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Dusty Springfield

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Dusty Springfield 

I fell in love with Dusty Springfield in my sophmore year of high school.  Her voice and her music just captivated me.  She went on to become known as the best blue-eyed female soul singer.  Looking back at her life I find it interesting and eventful and so this month Dusty Springfield is in the spotlight.

After finishing school in 1958, Springfield responded to the advertisement to join an "established sister act" Lana Sisters. With the vocal group, she developed the art of harmonising, learned microphone technique, recorded, did some television and played live both in the UK and at American Air Bases.

In 1960 she left the band and formed the pop-folk trio the Springfields with her brother Dion O'Brien (now known as Tom Springfield) and Tim Feild. The new trio chose the Springfields as their name during a rehearsal in a field in Somerset in spring. She reflected on her time in the Springfields as a time of jolly and loud singing that wasn't always in tune. Intending to make an authentic American album, the Springfields travelled to Nashville to record the album Folk Songs from the Hills. During a stopover in New York City Springfield, already a fan of black vocal groups such as the Shirelles, heard "Tell Him" by the Exciters and was inspired by its sound. This helped to turn Springfield's career from the folk and country sounds of the Springfields towards pop music rooted in rhythm and blues. In the spring of 1963, the Springfields recorded their last UK Top 5 hit, "Say I Won't Be There", before disbanding. They played their last concert in October 1963. Dusty Springfield then went solo.

 

Dusty Springfield's first single, the soul-tinged "I Only Want to Be with You", was released in November 1963. The song, Springfield's first flirtation with American soul,  paid homage to Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" production style. The single rose to #4 in the British charts and #12 on Billboard Hot 100. The song was actually a "sure shot" pick on influential New York pop music station WMCA in December 1963, even before the station started playing the Beatles. The release eventually charted into the top 10 on WMCA's weekly top 25 countdown survey. It was #48 of the year 1964 of the Musicradio WABC Top. The song was also the first record played on the BBC's Top of the Pops.

As an apparently rushed work, her debut album, A Girl Called Dusty, included mostly covers of her favorite songs by other performers. On the album, the orchestral arrangements by Ivor Raymond and Johnny Franz drowned Springfield's voice, making it sound thin. Among the songs were "Mama Said", "When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes", "You Don't Own Me", and "Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa". The album reached UK #6 in May 1964. The chart hits "Stay Awhile", "All Cried Out", and "Losing You" followed the same year In 1964, Springfield recorded two Burt Bacharach songs: "Wishin' and Hopin'", a U.S. Top 10 hitand "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself", which reached UK #3.Springfield's tour of South Africa was interrupted in December 1964, after she performed before an integrated audience at a theater near Cape Town. Her flouting of government segregation policy resulted in her deportation from the country. The same year, she was voted Top Female British Artist in a New Musical Express poll, beating Lulu, Sandie Shaw, and Cilla Black  Dusty Springfield received the award again the following year.

In 1965, she released three more UK Top 40 hits: "Your Hurtin' Kinda Love", "In the Middle of Nowhere" and Carole King's "Some of Your Lovin'". These were not included on the album Ev'rything's Coming Up Dusty, featuring songs by Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley, Rod Argent, and Randy Newman, and a cover of the traditional Latin song, "La Bamba". The LP peaked at UK #6. Dusty Springfield campaigned to expose American soul singers to a wider audience on British television. Here she sings "Can't Hear You No More" on The Sound Of Motown edition of Ready Steady Go!, hosted by Dusty on April 28, 1965.

Because of her enthusiasm for Motown music, Springfield campaigned to get the little known American soul singers a better audience in the UK.  She hosted The Sound Of Motown, a Ready Steady Go! special edition, on April 28, 1965. The show was broadcast by Rediffusion TV from their Wembley Studios. Springfield opened the two parts of the show, performing "Wishin' and Hopin'" and "Can't Hear You No More", accompanied by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and Motown's in-house band The Funk Brothers. Other guests included The Temptations, The Supremes, The Miracles, Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye, In 1994, guests of the 1965 show credited Dusty's championing of their music for popularizing American soul music in the UK in the documentary, Dusty Springfield. Full Circle.  Springfield released three additional UK Top 20 hits in 1966: "Little By Little", Carole King's "Going Back" and "All I See Is You". In fall 1966, she hosted Dusty, a series of 6 BBC TV music and talk shows. A compilation of her singles, Golden Hits, released in November 1966, reached UK #2. Music sample:

The Bacharach-David composition "The Look of Love" was designed for the spoof Bond movie Casino Royale. The track was recorded in two versions at the Philips Studios of London. The soundtrack version was recorded on January, 29, and the single release version on April 14. The song is featured in the scene of Ursula Andress as Vesper Lynd persuading Peter Sellers as Evelyn Tremble, seen through a man-size aquarium. "The Look of Love" was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song of 1967. The song was a Top 10 radio hit at the KGB and KHJ radio stations. As in 1967 Dusty had trouble with charting hits in the US, the song earned her highest place in the year's charts, #22.

