco, the increasingly popular hybrid genre that had already seen big No. 1 hits by the Rolling Stones (“Miss You”), Exile (“Kiss You All Over”), Rod Stewart (“Da Ya Think I’m Sexy”), and Blondie (“Heart of Glass”) in the preceding 10 months.

With its prominent guitar elements and a synth-line that foreshadowed where music was heading in the 1980s, Summer was the first prominent non-rock artist to venture into this territory.  Indeed, one could argue that “Hot Stuff” was the song that singularly set Donna up for her career beyond disco, which was on the cusp of a serious backlash stemming from its unprecedented success in 1978 and the first half of ‘79.

The growing resentment of disco couldn’t rightfully be blamed on Summer, who had been its most honestly honed ambassador.  Instead, it was rock music’s vulnerability — exacerbated by the disco successes of the Stones, Stewart and others — that had a big hand in it.

Still, Summer’s growing crossover success couldn’t have helped matters.  “Hot Stuff” was her sixth top-10 pop hit and her fourth in less than a year.  The song itself tackled risqué subject matter — a woman’s desire for “some lover to call” — that Donna had fearlessly ventured into before (“Love to Love You Baby,” “Spring Affair,” “I Feel Love”), which certainly fed people’s angst about the music’s hedonistic tendencies.

But “Hot Stuff” gave Summer the kind of rock sensibility that allowed her to flourish well into the eighties when many of her disco-era peers couldn’t.  In fact, her biggest chart rivals of 1979 — The Bee Gees — would not see another top-10 hit for more than a decade after “Love You Inside Out,” the song that briefly interrupted the No. 1 reign of “Hot Stuff,” reached the top. (For the remainder of their career, the Bee Gees’ would return to the top ten for just one week in September 1989 with the No. 7-peaking tune “One”).

The versatility Summer displayed in “Hot Stuff” practically ensured that she wouldn’t experience a similar post-disco fate.  But it was only the beginning of the unprecedented domination the Queen of Disco would experience in the summer of ‘79.

In an era when most record labels would promote just one single at a time, Neil Bogart’s Casablanca Records smartly decided to strike while the irons were hot for Summer.  Before “Hot Stuff” had reached No. 1 and while it was still climbing the charts, Casablanca released “Bad Girls” — the album’s title track — as its second single.

The vinyl single label for “Bad Girls” by Donna Summer (1979)

The decidedly less-rock and more-disco “Bad Girls” wasted no time following in its predecessor’s footsteps.  It had debuted on the Hot 100 during the week ending May 26 at No. 55, while “Hot Stuff” was still climbing at No. 2.

Four weeks later, as “Hot Stuff” was finishing its third week at No. 1, “Bad Girls” was already up to No. 5.

The following week, both songs were in the top three at the same time, a first for any woman or solo artist in Hot 100 history (only the Beatles and Bee Gees had done it previously).  Incidentally, this was also the week that women held down the top five positions on the Hot 100 for the first time in chart history.

Two weeks later, “Bad Girls” began its five-week stint at the top, giving Summer her third No. 1 single in eight months, a rate no other solo woman had achieved in Hot 100 history up to that point (the Supremes had achieved that many in as few as four months in 1964).

The official video for “Bad Girls” (1979) by Donna Summer

Despite the two songs’ glaring similarities, including a thumping 4/4 beat and a common tempo that prompted Casablanca’s engineers to create a disco “medley” of “Hot Stuff” and “Bad Girls” on a 12” vinyl single, their takes on the album’s sexually liberating themes were dramatically different.  

Whereas “Hot Stuff” had been about the desire for some lovin’ — any lovin’ — as told from the protagonist’s point of view, “Bad Girls” was a more cautionary tale sung in third person about women who peddled lovin’ as a profession.

“Bad Girls” also happened to be No. 1 during the week of the infamous “Disco Demolition” at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, the baseball field that was home to the South Side’s White Sox.  On July 12, 1979, prompted by a promotion from local DJ Steve Dahl, thousands of disco haters stormed the field between games of a doubleheader between the Sox and Detroit Tigers to blow up records by disco artists (and other Black musicians mistakenly affiliated with disco) as a protest to the music’s immense popularity.  The violent event became so unruly that the Sox wound up forfeiting the second game.

Still, while American radio was quickly moving away from disco, Donna continued to reign supreme. “Bad Girls” would spend five weeks at No. 1 and ten weeks in the top ten.  “Hot Stuff” totaled fourteen top-10 weeks — the longest of any 1979 single and tied for the longest by a solo female in the chart’s history at that point (Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life” also spent 14 weeks in the top ten in 1977-78).

By Labor Day, both singles had exited the top ten and were on their way off the chart.  In fact, in a fitting end to the summer of Summer, “Hot Stuff,” which had topped the Memorial Day chart, anchored the Labor Day ranking at No. 100 in its final Hot 100 week.  “Bad Girls” exited the chart a month later. 

Donna Summer would continue making history into the fall of ‘79 as followup single “Dim All The Lights” and later “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)” (with Barbra Streisand) gave the disco diva two more simultaneous top-3 singles and four total for the year—another first for solo females. 

“Hot Stuff” won the following year’s inaugural Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance (Female), while Summer was also nominated in Best Album (Bad Girls), pop vocal (“Bad Girls”), disco (“Bad Girls”), and R&B vocal (“Dim All the Lights”) categories, which, of course, was another historical first for the late Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.

But it was “Hot Stuff” and “Bad Girls” that will forever be remembered for their incredible chart performances, a combined showing for two classic 45s that catapulted a once-disco queen to international superstardom.

Today, we salute the late Donna Summer on the 45th anniversary of what was truly the Summer of Summer.  


DJRob (he/him) is a freelance music blogger from the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, disco, pop, rock and country genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @djrobblog and on Meta’s Threads.

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4 thoughts on “45 Years Ago: The Summer of Summer Began… first ‘Hot Stuff’ then ‘Bad Girls’”
  1. DJR
    Thanks for a great trip back to 1979 – the summer of Summer. I fondly remember it well.

  2. …and every summer since then “Hot Girl Summer” has been defined. Donna Summer ushered in a new liberalism. Bring on the heat!

    1. Yeah but with a brashness and hedonism that I don’t think even the late Ms. Summer would approve of if she were still here.

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