Happy Birthday Dusty Springfield
It’s Dusty Springfield’s birthday today, which is certainly a cause for celebration, even if it’s also an occasion to be sad that she’s not here to share it with us.
Born in West Hempstead, London in 1939, Dusty started life quite some distance away from being a Springfield: her birth name was actually Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien. The new moniker came about several years down the line, when, after having spent some time as part of the Lana Sisters, she started a pop-folk trio with her brother, Tom O’Brien, and Tim Feild. After christening the group The Springfields, all three members adopted the band’s name as their surname, with Mary O’Brien giving herself a new first name as well and transforming into – you guessed it – Dusty Springfield.
The Springfields had quite a run in the early 1960s, being honored as the Top British Vocal Group by NME in both ’61 and ’62 and earning two top-five hits in the UK with “Island of Dreams” and “Say I Won’t Be There.” (Somewhere in there, Tim left and was replaced by Mike Hurst.) By the end of ’63, Dusty decided to leave the group in favor of pursuing a solo career. It proved to be a wise move for all parties concerned, since Mike became a successful producer, Tom wrote songs for the New Seekers, including “I’ll Never Find Another You,” “The Carnival is Over,” and “Georgy Girl,” and Dusty…well, she did all right for herself, too.
It didn’t take long for Dusty to find a place in the upper reaches of the U.S. charts, with her first Stateside single, “I Only Want to Be with You,” hitting #12, followed in very short order by her first top-10 single, “Wishin’ and Hopin’,” which topped out at #6. Although she tended to have a stronger chart showing in the UK, other hits followed, including her highest-charting solo hit, 1966’s “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” (#4), but Dusty’s late ‘60s work was well-appreciated on both sides of the pond, with the albums Dusty in Memphis(1969) and A Brand New Me (1970) still held up as classics today.
While the ‘70s found Springfield with limited chart success, she experienced a career revival in 1987, courtesy of her Pet Shop Boys duet, “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” A #2 hit in both the US and the UK, the single was followed by a full-length collaboration with Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe called Reputation. Sadly, the album never received a US release – there’s just no accounting for taste – but in the UK it proved to be her highest-charting and best-selling album since 1970’s From Dusty with Love.
Alas, Springfield only released one further album before her 1999 death from breast cancer – 1995’s A Very Fine Love – but she lived long enough to see her song “Son of a Preacher Man” gain appreciation from a new generation of listeners via its appearance on the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Unfortunately, she didn’t live to see Elton John inducted her into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: she died only 11 days before the ceremony took place.
Okay, let’s pull back the tears, people. Dusty wouldn’t have wanted that. Instead, let’s celebrate the day she was born by listening to the music that she made.