Dusty Springfield – circa 1966
“Being good isn’t always easy / No matter how hard I try” – ‘Son Of A Preacher Man’ (John Hurley, Ronnie Wilkins)
Some teeth are knocked out. British pop singer Dusty Springfield reels in shock. It is sometime around 1983 and she has just been smacked in the face with a cold saucepan. Pain and dismay struggle for supremacy in her mind. The singer’s assailant is the person she loves.
Dusty Springfield (16 April 1939 – 2 March 1999) is born Mary Isabel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien in London, England. She is the second child of Gerard O’Brien and his wife, Catherine O’Brien (nee Ryle). Gerard O’Brien works as a tax accountant and consultant. Catherine, known as Kay, hails from County Kerry, Ireland. Hence, Dusty says, “I’m a Celt.” Dusty’s elder brother is Dionysius (born 2 July 1934). It is a Roman Catholic family. “I used to go to confession and tell all my impure thoughts,” Dusty later giggles.
Dusty Springfield is raised in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire until the early 1950s. The family then moves to the West London borough of Ealing. As Mary O’Brien, Dusty attends St Anne’s Convent School, an all-girl educational facility, in Northfields. She graduates in 1960. Although the youngster enjoys a ‘comfortable middle class upbringing’, there are some odd aspects to her home-life. Her father, Gerard O’Brien, is a demanding perfectionist. Kay O’Brien and her two children develop the strange habit of food throwing. “I was a nowhere kid, not particularly good – not particularly bad,” says Dusty.
Mary O’Brien earns the nickname ‘Dusty’ for being a tomboy, for playing football with the boys. “I’m still trying to nail whoever called me that,” she later claims. “I sorta grew up with it and now I’m stuck with it.”
Dusty Springfield has ‘an oddly erotic, throaty voice.’ “I sounded like this when I was a kid,” she claims. To some, she sounds like a white girl with a black voice. When asked if this caused her any problems, Dusty’s response is, “Absolutely none.”
As Mary O’Brien, Dusty Springfield begins her professional singing career as a 19 year old in 1958. That year she joins Iris ‘Riss’ Long and Lynne Abrams as The Lana Sisters. The three girls are managed by the Joe Collins Agency and are signed to the Fontana record label. In 1958 they release their first single, ‘Chimes Of Arkady’. This is followed by three singles in 1959, ‘Buzzin’’, ‘Mr Dee-Jay’ and ‘Sittin’ On The Sidewalk’. The Lana Sisters issue another trio of singles in 1960: ‘My Mother’s Eyes’, ‘Tintarella De Luna’ and ‘Down South’. Having not made any significant impact, The Lana Sisters disband in 1960.
Meantime, Mary O’Brien’s brother, Dion O’Brien has been working with Tim Feild as a folk duo called The Kensington Squares. When The Lana Sisters call it a day, Dion invites his sister to join his act.
The new trio, The Springfields, debuts in 1960. It is at this point that Mary O’Brien adopts the stagename Dusty Springfield. Dion O’Brien changes his name too, becoming Tom Springfield. The line-up is Dusty Springfield (vocals), Tom Springfield (vocals, guitar) and Tim Feild (vocals, guitar). The Springfields start out on the Butlin’s Holiday Camp circuit in the U.K. It is not clear where the ‘Springfield’ name comes from. A Springfield rifle was a popular weapon in the old day of the Wild West (as seen in the movie ‘Springfield Rifle’ (1952) starring Gary Cooper), so that may fit with the act’s country music – folk music hybrid. Alternately, it may be as simple as ‘spring field’, an image that conjures up associations with a fresh, rural sound. Whatever its origins, The Springfields winning blend of music scores them a recording contract with the Philips label.
In 1960 the first wave of rock ‘n’ roll has passed and folk music is, arguably, more popular. The Springfields are considered ‘an antiseptic British equivalent of [U.S. folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary [1961-1971].’ Although there is some truth to this, as the dates show, The Springfields were in business before Peter, Paul & Mary. It might be more accurate to say both acts owe a debt to the (all-male) Kingston Trio whose folk song ‘Tom Dooley’ is a big hit in 1959, proving the mass appeal of clean-cut folk harmony performers. Dusty Springfield describes The Springfields as “a very cheerful pseudo folk pop group.” As a British act, what is almost unique about The Springfields is that their strongly American-influenced sound makes them popular in the U.S. as well as their native land. This is virtually unprecedented. Cliff Richard, England’s biggest rock star of the 1950s, had very minimal impact in America.
