Dusty Springfield was one of the top female vocalists of the 60's with hits on both the UK and USA pop charts, several of which were in the top ten.
She was born Mary O'Brien in London in 1939. She began singing with the Lana Sisters, then formed a group with her brother Tom and Mike Hurst. As a folk trio, The Springfields, they had hits in the UK with Say I Won't Be There and Island Of Dreams, and a top twenty song in the USA with Silver Threads And Golden Needles. The first song of her solo career, I Only Want To Be With You, was recorded in 1963 and made the top twenty in the USA early the following year.
More big hits followed. Wishin' and Hopin' and her biggest of the decade, You Don't Have To Say You Love Me, made the top ten in the USA, while Goin' Back did the same in her native country.
Dusty Springfield was a big fan of Motown-type songs and was one of only a few white singers who could successfully replicate such songs. She paid close attention to which songs she would agree to record and which she would not, which set her apart from rivals such as Sandie Shaw and Cilla Black in the UK. This ability to choose the right songs contributed a great deal to her success in the recording industry.
Until the late 60's Dusty had recorded for the Philips label. In 1969 she collaborated with Jerry Wexler at Atlantic to record the album that many regard as her best Dusty in Memphis. It included still another top ten song, Son-Of-A Preacher Man.
In 1972 Dusty moved to Los Angeles. She recorded her album Cameo in 1973 then backed off from recording for a few years, save for some back-up work with Anne Murray. Her records were not selling as well as they had in the 60's, and Dusty began to get involved in animal welfare causes. K-Tel compiled an album The Very Best Of Dusty Springfield in the early 80's that is a good representation of her music. Her long-awaited return came in 1978 with It Begins Again and in 1982 with Whiteheat, but neither album sold very well. Another attempt backed by London nightclub owner Peter Stringfellow in 1986 met with similar results. But a song she did in 1987 with the British act The Pet Shop Boys, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, What Have I Done To Deserve This?, was a smashing success and brought her all the way to number two on the USA charts. She sounds as good on this one as she does on anything she ever recorded. Dusty returned to England permanently in 1987.
Dusty Springfield's songs have been covered over the years by artists such as The Tourists, The Byrds, Neil Lofgren, and Bruce Springsteen. Dusty had made appearances on the British television series Ready Steady Go in the 60's and when those shows were released on video tape it enhanced her career and enabled a new generation to discover her.
In 1994 Dusty Springfield was diagnosed with breast cancer. She appeared to have beaten it a year later, but there was a re-occurence in 1996 and her health deteriorated. She died on March 2, 1999, just eleven days before she was scheduled for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A biography by Lucy O'Brien titled simply "Dusty" was published in 1999.
Perhaps one the greatest compliments paid to Dusty Springfield came from her agent, Paul Fenn, shortly after her death. ``She was one of the icons of the music industry,'' Fenn said. ``She was one of the most talented female singers of this century.''
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