Published May 17, 2012
Legendary singer Donna Summer, whose powerful voice and string of hit songs like "Bad Girls" and "Hot Stuff" provided the soundtrack for the disco era, died Thursday, her family confirmed. She was 63.
"Early this morning, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith," family of the singer said in a statement.
"While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy. Words truly can't express how much we appreciate your prayers and love for our family at this sensitive time."
Sources close to the family tell FoxNews.com that Summer's death came as a hugely unexpected shock. Initial reports from TMZ said that the singer had died from a battle with lung cancer, but the family did not release additional details on the cause of death.
According to Entertainment Tonight, Summer learned she had lung cancer ten months ago and had kept it a secret from friends and the public, only telling her husband and children. TMZ reports that Summer believed she had contracted the cancer from inhaling toxic particles after the 9/11 attacks in New York City, where she lived in 2001.
A funeral was planned for Monday in Nashville, ET reports.
Often called the Queen of Disco, Summer was born LaDonna Adrian Gaines on Dec. 31, 1948, in Boston. She began singing early in the church choir and by her teens had formed several musical groups.
Disco became as much defined by her sultry, sexual vocals -- her bedroom moans and sighs -- as the relentless, pulsing rhythms of the music itself.
Her first album, "Lady of the Night," arrived in 1974 in Europe, and 1975's "Love to Love You Baby" brought her worldwide fame.
In the 1978 disco film "Thank God it's Friday," her song "Last Dance" won Summer her first Grammy.
Unlike some other stars of disco who faded as the music became less popular, Summer 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.
In the mid-1980s, Summer encountered controversy when she was accused of making anti-gay comments related to AIDS. She claimed she had been misquoted but not before thousands of her records were returned and dance clubs boycotted her music.
She was never comfortable with the "Disco Queen" label. Musically, she began to change in 1979 with "Hot Stuff," which had a tough, rock `n' roll beat. Her diverse sound helped her earn Grammy Awards in the dance, rock, R&B and inspirational categories.
She released her last album, "Crayons," in 2008. She also performed on "American Idol" that year with its top female contestants.
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."
Gloria Gaynor also released a statement on Summer's death, saying:
"I am deeply saddened personally for the loss of my dear friend Donna Summer. She and I have been friends for a very long time, we were both known as the ‘Queen of Disco,” but Donna always referred to me as the “First Lady of Disco.” A fine lady and human being she was. She will be missed dearly by her colleagues, friends and family. She not only made her mark in my heart as well as others, but she forever changed the way of how America danced and enjoyed themselves. She may have had her ‘Last Dance’ here on earth, but ‘Heaven Knows’ it is "dancing with joy for her arrival."
FoxNews.com's Hollie McKay, NewsCore and the Associated Press contributed to this report.