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Donna Summer: A Diva Who Understood The Everyday

Remembrances of Donna Summer have understandably revolved around her long-standing status as the "Queen of Disco," a diva whose floor-filling anthems remain singing-show staples. But Summer, who died Thursday at 63, also gave the dance and pop worlds a true, ground-level working-class anthem in 1983's "She Works Hard for the Money," which celebrates everyday strivers and survivors without unduly glorifying or pandering. The song's video, seen here, seems genuinely groundbreaking in hindsight: For all its '80s trappings, including Summer's strangely indifferent lip-synching, it's as unglamorous as empowerment-themed videos get. Summer could seem larger than life. But she made some of her finest work by understanding and appreciating the way others live — pop ecstasy, shot through with empathy.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)

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