Donna Summer Dead at 63 After Battling Cancer

Gay fans and controversy
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A gay icon for her disco, Summer suffered a huge setback with her fan base in the mid-'80s when she was rumored to have called the AIDS epidemic God's punishment for homosexual activity. She denied the remarks, calling them a "a terrible misunderstanding. "I was unknowingly protected by those around me from the bad press and hate letters," she said. "If I have caused you pain, forgive me."

UPDATED: The disco icon died Thursday morning, her family confirms.

Donna Summer has died following a battle with cancer. She was 63.

"Early this morning, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith," her family said Thursday, in a statement to THR. 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."

Her representative, Brian Edwards, confirmed that she died of cancer, in Naples, Fla.

In lieu of flowers, Edwards requested donations in Summer's honor to the Salvation Army.

PHOTOS: Donna Summer's Life and Career

TMZ first reported the news, citing sources as saying Summer had been working on a new album.

Summer, who has two daughters with singer Bruce Sudano, dominated the disco charts in the '70s, churning out hits such as "Last Dance," "Bad Girls" and "Hot Stuff." Her 1980s songs include "She Works Hard for the Money" and "This Time I Know It's for Real."

A five-time Grammy winner, Summer had three consecutive No. 1 albums on Bilboard; she kicked off her career in Hair on Broadway, and later crossed over as a chart-topping solo artist under the guidance of producer Giorgio Moroder.

Her last album was 2008's Crayons.

"I am deeply saddened personally for the loss of my dear friend Donna Summer," said Gloria Gaynor in a statement to THR. "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."