Dusty Springfield

Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien OBE (16 April 1939 – 2 March 1999), professionally known as Dusty Springfield, was a British singer and record producer whose career extended from the late 1950s to the 1990s. With her distinctive mezzo-soprano sound, she was a significant singer of blue-eyed soul, pop and dramatic ballads, with French chanson, country and jazz also in her repertoire. During her 1960s peak she ranked among the most successful British female performers on both sides of the Atlantic and her image – marked by a peroxide blonde bouffant/beehive hairstyle, heavy makeup (thick black eyeliner and eye shadow) and evening gowns, as well as stylised, gestural performances – made her an icon of the Swinging Sixties. A fixture of British television, she presented many episodes of the hip 1963–66 British TV music series Ready Steady Go! and, between 1966 and 69, hosted her own series on both the BBC and ITV. In 1966 Springfield topped a number of popularity polls including Melody Maker's Best International Vocalist, and was the first UK singer to top the New Musical Express readers' poll for Female Singer. She is a member of both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the UK Music Hall of Fame. International polls have cited Springfield as one of the finest female popular singers of all time.

Born in West Hampstead in London into a family that enjoyed music, Springfield learned to sing at home. In 1958 she joined her first professional group, The Lana Sisters, and two years later, with her brother Tom Springfield and Tim Feild, formed the folk-pop vocal trio The Springfields. Two of their five 1961–63 Top 40 UK hits – "Island of Dreams" and "Say I Won't Be There" – reached no. 5 in the charts, both in the spring of 1963. Their cover of "Silver Threads and Golden Needles" peaked at no. 20 in the US in September 1962.

Springfield's solo career began in late 1963 with the upbeat pop record "I Only Want to Be with You" — a huge UK no. 4 hit, and the first of her six transatlantic Top 40 hits in the 1960s, along with “Stay Awhile” (1964), "All I See Is You" (1966), "I'll Try Anything" (1967) and the two releases now considered her signature songs: "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" (1966 UK no. 1/US no. 4) and "Son of a Preacher Man" (1968/69 UK no. 9/US no. 10).

She hit big in her native Britain with several career-defining singles which in America either failed to chart or were not released: "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself" (1964), “In the Middle of Nowhere" and "Some of Your Lovin'" (both 1965), "Little by Little" and "Goin' Back" (both 1966), and "I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten" (1968). Plus the 1964 Top Ten "Losing You" (US no. 91), written by her brother Tom, and the 1965 Top 40 hit "You're Hurtin' Kinda Love".

Conversely, she charted in the US (but not in the UK) with "Wishin' and Hopin' " (1964) and "The Look of Love" (1967) – two of her several acclaimed covers of songs by Burt Bacharach and Hal David — and the two 1969 hits "The Windmills of Your Mind" and "A Brand New Me". Plus "All Cried Out" (1964) and "What's It Gonna Be?" (1967), both of which peaked just outside the Top 40.

Notable interpretations of songs associated primarily with other artists (but which have appeared on Springfield hits packages) include "Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa", "You Don't Own Me", "La Bamba", "If You Go Away", "Piece of My Heart" (released as “Take Another Little Piece of My Heart”), "I Think It's Gonna Rain Today", "Spooky", "How Can I Be Sure" (1970 UK no. 36) and "Yesterday When I Was Young".

Between 1971 and 1986 – a period marked by just five album releases – Springfield failed to register with a hit (aside from a minor 1979 UK chart appearance), but her 1987 collaboration with UK synthpop duo the Pet Shop Boys, "What Have I Done to Deserve This?", took her back to the top of the charts, reaching no. 2 on both the UK singles chart and Billboard's Hot 100. The collaboration also yielded two 1989 UK Top 20 hits: "Nothing Has Been Proved" and "In Private". In 1990 Springfield charted with “Reputation” – the last of 25 Top 40 UK hits in which she features.

Springfield is known to have brought many little-known soul singers to the attention of a wider UK record-buying audience. In April 1965 she hosted a special Motown edition of the hugely popular British TV music series Ready Steady Go!, featuring the first national TV performances of many top-selling Motown artists. Although her music was not directly associated with the British music/dance movement northern soul, her efforts were seen as a contributing factor in the formation of the genre.

In 1968, to boost her credibility as a soul artist, Springfield went to Memphis, Tennessee, to record Dusty in Memphis – an album of pop and soul music – with the Atlantic Records main production team, though she recorded her vocals in New York. Released in 1969, it has been ranked among the greatest albums of all time by the US magazine Rolling Stone and in polls conducted by VH1, New Musical Express and UK TV network Channel 4. In 2001 the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and in March 2020 the US Library of Congress added it to the National Recording Registry, which preserves audio recordings considered to be "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant". However, the album did not sell well on its initial release. In 1970 she relocated to America, where Springfield experienced a career slump that lasted until her association with the Pet Shop Boys.

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