All The Springfields’ recordings are produced by Johnny Franz of Philips Records. Their first single is ‘Dear John’ in 1961. This is followed by two more 1961 singles, ‘Breakaway’ (UK no. 31) and ‘Bambino’ (UK no. 16), the 1961 EP ‘The Springfields’ and the debut album ‘Kinda Folksy’ (1961).
In 1962 Tim Feild is replaced by Mike Hurst, but The Springfields’ career only accelerates. They release four EPs: ‘Kinda Folksy No. 1’, ‘Kinda Folksy No. 2’, ‘Kinda Folksy No. 3’ and ‘Christmas With The Springfields’. The first Springfields single of the year is the one-off ‘Goodnight Irene’. ‘Silver Threads And Golden Needles’ (US no. 20), ‘Dear Hearts And Gentle People’ (US no. 95) and ‘Gotta Travel On’ (US no. 114) all come from the band’s second album, ‘Sliver Threads And Golden Needles’ (1962) (US no. 91). The song ‘Silver Threads And Golden Needles’ has finger-pickin’ guitars over a stomped-out rhythm and boasts an almost yodelling vocal. The song is written by Jack Rhodes and Dick Reynolds and was originally recorded by U.S. singer Wanda Jackson in 1956. Linda Ronstadt records a notable cover version of the same song in 1973. The Springfields draw sufficient attention in the U.S.A. to journey to Nashville, Tennessee, one of the primary centres for country music. During a stopover in New York City on the way to Nashville in 1962 Dusty Springfield hears The Exciters’ ‘Tell Him’. This is a rhythm and blues song by an African-American vocal group and it gives a pointer to Dusty’s subsequent solo career. Tom Springfield is the author of The Springfields’ remaining 1962 single, ‘Island Of Dreams’ (UK no. 5, US no. 129). Its strong country twang is offset by a sugary phalanx of violins and cellos. ‘Island Of Dreams’ stays on the British singles chart for twenty-six weeks.
The Springfields’ 1963 output includes the EP ‘Hit Sounds’ and the album ‘Folk Songs From The Hills’ (1963). ‘Say I Won’t Be There’ (UK no. 5), another Tom Springfield composition, has a strong American country music flavour. The single hits the British charts in March and hangs about for fifteen weeks. ‘Come On Home’ (UK no. 6) is The Springfields’ last single. The coming of The Beatles, Britain’s biggest rock band of the 1960s, convinces Tom Springfield that his country folk trio is headed for obsolescence, so he considers it time to call it quits. This move also allows Dusty Springfield to begin a solo career. The Springfields bow out with a concert at the London Palladium on 11 October 1963.
Dusty Springfield becomes ‘a mod icon’. The five foot, three inch (1.60 metres) singer is famed for her ‘”panda” eye make-up [thick mascara] and elaborate coiffure.’ Dusty claims, “Pop singers were never expected to be fashion models or wear the right kind of clothes. They were just characters – and I certainly was with [my hair piled high into a] beehive [hairdo] and all that.” Despite this assertion, there are also accounts of recording sessions being delayed because Dusty Springfield insisted on being in full make-up before entering the studio. If she is not aiming at being a ‘fashion model’, she is still extremely conscientious about her image.
As a solo act, Dusty Springfield remains with Philips Records. Johnny Franz remains the producer of most of her 1960s recording sessions. Although she has the odd credit here and there, Dusty Springfield is not really a songwriter. She records a few cover versions, but most of her catalogue is original songs provided by professional songwriters. Since Johnny Franz is directly employed by Philips and Springfield is one of the label’s hottest properties, it may be thought that he would gather material for her. Possibly he did offer suggestions, but when asked who chose her hits, Dusty Springfield quite forcefully insists, “I did.” She expresses a preference for some of her favourite songwriters: “I always did love Carole King and Burt Bacharach.” Only selected songs will have their authors detailed here since there are so many other hands involved.
Dusty Springfield notes that she is part of a wave of female singers. “It was a time when Cilla [Black] happened and then me and then Sandie [Shaw] and all of us had a stronger style than the singers who preceded us.” There are virtually no notable British female pop singers before this trio. Cilla Black barely arrives before Dusty Springfield (as a solo act); Cilla Black’s first hit single, ‘Love Of The Loved’, debuts in September 1963. Her better known hits, ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’ and ‘You’re My World’, both come from 1964. Sandie Shaw’s best known song, ‘Puppet On A String’, comes from 1967.