By the end of 1967, Dusty was becoming disillusioned with the show-business carousel on which she found herself trapped She appeared out of step with the Summer of Love and its attendant psychedelic music. The second season of the BBC Dusty TV shows, featuring performances of "Get Ready" and "I'll Try Anything", attracted a healthy audience, but was anathema to the sudden changes in pop music. The comparatively progressive and prophetically titled Where Am I Going? attempted to redress this. Containing a jazzy, orchestrated version of "Sunny", and Jacques Brel's "If You Go Away", it was an artistic success, but flopped commercially.  In 1968 a similar fate awaited Dusty... Definitely. On this her choice of material ranged from the rolling "Ain't No Sunshine" to the aching emotion of "I Think It's Gonna Rain Today. In the same year Dusty had a UK Top 5 hit "I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten". Her personal TV shows continued with the ITV series of It Must Be Dusty, including a duet with Jimi Hendrix on the song "Mockingbird". In the same year, Roger Moore presented her third Top British Female Artist award, voted by the readers of New Musical Express.

In 1968, Carole King, one of Springfield's songwriters, embarked on a singing career of her own, while the chart-busting Bacharach-David partnership was foundering. Springfield's status in the music industry was further complicated by the progressive music revolution and the uncomfortable split between what was underground and fashionable, and what was pop and unfashionable. In addition, her performing career was becoming bogged down on the UK touring circuit, which at that time largely consisted of working men's clubs and the hotel and cabaret circuit. Hoping to reinvigorate her career and boost her credibility, Springfield signed with Atlantic Records, home label of an idol of hers, Aretha Franklin. The Memphis sessions at the American Sound Studios were recorded by the A team of Atlantic Records: producers Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin,] the back-up vocal band Sweet Inspirations and the instrumental band Memphis Cats,  led by guitarist Reggie Young and bass player Tommy Cogbill. The producers were the first people to recognize that Springfield's natural soul voice should be placed at the fore, rather than competing with full string arrangements. Due to Springfield's pursuit of perfection and what Jerry Wexler called, a 'gigantic inferiority complex', her vocals were recorded later in New York. The LP Dusty in Memphis was a real drifting, cool, smart soul album. It was reviewed by the Rolling Stone Magazine as a piece of. “  ...blazing soul and sexual honesty...that transcended both race and geography.  ”

The LP fell short of the UK Top 40, and peaked at #99 on the Billboard Top 200. Dusty in Memphis received the Grammy Hall of Fame award in 2001. The album was listed among the 100 Greatest Albums of All Time by panels of artists from Rolling Stone and VH1, readers of New Musical Express, and viewers of Channel 4. The standout track of the album, "Son of a Preacher Man", reached #10 on UK, U.S. and international charts. The song was the 96th most popular song of 1969 in the United States. In 1994, the song was revived by Quentin Tarantino on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, which sold over three million copies.

In September and October 1969, Dusty Springfield hosted eight episodes of the BBC TV show Decidedly Dusty. In 1970, Springfield released her second album for Atlantic Records, A Brand New Me, featuring songs written and produced by Gamble and Huff. The album yielded a Billboard Top 25 single, "A Brand New Me". In 2007, its British counterpart, From Dusty With Love was listed among the 1000 Albums to Hear Before You Die by the Guardian newspaper. A third album for the Atlantic label, titled Faithful and produced by Jeff Barry, was abandoned because of poor sales of singles slated for the LP. Most of the material recorded for the aborted album was released on the 1999 reissue of Dusty in Memphis on Rhino Records. Her next album, See All Her Faces, was released only in Britain, having none of the cohesion of her previous two albums. In 1972, Springfield signed a contract with ABC Dunhill Records, and the resulting album, Cameo, was released in 1973 with little publicity.

