Born LaDonna Adrian Gaines on Dec. 31, 1948, the Boston native garnered the title "Queen of Disco" with a string of compellingly provocative hits in the 1970's and early 1980's.
An immediate cause of death is unknown, though early reports stated the five-time Grammy winner had been battling cancer.
Her family issued the following statement: "Early this morning, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith. 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."
Though she never appeared on Broadway, Summer's early career took her to Germany where she appeared in productions of Hair, Godspell, Porgy and Bess and Show Boat. She also covered the Evita stand-out "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" in numerous concert and television appearances, and dueted with Barbra Streisand on the hit "Enough Is Enough."
The singer also appeared in the 1978 film "Thank God It's Friday," which featured her rendition of the Paul Jabara song "Last Dance." It took the Academy and Golden Globe Awards for Best Song.
In the last decade, Summer had also worked to bring her biographical musical Ordinary Girl to Broadway. She showcased a handful of original songs from the production during a VH1 television special "Live and More... Encore!" The musical was also to include such hits as "Last Dance," "She Works Hard for the Money" and "Hot Stuff."
Reports state that Summer is survived by her husband, Bruce Sudano, three daughters and four grandchildren.