Dusty Springfield’s music can be divided into four main divisions: country music, pop music, rhythm and blues (or soul) and what Dusty calls “big, ballady things.” The country music component is a holdover from her days with The Springfields. Although as a solo act, country music plays a much diminished role in Dusty Springfield’s work, a trace of it still crops up occasionally. Pop music is the basic default setting for the singer. She seeks widespread success and acclaim, she seeks popularity, rather than courting a devoted but marginal audience. Rhythm and blues – and later soul – is perhaps the most interesting aspect of Dusty Springfield’s catalogue. This is the music inspired by her fondness for The Exciters’ ‘Tell Him’ in 1962. Since rhythm and blues is almost exclusively the province of African-American acts, this plays into the observation noted earlier that Springfield sounds like a white girl with a black voice. She becomes quite a champion of the style, even hosting a British television special, ‘The Sound of Motown’ in 1965, about perhaps the most famous black music record company. The “big, ballady things” can be subdivided into two groups: dramatic Euro-pop and sophisticated supper club sounds. Dusty Springfield develops a taste for the grand gestures cultivated by Britain’s allegedly more passionate Continental cousins. These songs are like mini-operas, full of extreme heartbreak and overpowering love. The other half of the “big, ballady things” are tunes that seem designed to alter Dusty’s profile from headstrong pop star to more adult all-round entertainer. “I don’t particularly want to be a cabaret type of entertainer,” she claims. Yet, if Springfield’s boast about choosing her own hits is true, she certainly selects some material that moves in that direction. Added together, all these traits may seem a bit contradictory and conflicted, but that too is a valid reflection of the performer.
‘When Dusty announces plans to go solo, after the break-up of The Springfields back in the autumn of 1963, there are those who question the wisdom of such a decision made at a time when the pop charts are dominated by male pop groups and singers.’ Dusty Springfield points out, “I had three weeks off before my first solo hit, so I didn’t have to struggle. Part of that was quite calculated and part of it was a huge amount of luck.” ‘I Only Want To Be With You’ (UK no. 4, US no. 12, AUS no. 6) enters the British singles chart on 21 November 1963. This is a winner from the start and is Dusty Springfield’s best song. It has ‘a dramatic sound and soulful melody.’ “Oh can’t you see / That ever since we met / You’ve had a hold on me / It happens to be true / I only want to be with you,” sings Dusty in a huggable fit of giddy happiness. This bustling track is written by Mike Hawker and Ivor Raymonde. While the melody is pure pop, Springfield’s delivery has a brashly metallic quality, more akin to rhythm and blues singers. This merger of the most appealing strains of Dusty Springfield’s music makes this song her signature piece.
Television helps Dusty Springfield’s career gain momentum. ‘I Only Want To Be With You’ is the first song on the first episode of Britain’s long-running television music program ‘Top of the Pops’ in 1964. She also appears in the fondly remembered ‘Ready Steady Go’ from the start.
The EP ‘I Only Want To Be With You’ (UK no. 8) comes out in March 1964. In the same month, Dusty Springfield’s second single, ‘Stay Awhile’ (UK no. 13, US no. 38, AUS no. 27), is released. This is another Mike Hawker-Ivor Raymonde composition. “Stay awhile / Let me hold you,” Dusty urges, “Stay awhile / Till I’ve told you / Of the love that I feel tonight.” This track is a bit less frantic than its predecessor.
In 1964 Dusty Springfield is the first to record ‘(They Long To Be) Close To You’, a song fated to be a hit for The Carpenters in 1970. Dusty’s own version is held back and goes unreleased at this time.
April brings ‘A Girl Called Dusty’ (1964) (UK no. 6), the singer’s first full-length album. This set includes ‘Wishin’ And Hopin’ (US no. 6, AUS no. 2), which becomes an American hit. This is the first of the songs by Burt Bacharach and Hal David recorded by Dusty Springfield. U.S. songstress Dionne Warwicke is the best known interpreter of their sophisticated, grown-up brand of pop, but Springfield also favours their work. The incantatory ‘Wishin’ And Hopin’’ finds a genteel Dusty warning that “Wishin’ and hopin’ / And thinkin’ and prayin’ / And plannin’ and schemin’ / Each night of his charms / It won’t get you into his arms,” and suggesting more direct action.
