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Dusty Springfield

Biography

Dusty Springfield
Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

Dusty Springfield's husky voice made her one of Britain's best-selling pop-rock singers in the 1960s. She and her brother Tom began harmonizing with radio hits as children. Dusty briefly recorded with the Lana Sisters before she and Tom formed a folk trio, the Springfields, with Tim Field. The group, a British equivalent of Peter, Paul and Mary, had U.K. chart hits in 1962–63 with "Island of Dreams" and "Say I Won't Be There," and hit the American Top 20 in 1962 with "Silver Threads and Golden Needles." That year, Field quit, replaced by Mike Hurst (who later produced Cat Stevens), before the trio disbanded. Tom found success as a songwriter for the Seekers, among others.

Springfield continued on her own. In late 1963 she had a British Top 10 hit with "I Only Want to Be With You," which went to Number 12 in the U.S. in early 1964 and eventually went gold. The tune has since been covered by many other performers. That song was Springfield's first flirtation with Motown-style soul, a sound to which she would often return. She toured the world and had British hits through 1964–65 with Bacharach-David's "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself" and "Wishin' and Hopin'," and with Goffin-King's "Some of Your Lovin'" and "Goin' Back." In 1966 "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" was Number One in the U.K. and Number 4 in the U.S. She continued to tour extensively and made TV appearances with Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck, and on The Ed Sullivan Show. In 1969, with producers Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin, and Tom Dowd, she recorded Dusty in Memphis, which yielded the Top 10 international hit single "Son of a Preacher Man." In 1970 she moved back toward pop with Brand New Me, which contained "Land of Make Believe," "Silly Silly Fool," and the title cut. In England her popularity declined, though "How Can I Be Sure," a cover of the Rascals hit, was a 1970 Top 40 hit in the U.K. By then she had scored 17 U.K. and 10 U.S. hit singles.

Between 1971 and 1978 Springfield lived reclusively in America and did not record, except for some backup vocals on Anne Murray's Together LP. In 1978 Springfield recorded two comeback albums on the West Coast. The first, Begins Again, produced by Roy Thomas Baker (of Queen and Cars fame), fared poorly both critically and commercially; the second, Living Without Your Love, produced by David Wolfert, did slightly better. She had a minor 1979 U.K. hit with "Baby Blue," and the following fall she played some New York club dates, her first in eight years.

Springfield's big commercial comeback occurred in 1987, a quarter century after "Silver Threads and Golden Needles," when fan/Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant invited her to sing on his duo's "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" An international smash, the song hit Number Two in the U.S. and in the U.K. She was also featured on the Scandal soundtrack, with "Nothing Has Been Proved," and in 1990 Reputation was a Top 20 U.K. album. Springfield recorded her 1995 country-tinged album in Nashville. Around that time, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a long battle with the disease, she died at her English home in 1999, just prior to her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and just two months after receiving an OBE.

This biography originally appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001).

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