Obituary

Dusty Springfield


Frequently Asked Questions:
When did Dusty Springfield Die? Answer: 2nd March 1999 aged 59. What caused Dusty Springfield's death? Answer: Breast Cancer.

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Dusty Springfield has died. The last song Dusty recorded was George and Ira Gershwin's song "Someone to Watch Over Me" – in London in 1995. image of Dusty Springfield
In January 1994, while recording her penultimate album, 'A Very Fine Love', in Nashville, Tennessee, Dusty had been feeling ill. When she returned to England a few months later, her physicians diagnosed her with breast cancer. She received months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, and the cancer was in remission. In 1995, seemingly in good health, Dusty set about promoting the album, which was released that year. By mid-1996, the cancer had returned, and in spite of vigorous treatments, she died in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire on 2nd March 1999.
Dusty Springfield's funeral service was attended by hundreds of fans and people from the music business, including Elvis Costello, Lulu, and Pet Shop Boys. It was a Catholic funeral, which took place at the ancient parish church of St. Mary the Virgin in Henley-on-Thames, where Dusty had been living during her final years. A marker dedicated to her memory was placed in the church graveyard. Dusty Springfield was cremated and some of her ashes were buried at Henley, while the rest were scattered by her brother, Tom Springfield, at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

Dusty Springfield was born Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien on 16th April 1939 in West Hampstead, London, UK the second child of Gerard Anthony O'Brien and Catherine Anne O'Brien.
Dusty was brought up in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire until the early 1950s, and later lived in Ealing, London. She attended St Anne's Convent School, Northfields, a traditional all-girl school. The comfortable middle-class upbringing was disturbed by dysfunctional tendencies in the family; her father's perfectionism and her mother's frustrations would sometimes result in food-throwing incidents. Dusty Springfield and her brother were both prone to food-throwing as adults. She was given the nickname "Dusty" for playing football with boys in the street, and was described as a tomboy.
Dusty Springfield was raised in a music-loving family. She listened to a wide range of music, including George Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Glenn Miller. A fan of American jazz and the vocalists Peggy Lee and Jo Stafford, she wished to sound like them. At the age of twelve, she made a recording of herself performing the Irving Berlin song "When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves for Alabam" at a local record shop in Ealing. photo image of Dusty Springfield
After finishing school, Dusty Springfield sang with her brother Tom in local folk clubs. In 1957 the pair worked together at holiday camps. The following year Dusty Springfield responded to an advertisement in The Stage to join The Lana Sisters, an "established sister act". She had changed her name to Shan, and "cut her hair, lost her glasses, experimented with makeup to become one of the 'sisters'. As a member of the pop vocal trio, Dusty Springfield developed skills in harmonising and microphone technique and recorded, performed on TV, and played at live shows in the United Kingdom and at United States Air Force bases in continental Europe.
In 1960, Dusty Springfield left The Lana Sisters and formed a pop-folk trio, The Springfields, with Tom and Reshad Feild, who was replaced by Mike Hurst in 1962. The trio chose their name while rehearsing in a field in Somerset in the springtime and took the stage names of Dusty, Tom, and Tim Springfield. Intending to make an authentic US album, the group travelled to Nashville, Tennessee, to record 'Folk Songs from the Hills'. The local music that Dusty Springfield heard during this visit helped turn her style from folk and country towards pop music rooted in rhythm and blues. The band was voted the "Top British Vocal Group" by the New Musical Express poll in 1961 and 1962. During early 1963, The Springfields recorded their last UK Top 5 hit, "Say I Won't Be There".
Dusty Springfield left the Springfields after their final concert in October 1963.
In November 1963 Dusty Springfield released her first solo single, "I Only Want to Be with You," which was co-written and arranged by Ivor Raymonde. It was produced by Johnny Franz in a manner similar to Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound," and included rhythm and blues features such as horn sections, backing singers, and double-tracked vocals, along with pop music strings, all in the style of girl groups that Springfield admired, such as the Exciters, whose version of "Tell Him" had inspired her to adopt a style oriented more towards rhythm and blues, and the Shirelles. It rose to Number 4 on the UK charts. It remained on the Billboard Hot 100 for 10 weeks, peaking at No. 12. The release finished as Number 48 on New York's WABC radio Top 100 for 1964. On 1st January 1964 "I Only Want to Be with You" was one of the first songs played on 'Top of the Pops', BBC-TV's then new music programme. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc in the UK.