‘All Cried Out’ (US no. 41, AUS no. 56), penned by Buddy Kaye and Phil Springer, is Dusty Springfield’s next single in 1964. It is both classy and melodramatic. Its underlying drive is reminiscent of The Supremes, Motown’s top girl group. Summer 1964 brings another Bacharach-David composition, ‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself’ (UK no. 3, AUS no. 16). In this poised slice of pop perfection, a disconsolate Dusty wails, “I just don’t know what to do with myself / I’m so used to doing everything with you / Planning everything for two / And now that we’re through…” Although it’s a sad song, it’s still catchy and the drums boom like cannons. This is followed by ‘Guess Who’ (US no. 109) backed with ‘Live It Up’ (US no. 128).
Dusty Springfield is deported from South Africa in 1964 after refusing to perform before racially segregated audiences. From 1948 to 1994 South Africa’s policy of apartheid discriminates against the country’s black majority. It’s easy to see how Springfield, a big booster of African-American recording artists, would find such arrangements distasteful.
The EP ‘Dusty’ (UK no. 3) is released in September 1964. In November 1964 comes the single ‘Losing You’ (UK no. 9, US no. 91, AUS no. 83), a song co-written by Dusty’s brother, Tom Springfield, and Clive Westlake. This track is full of grandiose gestures of heartache: “How many tears do you cry, if love should break your heart in two? / How many tears will I cry now that I know I’m losing you?”
From 28 to 30 January 1965 Dusty Springfield attends the Italian Song Festival. The experience gives her a taste for the brand of pop music found in a non-English speaking European country.
‘Your Hurtin’ Kind Of Love’ (UK no. 37) is Dusty Springfield’s first single for 1965. The EP ‘Dusty In New York’ (UK no. 13) is released in May 1965. July 1965 brings two singles, ‘In The Middle Of Nowhere’ and ‘Some Of Your Lovin’’. ‘In The Middle Of Nowhere’ (UK no. 8, US no. 108, AUS no. 56), co-written by Buddy Kaye and Bea Verdi, is the most country music thing Dusty has done since The Springfields broke up. It’s brassy arrangement pushes a sassy Springfield to let rip in a rough and ready voice, “Baby, you know that I love you / But I can’t wait forever!” The lazy, summery feel of ‘Some Of Your Lovin’’ (UK no. 8, AUS no. 88) finds a more languid Dusty stirring herself to sing, “Now I don’t expect you to guarantee / Your faith and devotion to only me / I’m aware you got a lot of wild oats to sow / But baby when I need you, don’t you tell me no.” ‘Some Of Your Lovin’’ is the work of American husband and wife songwriting team Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Apparently, Dusty Springfield regards this as her favourite single. ‘Mademoiselle Dusty’ (UK no. 17) in July 1965 is the singer’s final EP. The album ‘Sheer Magic’ (1965) (UK no. 6) (later retitled ‘Ev’rything’s Coming Up Dusty’) arrives in October.
The February 1966 single ‘Little By Little’ (UK no. 17) is written by Buddy Kaye, Bea Verdi and Eddie Gin. In this big and brassy number, Dusty Springfield lets fly with these sentiments: “Little by little, bit by bit / I’m goin’ crazy and you’re causing it / Little by little, bit by bit / I should stop caring but my love won’t quit.” This is followed in March 1966 by Dusty Springfield’s most commercially successful single, a disc that sells over two million copies, ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ (UK no. 1, US no. 4, AUS no. 2). This is a cover version of an Italian pop song. In its original form of ‘Io Che No Vivo (Senza Te)’ by Pino Donaggio, it topped the Italian charts in March 1965. Pino Donaggio co-wrote the original with Vita Pallavicini and it is re-worked into the English language ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ by Simon Napier-Bell and Vicki Wickham. “You don’t have to say you love me, just be close at hand / You don’t have to stay forever, I will understand,” sings Springfield, wringing every ounce of emotion out of this oh-so-dramatic ballad. It’s a gloriously over-the-top performance.
In 1966 Dusty Springfield has her own television musical variety show. Six episodes of ‘Dusty’ air on BBC TV in 1966. The singer becomes a fixture of broadcasting with similar productions for the next few years: ‘Dusty’ – six episodes in 1967 on the BBC; ‘It Must Be Dusty’ – seven episodes for ITV in 1968; and ‘Decidedly Dusty’ – returning to the BBC for eight episodes in 1969.
