Dusty Springfield: Rolling Stones #35 of The 200 Greatest Singers of All Time (2023)

Dusty Springfield
Birth name: Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien
Born: April 16, 1939
West Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Died: March 2, 1999 
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom
Genres:  Pop, R&B, blue-eyed soul
Occupation: Singer, musician,
record producer, television presenter
Instruments: Vocals, guitar, piano, percussion

Dusty Springfield was a tom-boy. She earned her nickname by playing soccer with the guys. While a member of her brother's folk music trio, The Springfields, Dusty took Springfield as her stage name.

Rolling Stone magazine ranked her LP Dusty in Memphis number 83 on its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. She is a member of the Rock & Roll and UK Music Hall of Fame. In 2008, Dusty ranked number 35 on Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Singers of All Time." She held the number 35 position in the publication's 2023 list of The 200 Greatest Singers of All Time.

Silver Threads & Golden Needles (1962)

The Springfields
The Springfields

Dusty, her brother Tom, and Tim Field formed the folk-pop vocal trio The Springfields and had a US hit in 1962 with "Silver Threads and Golden Needles." It peaked at number 20 on the Billboard Top 40, the first single by a British group to reach the American Top 20.

I Only Want to Be with You (1964)
"You can't get a more pleasing compliment when you really 
go for the groups like the Shirelles and the Crystals, can you?"
Dusty Springfield
The Motown sound swept the nation while Dusty was touring the US with The Springfields. After hearing The Exciters' hit, "Tell Him," blaring from a record store in New York City, Springfield decided to introduce Britain to soul music. Her first stand-alone single as a solo artist was "I Only Want to Be With You. " 

Dusty Springfield
Dusty Springfield

Johnny Franz produced the song similarly to Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound." It included rhythm-and-blues features such as horn sections, backing singers,  double-tracked vocals,  and pop music strings in the style of the girl groups Springfield admired. The release finished at number 48 on New York's WABC radio Top 100 for 1964 and sold over one million copies. 

 Her distinctive, smoky voice earned her the nickname "The White Queen of Soul." Cliff Richard famously called her "The White Negress" in admiration of her talent. Said Springfield, "You can't get a more pleasing compliment when you really go for the groups like the Shirelles and the Crystals, can you."

Wishin' And Hopin' (1964)
"I remember talking Dusty into putting the record out. 
Dusty was always very insecure about her voice."
Burt Bacharach

Written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for Dionne Warwick as the B-side of Warwick's single "This Empty Place," Springfield recorded "Wishin' and Hopin'" late in 1963. The track was included on her debut album "A Girl Called Dusty" in the UK and "Stay Awhile/I Only Want to Be with You" in the US:

After a New York disc jockey, Jack Lacy, began playing "Wishin' and Hopin'" on air, Springfield's US record label issued it as a single in May 1964. By August, it peaked at 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, 4 on the Easy Listening and Cashbox charts, and 1 on The American Bandstand Top Ten. It was her first American Top-10. 


You Don't Have To Say You Love Me (1966)
"We'd no idea what the Italian lyric said. 
That seemed to be irrelevant and besides, 
it is much easier to write a new lyric completely."
Simon Napier-Bell for the book  1000 UK #1 Hits
"You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" was an Italian song, '"Io che non vivo senza te" (I Can't Live Without You"), composed by Pino Donnagio. Springfield heard him perform it at the 1965 San Remo festival

She asked her friend Vicki Wickham, who produced the British TV show Ready Steady Go, to write some English lyrics for it. She did with the help of The Yardbirds' manager, Simon Napier-Bell. In the book 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh, Simon Napier-Bell is quoted as saying: 

Dusty Springfield

"Vicki and I used to eat together, and she told me that Dusty wanted a lyric for this song. We went back to her flat and started working on it. We wanted to go to a trendy disco, so we had about an hour to write it. We wrote the chorus and the verse in a taxi to wherever we went. It was the first pop lyric I'd written, although I've always been interested in poetry and good literature. We'd need to learn what the Italian lyric said. That seemed irrelevant; writing a new lyric completely is much easier."

Springfield recorded it the next day, but it took 47 tapings to get the sound she wanted. The acoustics in the studio were unsatisfactory, so she moved everything into a stairwell to lay down the vocals.

Personal Life
"I'm perfectly as capable of being swayed by a girl as by a boy. 
More and more people feel that way and I don't see why I shouldn't."
Dusty Springfield to Ray Connolly of the Evening Standard
Because she was never in a heterosexual relationship, the issue of Springfield's sexual orientation was often raised. From mid-1966 to the early 1970s, she lived in a domestic partnership with fellow singer Norma Tanega. Asked about this for the September 1970 article  in the Evening Standard,  Dusty at 30 Springfield  answered:

"Many other people say I'm bent, and I've heard it so many times that I've almost learned to accept it. I'm as capable of being swayed by a girl and a boy. More and more people feel that way, and I don't see why I shouldn't."

Dusty Springfield September 1970  Evening Standard
Dusty Springfield in September 1970 for the Evening Standard

Three years later, she told the Los Angeles Free Press:

"I mean, people say that I'm gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay. I'm not anything. I basically want to be straight. I go from men to women; I don't give a sh*t. The catchphrase is: I can't love a man. Now, that's my hang-up. To love and go to bed is fantastic, but to love a man is my prime ambition. They frighten me."

Son Of A Preacher Man (1969)

"Son Of A Preacher Man" is about a young girl who sneaks off with the preacher's son when his dad comes to visit. He teaches her about love and is the only boy she's ever loved. It was initially offered to Aretha Franklin. Franklin, a preacher's daughter, thought it disrespectful and turned it down. Dusty Springfield's recording ranks number 242 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Quentin Tarantino revived interest in Springfield's music by including "Son of a Preacher Man" on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack in 1994. The record sold over three million copies and reached number six on the album charts. On the "Collectors Edition" DVD of Pulp Fiction, Tarantino said that if he couldn't get the rights for the track, he'd have cut the scene out of the movie. 


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