“State of Independence” by Donna Summer

This song is based on the vocalist striving for and espousing what she dubs as “the state of independence”. The lyrics are, shall we say esoteric, which is perhaps to be expected from an artist like Donna Summer during the musical age in which this track was dropped. 

Or phrased differently, despite this piece being a bit wordy, the onus is more or less on the listener to ascertain actually what the titular state entails. But by the looks of things, what Donna was actually speaking to is a sense of inner, spiritual freedom which may be achieved, theoretically, by adopting different religious practices from around the world, i.e. those mentioned in the song. 

Indeed certain parts of this piece even read like a gospel, if you will. So perhaps “State of Independence” can be described as such, i.e. a secularized gospel song. That is to say that it contains Christian references, if you will, mixed with shoutouts to meditation and allusions to new age understandings of spiritualism, so to speak. 

And that latter aspect even includes the inclusion of some words, such as “Oroladian”, that the songwriters made up.

In Conclusion

And considering all of the above, this is one of those pieces where it may be better off for listeners to try to derive their own understanding as opposed to our analysis becoming too long-winded. 

The wording in and of itself isn’t anything hard to understand. But the whole concept of being “independent” or free is ambiguous enough as is. And this song doesn’t necessarily elucidate the audience as to what achieving the titular state really requires or feels like. Instead it concludes more along the lines of a prophecy, that one day this state of being, seemingly by the will of God, will be achieved amongst the masses.

Donna Summer's "State of Independence"

Facts about “State of Independence”

This song was originally dropped, in 1981, by a duo known as Jon and Vangelis. And the same two figures who make up that outfit, English vocalist Jon Anderson and Greek musician Vangelis, are also the credited writers of “State of Independence”.

According to Anderson, one of the influences on the lyrics of this song is a 1927 poem entitled On Passing the New Menin Gate. The poem is by an early 20th century English poet named Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967).

Donna Summer (1948-2012) got around to covering this tune in 1982. And it is one of the singles from an album she came out with that year entitled Donna Summer

And unlike Jon and Vangelis’ version, her cover was a notable hit. It was so popular that it topped the Dutch Top 40 and broke the top 20 of the UK Singles Chart. Also, it has proven to be one of those types of songs that pops up on the UK Singles Chart from time-to-time. 

For instance, “State of Independence” reached a higher peak on said list in 1996 than it did the first time around in 1982.

State of Independence

Donna’s Version

What makes Donna Summer’s rendition of “State of Independence” so unique is that, with perhaps the exception of those supergroup charity singles, no song in history may have featured so many A list singers of its day, some of them even being permanent A listers, acting as backup vocalists. Indeed not only did Michal Jackson (1958-2009) himself serve such a role on this track, but so did the following:

  • Stevie Wonder
  • Lionel Richie
  • Christopher Cross
  • Dianna Ross
  • Dionne Warwick
  • Michael McDonald
  • Kenny Loggins
  • James Ingram (1952-2019) 

Another lesser known name in the music industry, Brenda Russell, also participated, as did Hollywood actress Dyan Cannon.

Quincy Jones role in Donna’s “State of Independence”

Donna was also poppin’ when this song came out as she, being the Queen of Disco, experienced the peak of her success during the late-1970s/early-1980s. But even she wouldn’t have been powerful enough to enlist a group of backup singers like that. It was actually none other than Quincy Jones, who produced this track, that is said to have done so. 

Quincy reportedly once said that, working on “State of Independence” served as a precursor to 1985’s “We Are the World” (which Jones also produced). And by the way, “We Are the World” is one of those aforementioned supergroup charity singles we were talking about.

It was also Quincy, who, later in 1982, produced Michael Jackson’s Thriller which is, all things considered, perhaps the greatest album of all time. One of the best known songs included on that project is one of the King of Pop’s biggest hit, “Billie Jean” (1982), which was written exclusively by Michael Jackson. Well Jones implied that Jackson, who, as noted earlier, participated on “State of Independence”, unethically copied it in his creation of “Billie Jean”.

Brian Eno

Brain Eno is a prominent musician from the UK whose name has been mentioned a few times before in this blog. Amongst the many major musical acts he has worked with is Coldplay. And according to the band’s frontman Chris Martin, Donna’s “State of Independence” is actually Eno’s favorite song. We are honestly not totally sure how true this is, though (:

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