Dusty Springfield releases two more singles in 1966. In summer there is ‘Goin’ Back’ (UK no. 10, AUS no. 24), a contemplative and nostalgic tune: “I think I’m goin’ back to the things I learned so well in my youth / I think I’m returning to those days when I was young enough to know the truth.” The song is written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, the authors of ‘Some Of Your Lovin’’. Carole King is so moved by Springfield’s rendition she is reported to burst into ‘tears on first hearing.’ ‘All I See Is You’ (UK no. 9, US no. 20, AUS no. 21) arrives in October 1966. “The days have come and gone since you were here / Nights are twice as long without you near / Pictures in my mind stand out so clear / No matter where I am or what I do, my darling, all I see is you,” is Dusty’s vocal proclamation. Some mistakenly believe this, like ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’, is a translated Italian ballad. Due to its big, sweeping sound, this is perhaps understandable. However, ‘All I See Is You’ is written by Clive Westlake and Ben Weisman. The confusion may also be due to the song spawning an Italian language hit cover version.
In 1966 Dusty Springfield makes her U.S. nightclub debut in New York.
From 1966 to 1970 Dusty Springfield is in a romantic relationship with another woman, Norma Tanega, a songwriter and painter. The two share a house together in England but their association is more intimate than just housemates. Publicly, Dusty Springfield’s image is that of a happy heterosexual; at this stage, her true sexual inclinations remain secret.
Dusty Springfield is hospitalised several times due to cutting herself in episodes of self-harm. She is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It is not clear when these incidents take place or when the assessment of her mental health is made. They could predate her show business career or may not arise until later years. They are mentioned at this point because the most obvious cause of the problems is her denial of her true sexuality. These tendencies have their origin much earlier in life. The tomboy behaviour that earned her the nickname ‘Dusty’ and the all-girl convent school she attended can be seen in a different light now. Yet, equally, Dusty Springfield was raised in a Catholic household where same sex relationships would be forbidden. This gives rise to deeply conflicted emotions. Dusty’s mental health problems may also be connected to her career. Her father, Gerard O’Brien, was a perfectionist and his daughter is similarly inclined. ‘Her constant striving for musical perfection has become part of pop music folklore.’ Conscientiousness is admirable, but perfectionism breeds self-doubt and nagging feelings of inadequacy. Couple with Dusty’s sexually conflicted nature, it’s a dangerous combination. The O’Brien household, with its aberrant food-throwing behaviour, hardly gave Mary/Dusty a good grounding in mental stability either.
Dusty Springfield spends most of 1967 in the United States. ‘I’ll Try Anything’ (UK no. 13, US no. 40, AUS no. 38) is recorded in New York. The song is written by Mark Barkan and Victor Melrose. It is a pacey and desperate tribute to all-conquering love: “I’ll cheat and I’ll lie, I’ll try till I die / Till I make you my man.” ‘The Look Of Love’ (US no. 22) b/w ‘Give Me Time’ (UK no. 24, US no. 76) is the next single for 1967. ‘The Look Of Love’, ‘a bossa nova-inflected classic positively radiating dreamlike sensuousness’, is another Burt Bacharach and Hal David composition. It first appears on the soundtrack to the movie ‘Casino Royale’ (1967), a comedy version of a James Bond spy story. Dusty’s other single for 1967 is ‘What’s It Gonna Be’ (US no. 49, AUS no. 45). The album released in October, ‘Where Am I Going?’ (1967) (UK no. 40), takes its title track from the musical ‘Sweet Charity’. It is on this album that Springfield’s version of ‘(They Long To Be) Close To You’, recorded back in 1964, finally surfaces.
The July 1968 single, ‘I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten’ (UK no. 4, US no. 122, AUS no. 67) (“And when I open them, you’re still here,” adds Dusty Springfield’s vocal in awed amazement), is written by Clive Westlake. This is grand opera masquerading as pop. ‘I Will Come To You’ (AUS no. 64) also dates from 1968. ‘Dusty…Definitely’ (1968) (UK no. 30) is released in October.
Up to this point, Philips Records has released Dusty Springfield’s albums in different formats for the U.S. market. Songs from the British albums, EPs and singles are all poured into the following U.S. albums: June’s ‘Stay Awhile’ (1964) (US no. 62), October’s ‘Dusty’ (1964) (US no. 136), ‘Ooooooweeee!!!’ (1965), ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ (1966) (US no. 77) and ‘The Look Of Love’ (1967) (US no. 135).
