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The Greatest Work of Art of the 20th Century

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To those of you that know me well, the following will be tediously familiar. But for the newcomers, it’s worth rehearsing these arguments again.

I am of the firm belief that Donna Summer’s (well, not only, but we’ll come to that) I Feel Love (IFL) is the greatest work of art of the 20th century.

Let me justify that statement. Not because it needs justifying. It’s a self-evident truth. But because justifying this statement allows us to explore some important issues in contemporary society.

If you want to refresh your memory, please watch and listen here and also read Simon Reynold’s thorough history of the track.

Now to business. Or pleasure. It’s so hard to tell the difference with this piece of music. Many people don’t like immigrants these days. They believe in the importance of the history of their race/country/region/family/town/cul-de-sac. “Good fences make good neighbors”.

IFL presents a radically different take on the world. This is a song created by a black woman from Boston and a music producer who grew up in a mixed German, Italian and Ladin-speaking environment in South Tyrol. And its greatest (and most hallucinogenic) remix was made by a gay man from Buffalo. Critics of identity politics say that such political positions are divisive. IFL shows the importance of identity. It could not be made by a group of deracinated, interchangeable musicians. It is the product of Europe and America, black and white, gay and straight worlds. All of them coming together in something new. All of them making the future with each other. Identity is where we start from. We all come from somewhere. But identity is also what we choose to become, what we choose to let into our lives.

It crosses not only the boundaries between black and white and male and female but also those between humans and machines. Donna Summer’s orgasmic vocals sublime up through a meshwork of arpeggiated sequencers. That other Donna (Haraway) wrote in A Cyborg Manifesto that she’s “rather be a cyborg than a goddess” (one in the eye for 60s earth mothers). Summer & Moroder casually counter with “why not be both?”

Why not be both?

Our problems are too big for one group to solve. If we want a future, it has to be diverse and creative. It has to be rooted in our past (shout out to the conservatives reading this). It has to create a future worth living in.

It has to be like I Feel Love.

Text by roundPegz fellow Matthew Moore
Photo source: Donna Summer official Facebook page  

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