On 17th April 1964 Dusty Springfield issued her debut album 'A Girl Called Dusty' which included mostly remakes of her favourite songs. Among the tracks 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 Number 6 in the UK in May 1964. The chart hits "Stay Awhile," "All Cried Out," and "Losing You" followed the same year. The B-side of "Stay Awhile" featured another self-penned track, 'Somethin' Special'. However, Springfield declared: "I don't really see myself as a songwriter. I don't really like writing ... I just don't get any good ideas and the ones I do get are pinched from other records. The only reason I write is for the money – oh mercenary creature!" In 1964, Dusty Springfield recorded two Burt Bacharach songs: "Wishin' and Hopin'?" – a US Top 10 hit – and the emotional "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself," which reached No. 3 on the UK chart. The latter song set the standard for much of her later material. In December 1964, Dusty Springfield's tour of South Africa with her group The Echoes was controversially terminated, and she was deported, after they performed for an integrated audience at a theatre near Cape Town, which was against the then government's segregation policy. Her contract specifically excluded segregated performances, making her one of the first British artists to do so. In the same year, she was voted the Top Female British Artist of the year in the New Musical Express poll, topping Lulu, Sandie Shaw, and Cilla Black. Dusty Springfield received the award again for the next three years. During 1965, Dusty Springfield released three more UK Top 40 hits: "Your Hurtin' Kinda Love," "In the Middle of Nowhere," and the Carole King-penned "Some of Your Lovin'." However, these were not included on her next UK album recorded with The Echoes, 'Ev'rything's Coming Up Dusty', which was released in October 1965 and featured songs by Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley, Rod Argent, and Randy Newman, and a cover of the traditional Mexican song, "La Bamba." The album peaked at Number 6 on the UK chart.
From 28th to 30th January 1965 Dusty Springfield took part in the Italian Song Festival in San Remo, and reached a semi-final with "Tu che ne sai?" but failed to qualify for the final. During the competition, she heard the song "Io Che Non Vivo (Senza Te)" performed by one of its composers Pino Donaggio and separately by US country music singer Jody Miller. Its English version, "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me," featured lyrics newly written by Dusty Springfield's friend Vicki Wickham and her future manager, Simon Napier-Bell.It was released in May 1966 and reached Number 1 in the UK and Number 4 in the USA, where it was also No. 35 on the Billboard Top 100 for 1966. The song, which Dusty Springfield called "good old schmaltz," was voted among the All Time Top 100 Songs by the listeners of BBC Radio 2 in 1999.
Dusty Springfield recorded the Bacharach-David composition "The Look of Love" for the James Bond parody film Casino Royale. For "one of the slowest-tempo hits" of the sixties, Bacharach created a "sultry" feel by the use of "minor-seventh and major-seventh chord changes", while Hal David's lyrics "epitomized longing and, yes, lust". This song was recorded in two versions at the Philips Studios of London. The soundtrack version was released on 29th January 1967 and the single version was out on 14th April. "The Look of Love" was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song of 1967. In the western USA, the song was a Top 10 radio hit on stations KGB-AM, San Diego and KHJ-AM, Los Angeles, and earned Dusty Springfield her highest place in the year's music charts at No. 22.
The second season of 'Dusty', which featured her rendition of "Get Ready" and her UK Number 13 hit, "I'll Try Anything", was broadcast in 1967. It attracted a healthy audience but the series did not keep up with changes in pop music. The comparatively progressive album 'Where Am I Going?' (October 1967) attempted to redress this by containing a "jazzy", orchestrated version of "Sunny" and Jacques Brel's "If You Go Away". Though it was critically appreciated, it did not sell well in the USA – it reached the top 40 in the UK. In November 1968, a similar fate befell 'Dusty Definitely', which was not issued in the USA, it reached the UK top 30. Her choice of material ranged from the rolling "Ain't No Sun Since You've Been Gone" to the aching emotion of "I Think It's Gonna Rain Today". In that same year, Dusty Springfield had a UK Number 4 hit, "I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten", which was written by Clive Westlake. By late 1966, Dusty Springfield was in a domestic relationship with Tanega, a US-born singer-songwriter who had a UK Top 30 hit with the novelty song, "Walkin' My Cat Named Dog". Dusty Springfield's ITV series 'It Must Be Dusty' was broadcast in May and June 1968; episode six featured a duet performance of "Mockingbird" with singer-guitarist Jimi Hendrix fronting his band, The Experience.