‘Dusty In Memphis’ (1969) (US no. 99), released in March, is issued through Atlantic Records in the U.S. in the same form as its British counterpart. Despite its modest showing on the charts, this is Dusty Springfield’s best album. Production duties are shared between Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin and Tom Dowd. The recording has a difficult genesis. Soul music has largely overtaken rhythm and blues by this time. Soul borrows characteristics from gospel music and transposes them to a secular setting. Soul is almost exclusively the domain of African-American singers, so for a white British woman to attempt a soul album is a bold move. Jerry Wexler books a recording session at Muscle Shoals studios in Alabama and offers Dusty Springfield a list of eighty songs for the project. She rejects them all. A few months later, she reconsiders and approves fifteen of them. Recording sessions that had been booked at Muscle Shoals are hastily reconvened at American Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, instead. Although the basic tracks are laid down, the producers are unable to coax Dusty Springfield to actually sing. A combination of her own recurrent self-doubt and a realisation of the daring of the project seems to cause her to freeze up. The tapes are taken to New York for orchestration to be added and it is here that Springfield finally overcomes her fears and records the vocals. So, calling the album ‘Dusty In Memphis’ is a bit of a distortion. The album’s most famous track is ‘Son Of A Preacher Man’ (UK no. 9, US no. 10, AUS no. 6), written by John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins. It was originally offered to Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, but she turned it down due to its confronting subject matter. “Billy Ray was a preacher’s son / And when his daddy would visit he’d come along,” runs the lyric as Dusty’s narrator explains how she came to fall for the holy man’s offspring. It’s a quintessential soul arrangement punctuated by twanging guitar and blaring horns. The album’s ‘blazing soul and sexual honesty’ is also on show in ‘Don’t Forget About Me’ (US no. 64) and ‘Breakfast In Bed’ (US no. 91), two tracks paired up as a single. Dusty Springfield’s on more familiar ground with ‘Windmills Of Your Mind’ (US no. 31, AUS no. 40), an English language reworking of a European song. Frenchman Michel Legrand originally recorded ‘Les Moulins De Mon Coeur’ with French lyrics by Eddie Marnay. Legrand’s melody is given English lyrics by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman. It is first recorded in English by Noel Harrison for the soundtrack of the movie ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’ (1968). Dusty’s treatment of the song makes it seem like a cool, folky, hippie chick anthem. Another song from this set is lifted as a single, ‘In The Land Of Make Believe’ (US no. 113). ‘Dusty In Memphis’ is regarded as ‘one of the best albums ever recorded by a British female singer.’
‘Brand New Me’ (1970) (US no. 107) is released in January in the U.S. Three months later, it is released in Britain under the title ‘From Dusty With Love’. This album is produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff who are busy setting up a new black pop music empire in Philadelphia. ‘Brand New Me’ (US no. 24, AUS no. 80) is Dusty Springfield’s last notable hit for some time.
A 1970 interview sees Dusty Springfield being unexpectedly candid. “I’m perfectly as capable of being swayed by a girl as by a boy,” she admits. She goes on to add, “I’m promiscuous. Not often. But when I am, I really am. I’m not a nymphomaniac.”
On other days, Dusty Springfield muses, “It’s marvellous to be popular, but foolish to think it will last.” She also claims, “I’m always a bit surprised to sell records anyway,” as the self-doubt bubbles to the surface.
In 1970 Dusty Springfield moves to the U.S.A. to take up residence. “I had a run from 1963 through to 1970, then I went to the States and sort of floated around there and did bits and pieces for three years.” On another occasion, she puts it this way: “The minute I saw my record sales in England start to dip, I saw the future and I didn’t like it. I’d always had this romantic idea about America and indeed I went over and functioned very well for a while, but they really didn’t know what to do with me. I’d always been a bit of a maverick.”
‘See All Her Faces’ (1972) is released in the U.K. only. ‘Cameo’ (1973) (US no. 212) is released in the U.S. in February on ABC/Dunhill Records and a month later in the U.K. on Philips. ‘Longing’ (1974) is recorded for ABC/Dunhill but goes unreleased (most of the tracks are eventually issued nearly three decades later under the name ‘Beautiful Soul’ (2001)).
