Saturday, June 4, 2011

Dusty Springfield

The evening gowns, peroxide blonde beehive and heavy make up made her the epitome of 60's female pop fashion, but it was the voice,a husky alto brimming with emotion that made her a superstar as well as a blue-eyed soul pioneer. She was born Mary O'Brien , but to us she was Dusty Springfield.
She was born in West Hempstead, East London,U.K. April 16,1939 . Her early career found her with a folk-rock trio she formed with her brother called The Springfields who had a top Five British hit ,"Say I Won't Be There". They were a busy working act whose travels took them many places, including Nashville,Tennessee where Dusty's passion for rhythm and blues was ignited. She left the group to go solo in October of 1963 and shortly after recorded her first single, "I Only Want To Be With You".

Written by Ivor Raymonde, and produced in the Phil Spector wall-of-sound-like fashion by Johhny Franz, the single went to #4 on the U.K. charts, #12 on the U.S. Billboard charts and was the first song ever performed on the British tv show Top Of The Pops after its release in November of 1963.
Her debut album,A Girl Called Dusty, featured mostly her favorite cover songs, including the Supremes hit "When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes" and went to #6 in the U.K. In 1964 she recorded the Burt Bacharach song "Wishin' And Hopin' " which was #1 in the U.S.

In December of 1964 , her tour of South Africa was interrupted when she was deported for performing in front of an integrated audience , which at the time was against the country's national policy.
In 1965,while participating in The Italian Song Festival ,she heard the song,"Io Che Non Vivo(Senza Te)". She recorded the American version,"You Don't Have To SayYou Love Me", with lyrics written by her good friend Vickie Wickham and her future manager Simon Napier-Bell. It became her second #1 hit.

Springfield played a big part in introducing Motown artists to a wider British audience both through her recorded cover songs and her role in facilitating the first tv appearances of Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson And The Miracles and Martha And The Vandellas on a special edition of the tv program Ready,Steady, Go. The show aired April 28,1965 and also featured Springfield and Motown's studio band The Funk Brothers.
More hits followed , including "The Look Of Love",a Bacharach-David composition that was the centerpiece for the James Bond movie Casino Royale's soundtrack and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song in 1967. It went to #22 U.S.
Then came Memphis and "Son Of A Preacher Man".

It was a song on an album that proved to be the singer's most significant in terms of her career direction. In 1968, when the pop music landscape turned to the "undergound" sound with the likes of The Jefferson Airplane, Steppenwolf and Hendrix, Dusty's style of pop fell from favor. To invigorate her career and credibility she signed with Atlantic Records, and producers Arif Marden, Tom Dowd and Jerry Wexler Knew exactly what to do with a soulful voice like Dusty's . The album Dusty In Memphis was released in 1969 to critical acclaim and reached #6 on the U.S. charts with "Son Of A Preacher Man " as its centerpiece, helping the album sell over 2 million units.

Her carreer was up and down in the ensuing years , keeping busy on projects of varying success. It was in 1987 that she was invited by The Pet Shop Boys to sing on a tune called "What Have I Done To Deserve This". She accepted and the song went to #2 U.S. and U.K.
Dusty battled and defeated alcoholism and drug dependence . An admitted bisexual, she was also an advocate for animal protection. In 1994 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a period of remission, the cancer became aggressive again and she finally succumbed to the disease March 2,1999, ten days before she was inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
Hers is truly a voice to be missed.


  1. Fantastic singer. Great that Youtube has some old B&W footage from the 60s - just magical.

  2. Indeed M.O., The lady is definitely an icon in rock history. It was a pleasure reading and writing about her.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.