By 1968 Carole King, a songwriter whom Dusty Springfield had frequently tapped for material, had embarked on a solo singing career, while her relationship with the chart-peaking Bacharach-David partnership was floundering. Dusty 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". Her performing career was limited to the UK touring circuit of working men's clubs, hotels and cabarets. Hoping to reinvigorate her career and boost her credibility, Dusty Springfield signed with Atlantic Records, the label of her idol, Aretha Franklin. The Memphis sessions at the American Sound Studio were produced by Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, and Arif Mardin, with the back-up vocal band Sweet Inspirations and the instrumental band Memphis Cats. The producers recognised that Springfield's natural soul voice should be placed at the forefront, rather than competing with full string arrangements. At first, Dusty Springfield felt anxious when compared with the soul greats who had recorded in the same studios. Dusty Springfield had never worked with just a rhythm track and it was her first time with outside producers – many of her previous recordings were self-produced, albeit uncredited. Wexler felt she had a "gigantic inferiority complex" and due to her pursuit of perfection, her vocals were re-recorded later in New York. In November during the Memphis sessions Dusty Springfield suggested to Wexler (one of the heads of Atlantic Records) that he should sign the newly formed UK band, Led Zeppelin. She knew their bass guitarist, John Paul Jones, from his session work on her earlier albums. Without ever having seen them and partly on her advice, Wexler signed Led Zeppelin to a $200,000 deal with Atlantic, which, at the time, was their biggest paying contract for a new band.
The album 'Dusty in Memphis' received excellent reviews on its initial releases both in the UK and USA.
By the start of the 1970's Dusty Springfield was a major star, though her record sales were declining. Her intimate companion, Norma Tanega, had returned to the US after their relationship had become stressful, and Dusty Springfield was spending more time in the USA herself. In January 1970 her second and final album on Atlantic Records, 'A Brand New Me' was released; it featured tracks written and produced by Gamble and Huff. The album and related singles only sold moderately and Dusty Springfield was unhappy with both her management and record company. She sang back up vocals with her friend Madeline Bell on two tracks on Elton John's 1971 hit album 'Tumbleweed Connection'. She recorded some songs with producer Jeff Barry in early 1971, which were intended for an album to be released by Atlantic Records. However, her new manager Alan Bernard negotiated her out of the Atlantic contract; some of the tracks were used on the UK-only album 'See All Her Faces' and the 1999 release 'Dusty in Memphis-Deluxe Edition'. In 1972 Dusty Springfield signed a contract with ABC Dunhill Records and 'Cameo' was issued in February 1973 to respectable reviews, though poor sales. In 1973 Dusty Springfield recorded the theme song for the TV series, The Six Million Dollar Man, which was used for two of its film-length episodes: "Wine, Women & War" and "The Solid Gold Kidnapping". Her second ABC Dunhill album was given the working title 'Elements' and was then scheduled for release in late 1974 as '.Longing'. However, the recording sessions were abandoned, although part of the material, including tentative and incomplete vocals, was issued on the 2001 posthumous compilation 'Beautiful Soul'. By 1974 Springfield had put her solo musical career on hold to live as a recluse in the USA and avoid scrutiny by UK tabloids. In the 1960s and early 1970's gay or bisexual performers "knew that being 'out' would lead to prurient media attention, loss of record contracts ... the tabloids became obsessively interested in the contents of celebrity closets". In the mid-1970's she sang background vocals on Elton John's album 'Caribou', including his single "The Bitch Is Back"; and on Anne Murray's album 'Together'.
In the late 1970's Dusty Springfield released two albums on United Artists Records. The first was 1978's 'It Begins Again', produced by Roy Thomas Baker. The album peaked in the UK top 50 and was well received by critics. Her 1979 album, 'Living Without Your Love', did not reach the top 50. In early 1979, Dusty Springfield played club dates in New York City. In London, she recorded two singles with David Mackay for her UK label, Mercury Records . The first was the disco-influenced "Baby Blue", co-written by Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes which reached Number 61 in the UK. The second, "Your Love Still Brings Me to My Knees", released in January 1980, was Dusty Springfield's final single for Mercury Records; she had been with them for nearly 20 years. On 3rd December 1979, she performed a charity concert for a full house at the Royal Albert Hall, in the presence of Princess Margaret. In 1980 Dusty Springfield sang "Bits and Pieces", the theme song from the movie The Stunt Man. She signed a US deal with 20th Century Records, which resulted in the single "It Goes Like It Goes", a cover of the Oscar-winning song from the film, Norma Rae. Dusty Springfield was uncharacteristically proud of her 1982 album White Heat, which was influenced by new wave music. She tried to revive her career in 1985 by returning to the UK and signing to Peter Stringfellow's Hippodrome Records label. This resulted in the single "Sometimes Like Butterflies" and an appearance on Terry Wogan's TV chat show, Wogan. None of Dusty Springfield's recordings from 1971 to 1986 charted on the UK Top 40 or Billboard Hot 100.

Dusty Springfield sang with Pet Shop Boys on 1987's "What Have I Done to Deserve This?". The single reached No. 2 in both the UK and US charts. Its cover depicts Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe sitting on a motorcycle in front of a large screenshot of Dusty Springfield singing.
In 1987, she accepted an invitation from Pet Shop Boys to duet with their lead singer, Neil Tennant, on the single "What Have I Done to Deserve This?". Tennant cites 'