In July 1995, Brian Eno told The Wire‘s Paul Schütze that Donna Summer’s “State of Independence” was “one of the high points of 20th-century art”. He’d just been to the local record shop to buy the extended mix of the Quincy Jones-produced single. I understand him. “I Feel Love” and “Love to Love You, Baby”, Summer’s breathy je t’aimes for the disco generation sold in their millions, but those songs were more about Giorgio Moroder than they were about her voice and artistry. “State of Independence” started life inauspiciously as one written by Vangelis and Jon Anderson in 1981, but Summer’s original 1982 cover took the song into a different territory altogether. Fuelled by a massive choir that Jones had assembled and a numinous backing track, in Summer’s hands the song became a rocket to an earthly heaven. It’s the gospel equivalent of a Verdi chorus.
The lyrics weren’t Summer’s (and let’s face it, they’re hardly poetry), but she imbued them with a resonance that was political, social and – at a time when Aids was emerging – humane. It’s an anthem of communal ecstasy that prefigures the chemical one, and all the more joyous for it. (And on a tangent regarding finding community on the dancefloor, something I’m thinking about as next month’s anniversary of Shoom!, Danny and Jenni Rampling’s late 1980s groundbreaking club takes place, I hope that the song makes an appearance there.)