In 1974, Springfield recorded the theme song for the TV series The Six Million Dollar Man. Her second ABC Dunhill album was given the working title Elements and scheduled for release as Longing. The sessions were soon abandoned. A part of the material, including tentative and incomplete vocals, was released on the 2001 compilation Beautiful Soul. She put her career on hold in 1974, living reclusively in the United States to avoid scrutiny by British tabloids. During this time she provided background vocals for Anne Murray's LP, Together and Elton John's LP Caribou, including the single "The Bitch is Back". Springfield released two albums on United Artists Records in the late '70s. The first was 1978's It Begins Again, produced by Roy Thomas Baker. The LP charted on both sides of the Atlantic and was well received by critics, but was not a commercial success. The 1979 album Living Without Your Love did slightly better. In London, she recorded two singles for her British label, Mercury Records. The first was the disco-influenced "Baby Blue", which reached #61 in Britain. The second, "Your Love Still Brings Me to My Knees", was Springfield's final single for Philips Records. In autumn 1979, Springfield played her first club dates in eight years in New York. On December 3, 1979, she performed a charity concert for a full house at The Royal Albert Hall, in the presence of Princess Margaret. She signed a U.S. deal with 20th Century Fox Records, which resulted in the single "It Goes Like It Goes". In 1980, Springfield recorded the song "Bits and Pieces", written by Dominic Frontiere and Norman Gimbel. Sections of the song are used twice in the film The Stunt Man. Springfield was uncharacteristically proud of her 1982 album White Heat, influenced by the New Wave genre. After the commercial failure of the album, she stopped drinking and tried to get her life back together. She tried to revive her career again in 1985 by returning to the United Kingdom and signing to Peter Stringfellow's Hippodrome Records label. This resulted in the single "Sometimes Like Butterflies" and an appearance on Stringfellow's live television show. None of Dusty Springfield's recordings from 1971 to 1986 charted on the UK or U.S. Top 40.

 In 1987, Dusty Springfield returned to the global scene on the promotional video of the song "What Have I Done to Deserve This?"

In 1987, she accepted an invitation from the Pet Shop Boys to sing with the duo's Neil Tennant on their single "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" and appear on the promotional video. The record rose to #2 on both the UK and U.S. charts. The song subsequently appeared on the Pet Shop Boys' album Actually, and both of their greatest hits collections. Springfield sang lead vocals on the Richard Carpenter track "Something in Your Eyes", recorded for Carpenter's album Time. Released as a single, it became a #12 Adult Contemporary hit in the United States. Springfield recorded a duet with B.J. Thomas, "As Long as We Got Each Other", which was used as the theme song for the U.S. sitcom Growing Pains.

A new compilation of Springfield's greatest hits, The Silver Collection, was issued in 1988. Springfield returned to the studio with the Pet Shop Boys, who produced her recording of their song "Nothing Has Been Proved", commissioned for the soundtrack of the film Scandal. Released as a single in early 1989, the song gave Springfield a UK Top 20 hit. So did its follow-up, the upbeat "In Private", written and produced by the Pet Shop Boys. She capitalised on this by recording the 1990 album Reputation, another UK Top 20 success. The writing and production credits for half the album, which included the two recent hit singles, went to the Pet Shop Boys, while the album's other producers included Dan Hartman. Before recording the Reputation album, Springfield decided to leave California for good, and by 1988, she had returned to Britain. In 1993, she was invited to record a duet with her former 1960s professional rival and friend, Cilla Black. The song, "Heart and Soul", appeared on Black's Through the Years album. In 1994, Springfield started recording the album A Very Fine Love for Sony Records. Some of the songs were written by well-known Nashville songwriters and produced with a typical country feel. The last song She recorded was the George and Ira Gershwin standard "Someone To Watch Over Me". The song was recorded in London in 1995 for an insurance company television advertisement. It was included on Simply Dusty (2002), the extensive anthology the singer had helped plan but did not live to see released.

While recording her final album, A Very Fine Love, in 1995 in Nashville, Springfield felt unwell. In England, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She received months of radiation treatment and, for a time, the cancer was in remission. In apparent good health again, Springfield set about promoting the album and gave a live performance of "Where Is a Woman to Go?" on the BBC television music show Later With Jools Holland, backed by Alison Moyet and Sinéad O'Connor. Cancer was detected again in the summer of 1996. After a fight, she was defeated by the illness in 1999. She died in Henley-on-Thames on the day she had been due to go to Buckingham Palace to receive her Order of the British Empire insignia. Before her death, officials of St James's Palace gave permission for the medal to be collected by Springfield's manager, Vicki Wickham. She duly presented it to the singer in hospital, where they had been joined by a small party of friends and relatives. Her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame had been scheduled for 10 days after her death. Elton John helped induct Springfield into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, stating: “I think she is the greatest white singer that there ever has been.  ”

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