Heaven Knows by Donna Summer (Casablanca, 1979)

The music you play for your children, with your children and around your children will shape their lives forever. That’s a bold statement, but it’s true. That doesn’t mean that they will like that music later in life. In fact, it may drive them crazy. Chances are though that it will be a sub-conscious soundtrack to their childhood that will shape some of their fondest memories. One artist who will always be in rotation in my mind is Donna Summer

I don’t think we ever owned an album of hers until the On The Radio Greatest Hits collection. And I don’t think we bought one of her 45s until Heaven Knows. But I knew every song of hers and the radio was always turned up louder when she came on. Except Love To Love You Baby. That one was deemed to adult for us. That one was barely even a song and probably did more harm to disco than good, giving it a seedy tawdry sheen that critics could use to deride the genre. Thankfully Donna made up for it for singing the futuristic I Feel Love. [The story goes that Brian Eno came by David Bowie’s place in Berlin and said, ‘I’ve seen the future and here it is..’ and put on Donna’s record.]
But while the former single was gimmicky, the latter seemed producer driven. So no one really took Donna seriously until her live LP, Live And More. Because up until then she came off like a studio singer, technical & emotionless.

And that’s why I like Heaven Knows. It’s Donna singing about herself, desperate and vulnerable, taking a chance and letting her guard down in front oh her lover and pleading please don’t take your love from me. All of her hits are about someone else and the few where she talks about herself never dig beyond the shiny surface. Maybe that’s due to her interaction with Joe ‘You’re The Best’ Esposito from Brooklyn Dreams with whom she duets. Having that foil unintentionally made Donna come off as human, because she can’t hide glitz and gloss. She’s about to lose the love of her life and in order to keep him, she needs to talk directly to him. All at 130 beats per minute.

What makes it even better is that she was really looking over Joe’s shoulder and staring at his Brooklyn Dreams partner, Bruce Sudano, who she would eventually marry and have a daughter named Brooklyn. This was a life changing experience for Donna.

Heaven Knows was part of a 17 and 1/2 minute suite filling up Side 4 of Live And More. The suite included the Jimmy Webb classic, MacArthur Park, which hit #1 and the track, One Of A Kind. Donna and her producer Giorgio Moroder had a great knack for writing songs that could short enough for pop radio and extended long enough to play and keep her credible in the clubs. No one else was able to do it with as much variety and success. That’s why she was crowned the Queen of Disco.

By the way I just found this video and it’s hilarious and almost goes against what I just spoke about. I think that’s a cardboard cutout of Joe on stage with Donna but I’m not sure….

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3 Comments

  1. J.A. Bartlett

     /  May 18, 2012

    A friend sent me this alternate version of “Heaven Knows” yesterday, with Esposito on lead and Summer taking the duet vocal. Turns the song on its head.

    Reply
  2. Never heard this version…thanks for sharing

    Reply
  3. Thomas

     /  June 5, 2012

    I love Donna,but this is pretty damn good.

    Reply

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