Dusty Springfield Dead at 59 - Rolling Stone
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Dusty Springfield Dead at 59

Diva Legend Succumbs to Breast Cancer

Eleven days shy of her induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of
Fame — and two months after being made an Officer of the Order of
British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II — pop singer Dusty
succumbed to breast cancer last night (March
2) at her home in Henley-on-Thames. She was fifty-nine.

Springfield, who is best known for her landmark 1969 album
Dusty in Memphis, was diagnosed with the disease in 1994,
shortly before the release of her last album, A Very Fine
. “She handled it honestly with great spirit and humor,”
says Vicki Wickham, Springfield’s manager since
her mid-Eighties collaboration with the Pet Shop
and a friend since the Sixties. “I’m not just saying
that — she really did. It was extraordinary. [She] only was
bedridden in the last couple of days, and really was just amazing.
I think anybody that can keep their sense of humor through all of
this is just okay in my book.”

Wickham says Springfield had been “far too sick” to have traveled
to New York for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony
Monday, March 15, at the Waldorf Astoria, where Elton
is scheduled to do the induction honors (Springfield
sang back-up on his 1971 Tumbleweed Connection).

Springfield, born Mary O’Brien on April 16, 1939, in London, had
her first taste of international chart success in the early Sixties
when she and her brother Tom formed a folk trio
(with Tim Fields) called
theSpringfields. Solo hits came swiftly after the
breakup of the trio, kicking off with 1963’s “I Only Want to Be
With You.” Other hits throughout the decade — many showcasing her
husky take on the Motown-sound — included “Wishin’ and Hopin,'” “I
Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” and “You Don’t Have to Say
You Love Me,” a 1966 No. 1 hit in the U.K. (and No. 4 in the
States). Dusty in Memphis spawned the international Top
Ten smash “Son of a Preacher Man.” (Quentin Tarantino brought the
singer back into fame’s spotlight with his use of the song in
1994’s Pulp Fiction).

Springfield spent most of the Seventies out of the business, though
she resurfaced in 1978 with a pair of ill-to-moderately received
comeback albums. In 1987 however, Neil Tennant of
the Pet Shop Boys asked her to sing on “What Have I Done to Deserve
This?” a No. 2 hit in both the U.S. and the U.K.
“It was a dream come true for us when Dusty Springfield agreed to
sing with us,” said Tennant and Chris Lowe in a
press statement released Wednesday (March 3) by Parlophone. “Quite
honestly, we were in awe of her. Dusty was a tender, exhilarating
and soulful singer, incredibly intelligent at phrasing a song,
painstakingly building it up to a thrilling climax. She was also a
warm and funny person.”

In 1990, Springfield had a Top Twenty album in the U.K. with
Reputation. Her last studio album would be 1994’sA
Very Fine Love
, though Polygram released a three-disc
retrospective, Anthology, in late 1997 and Rhino issued
the archival live set Dusty in London just last month.

Springfield, who never married and leaves behind no children, was
included on Queen Elizabeth II’s biannual honors list on Dec. 31,
1998, and was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in
January. Sixties’ blues-rock pioneer Al Kooper,
who never worked with the singer but proclaims himself “the world’s
biggest Dusty Springfield fan,” summarized her legacy by saying,
“In many ways Dusty Springfield was equal to Billie Holiday or
Frank Sinatra in the interpretation of a ballad. There is no one in
sight to challenge her at this time.”


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