In 1972 Dusty Springfield admits to being bisexual, though her 1970 interview had already made that pretty clear. From 1972 to 1978 she is in a relationship with Faye Harris, a U.S. photojournalist. Dusty Springfield is ‘never reported to be in a heterosexual relationship.’ In 1973 she says, “I mean, people say that I’m gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay. I’m not anything. I’m just…people are people…I basically want to be straight…I go from men to women…I don’t’ give a s***. The catch phrase is: I can’t love a man. Now, that’s my hang-up. To love, to go to bed, fantastic; but to love a man is my prime ambition. They frighten me.” This shows that, despite professing to be bisexual, Dusty Springfield is still deeply conflicted. It seems that her male lovers – all of whom remain unknown – may satisfy some physical need but, emotionally, it is women who become the persons to whom the singer gives her heart.
The next few years of Dusty Springfield’s life are murky. It is said she ‘lives in semi-retirement’, that ‘she lives somewhat reclusively in America.’ More darkly, there are ‘rumours of personal problems’ and ‘that the problems of her personal life intrude on her professional one.’ Most troublingly, she is ‘battling substance abuse problems’ and ‘a downward spiral of drugs and drink follow for most of the 1970s.’
Dusty Springfield resurfaces with ‘It Begins Again’ (1978) (UK no. 41) and ‘Living Without Your Love’ (1979). These albums are released on Mercury in the U.K. and United Artists in the U.S. but ‘both attract little notice.’
In 1981 Dusty Springfield is in a relationship with Carole Pope, a singer and musician from a rock band called Rough Trade.
‘White Heat’ (1982) is recorded in London, but is only released in the U.S. on the Casablanca label. This set includes the hushed and fragile ‘Time And Time Again.’
In 1982 Dusty Springfield begins a relationship with American actress Teda Bracci. The couple meet at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in 1982. They have a ‘tempestuous’ association. They move in together in April 1983 and ‘marry’ seven months later. Same sex marriages are not legally recognised at the time, but the couple want to have the ceremony anyway. It is Teda Bracci who hits Dusty Springfield in the mouth with a cold saucepan, knocking teeth out, during ‘a heated argument.’ Springfield retaliates by ‘grabbing a skillet and thumping her partner around the face.’ Both women wind up in hospital. Dusty Springfield’s injuries require plastic surgery to correct. Dusty Springfield’s relationship with Teda Bracci ends in 1984.
In 1987 British synth pop duo The Pet Shop Boys (Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe) ask Dusty Springfield to share the vocals on their song ‘What Have I Done To Deserve This?’ (UK no. 2, US no. 2, AUS no. 22). This initiates the biggest comeback of the latter part of Dusty Springfield’s career. Dusty says the request from The Pet Shop Boys came “out of the blue”, but Neil Tennant is said to be ‘a long-time Dusty devotee.’ The electronic keyboard-heavy chill atmosphere of synth pop seems to be animated by Springfield’s warmly emotional vocals.
The Pet Shop Boys write ‘Nothing Has Been Proved’ (UK no. 16) which Dusty Springfield sings over the closing credits of the movie ‘Scandal’ (1989). The movie is about the Profumo affair. In 1961, John Profumo, Secretary of State for War in the British government, had a sexual liaison with a call girl, 19 year old Christine Keeler. The would-be model was also seeing a Russian naval attaché, so when the matter became public knowledge, there were concerns about a possible security risk. An official enquiry ultimately declared there was no security breach.
The Pet Shop Boys also provide Dusty Springfield with another hit in December 1989, ‘In Private’ (UK no. 14).
‘Reputation’ (1990) (UK no. 18) is released only in the U.K. on the Parlophone label. The Pet Shop Boys produce a handful of tracks for the album, but this does not include ‘Reputation’ (UK no. 38), the title track and nominal single, which is written by Brian Spence and produced by Andy Richards. Nonetheless, it is a synth pop piece that sounds similar to The Pet Shop Boys. By now, Dusty Springfield’s voice is noticeably deeper and more mature.
‘A Very Fine Love’ (1995) (UK no. 43), released only in the U.K., is recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.A. for Columbia Records. It includes ‘Wherever Would I Be’ (UK no. 44), a duet with Daryl Hall (half of U.S. duo Daryl Hall And John Oates). During the recordings sessions, Dusty Springfield is diagnosed with breast cancer. After months of radiation therapy, the cancer is believed to be in remission.
