Dusty Springfield

April 16, 1939 - March 2, 1999

Dusty Springfield Artistfacts

  • Dusty Springfield was born Mary O'Brien to a Catholic family in North London, England. She was considered to be a tomboy and was given the nickname Dusty because she liked to play soccer with the boys. Later, her distinctive smoky voice earned her the nickname "The White Queen of Soul." Showing tremendous diversity, Springfield recorded in numerous genres, including rock, pop, folk, and country.
  • As a member of her brother's folk music trio, The Springfields, Dusty took on Springfield as her stage name. The group had a modest hit with "Silver Threads and Golden Needles" in 1962, but Springfield left the group to pursue a solo career in 1963. A fan of the Motown sound that was sweeping the United States, Springfield helped introduce Britain to soul music.
  • Cliff Richard famously called her "The White Negress," intending it as a compliment, which is how Dusty took it. "You can't get a more pleasing compliment when you really go for the groups like the Shirelles and the Crystals, can you," said Springfield.
  • Springfield was a performer and interviewer for the live British television program Ready Steady Go in the 1960s. Comparable to American Bandstand, British children rushed home after school to see and hear some of the biggest artists in music. Springfield interviewed The Beatles on the show in October 1963, just as Beatlemania was about to take off.
  • In addition to hits such as "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" and "The Look of Love," which was on the soundtrack for the James Bond film Casino Royale, Springfield is known for the 1969 single "Son Of A Preacher Man," from the album Dusty in Memphis. While the song was a hit, the album was a commercial flop. The album was originally supposed to be recorded in Memphis with session players who had played with Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding, but Springfield was so intimidated by her surroundings that she refused to sing there. Her vocals were done in New York and added in later. She was not happy with the final results, but Rolling Stone magazine ranked Dusty in Memphis as #89 on its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
  • After "Son of a Preacher Man," Springfield did not have another hit until 1987 when she sang with the Pet Shop Boys on "What Have I Done To Deserve This?." The song made it to #2 on both the US and UK charts. Springfield said she was such a fan of their song "West End Boys" that she nearly drove off the road when she first heard it. She readily agreed to make "What Have I Done to Deserve This" when approached by the Pet Shop Boys' lead singer, Neil Tennant.
  • Springfield battled drug and alcohol addiction at times, particularly in the early days of her career. In an interview with British television talk show host Michael Aspel in 1989, Springfield said, "I was addicted to all sorts of things in those days." She also commented that "stopping" was easy, but "it is not easy to stay stopped."
  • Springfield died after a five-year battle with breast cancer at the age of 59 in 1999. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later that year. Her fans hold "Dusty Day" every year in London to remember her music and raise money for breast cancer research. Country singer Shelby Lynne released a tribute album to Springfield in 2008 called Just a Little Lovin' and said she was so nervous about covering Springfield's hits, she had to resort to drinking a little extra whiskey to get through the sessions. Lynne told NPR that she would never try to cover "Son of A Preacher Man," though, which was like trying to cover Patsy Cline's "Crazy" and just should not be done.
  • Before forming The Springfields, Dusty was a member of the Lana Sisters, an all-girl group that toured throughout the US and UK.
  • She was particularly influenced by the Exciters' hit "Tell Him," which she heard blaring from a record store in New York City when she was on the verge of leaving The Springfields and their brand of folk music behind.

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