On the Radio

Album: Foxes soundtrack (1979)
Charted: 32 5

Songfacts®:

  • Donna Summer wrote this disco hit with record producer Giorgio Moroder for Adrian Lyne's 1980 teen drama Foxes, starring Jodie Foster, Scott Baio and Runaways singer Cherie Currie. In the song, Summer is pining for a lost love and hopes to reconnect by broadcasting her feelings on the radio. In contrast to the uptempo radio version, the soundtrack features a ballad-tempo instrumental by Moroder, which is used throughout the film with Summer's vocals added.
  • Summer had a difficult time coming up with the lyrics until another singer inadvertently gave her a jolt of inspiration. She told NPR's Fresh Air in 2003: "I was at the piano, and Stephen Bishop's record was on the top of the piano, and I looked at the record, and I know Stephen, and we've written together, and I'm like, you know, how would Stephen say this? What line would he come up - he's so clever. And all of a sudden, this one line came to me, and it was 'must have fallen out of a hole in your old brown overcoat,' and it was like a lightning bolt. OK, that's it. I knew who the person was. I knew who the person was in the song, I knew who she needed to be, I knew what she was going through, I knew what had to be said. And so as soon as I got all of the personal information on the character, I was able to go into the studio, stand on the microphone and sign the song pretty much verbatim, the way you hear it."
  • Summer was dating Bruce Sudano from the group Brooklyn Dreams when she started working on this song. According to Sudano, Giorgio Moroder sent her the track - a "beautiful, Italian kind of melody" - on a cassette, and Summer asked Bruce to write the lyric. He refused, telling her: "There's no way I'm writing this. The song is for you."

    As for the lyric Summer came up with, Sudano told Songfacts: "Donna could be very simple in her lyrics, or she could be esoteric. But basically, the story of 'On The Radio' is somebody hoping that the song on the radio will let the person know that they are in love with them. It's a bit esoteric, but I think that's what she was trying to say with that song."

    Summer and Sudano got married in 1980 and were together until her death in 2012. They had children together, Brooklyn (an actress) and Amanda (a singer).
  • This was a milestone record for Summer. Not only was it her tenth Top 10 hit in the US, it was also her eighth and final consecutive Top 5 entry. It was also her 14th consecutive entry on the Disco chart, where it peaked at #8, and it snagged the #9 spot on the Soul chart.
  • This lent its name to Summer's 1979 compilation album, On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II, which landed at #1 on the albums chart.
  • Leah Remini sang this in the 2005 King of Queens episode "G'night Stalker," during karaoke night.
  • This was featured in the 1997 biopic Selena, starring Jennifer Lopez. The late Tejano singer had covered the song during a sold-out performance at the Houston Astrodome in 1995.
  • Emmylou Harris covered this as a ballad for her 1983 album, White Shoes.
  • This was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, but lost to Bette Midler's "The Rose."

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