In the summer of 1996 the cancer returns. In 1999 Dusty Springfield is awarded an O.B.E. (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) for her contributions to music. Shortly after, Dusty Springfield dies from breast cancer on 2 March 1999 at Henley-On Thames, Oxfordshire, England. She was 59.
Dusty Springfield leaves behind instructions that her money is to be used to care for her 13 year old cat, Nicholas.
Dusty Springfield’s best work was recorded in the 1960s. This covers a range of styles from the pop of ‘I Only Want To Be With You’ through the dramatic Euro-ballad ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ to the soul of ‘Son Of A Preacher Man’. Without minimising the seriousness of the incident, when Dusty Springfield was belted with a saucepan by her lover Teda Bracci around 1983, it just reinforced something she knew all along….love hurts. Part of the appeal of Dusty Springfield is that aching vulnerability in her voice. In retrospect, it is known that beneath the 1960s iconic hairstyles and make-up she was a deeply troubled person…but maybe that’s also got something to do with why her fans loved her. Dusty Springfield was ‘Britain’s greatest pop diva…the finest white soul singer of her era [and] a performer of remarkable emotional resonance.’ She was ‘synonymous with success, glamour and quality [and was] one of the most enduring female singing voices in the history of modern popular music.’
- wikipedia.org as at 24 March 2014
- Notable names database – nndb.com – as at 24 March 2014
- ‘Pebble Mill at One’ (U.K. television program, BBC1 Network) – Dusty Springfield interview conducted by Sarah Greene (1995)
- ‘The Evening Standard’ (U.K. newspaper) – Dusty Springfield interview conducted by Ray Connolly (1970) (reproduced on dangerounsminds.net)
- brainyquote.com as at 6 May 2014
- ‘The Don Lane Show’ (Australian television program, Nine Network) – Dusty Springfield interview conducted by Don Lane (1981)
- Internet movie database imdb.com as at 7 May 2014
- allmusic.com, ‘The Lana Sisters’ – no author credited, ‘Dusty Springfield’ by Jason Ankeny as at 2 May 2001
- ‘The Illustrated New Musical Express Encyclopedia of Rock’ by Nick Logan, Bob Woffinden (Salamander Books, 1978) p. 16, 217
- ‘This Morning’ (U.K. television program, ITV Network) – Dusty Springfield interview (1995)
- ‘Rolling Stone Rock Almanac’ by the Editors of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (Papermac, 1984) p. 44, 80, 86
- ‘The Illustrated Rock Handbook’ edited by Roxanne Streeter, Ray Bonds (Salamander Books, 1983) p. 178
- readysteadygirls.eu – no author credited – as at 7 May 2014
- ‘Goin’ Back – The Very Best Of Dusty Springfield’ – Sleeve notes by Chris White (Phonogram Ltd (London), 1994) p. 2, 3, 4, 5
- ‘Friday On My Mind’ by Ed Nimmervoll (Five Mile Press, 2004) p. 60
- ‘The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time’ – plus ‘The Making of “Dusty In Memphis” by Holly George-Warren – ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (February 2004) p. 47, 50
- artists.letssingit.com as at 6 May 2014
- lyricsfreak.com as at 3 May 2014
- ‘That Will Never Happen Again – A History of British Girl Singers of the 1960s’ by Roger Hollier (via simonbell.com) as at 7 May 2014
- ‘The Daily Mail’ (U.K. newspaper) ‘The Day Dusty Vowed I Only Want to be With You’ no author credited (4 August 2006) (reproduced on dailymail.co.uk)
- ‘Los Angeles Free Press’ (Los Angeles, U.S.A. newspaper) – Dusty Springfield interview (via (1) and (2) above)
- mothernaturenetwork – mnn.com – ‘Pets that Inherited a Fortune’ by Laura Moss (16 September 2011)
Song lyrics copyright Carlin Music with the exceptions of ‘Son Of A Preacher Man’ (EMI Music Ltd); ‘Losing You’ and ‘I Only Want To Be With You’ (both Springfield Music Ltd); ‘Stay Awhile’ (Intersong Music Ltd); ‘Little By Little’, ‘In The Middle Of Nowhere’ and ‘I’ll Try Anything’ (all three Budd Music Ltd/Elecstar Ltd); ‘Goin’ Back’ and ‘Some Of Your Lovin’ (both Screen Gems / EMI Music Ltd); ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ (SBK United Partnership); and ‘The Look Of Love’ (Control)
Last revised 28 May 2014