Before fame hit, Donna Summer starred in Dorchester glee club

Donna Summer performed in Berlin in 2009.
Donna Summer performed in Berlin in 2009.

Before Donna Summer became Queen of Disco, the Boston native was nurtured by the music program at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester.

”When I was at the Jerry, I sang in everything they had and was a permanent member of the glee club. If I couldn’t have sung, I wouldn’t have gone to school,” she told the Globe’s Ernie Santosuosso in an interview in 1977, just as the song “Love to Love You, Baby” made an international sensation.

She got good grades, but decided to leave the Burke only two months shy of graduation.


Summer, born Donna Gaines, grew up in Mission Hill. She recalled that some in her neighborhood saw greatness in her even at a young age.

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“I don’t want to seem boisterous but since I was a child, it was almost commonplace for people to tell me, “You’re going to be famous,’ “ Summer told Santosuosso.

“I wasn’t doing anything special at the time, either, but I could go to the store and receive credit on the fact that one day I’d be famous. For example, in my neighborhood store I had a bill over $700. Isn’t that funny?

In August 1996, when she returned to Boston to perform at Harborlights Pavilion, she told the Globe’s Steve Morse that she recalled taking a course in agriculture in ninth grade.

“It was the only school in the city to have a course in agriculture and I used to love farming, don’t ask me why,’’ she told Morse. “It’s funny, because I own a farm now. I have other houses too, but I purchased a farm this summer. So that course helped out. It didn’t make me any less afraid of snakes, but what the hey!”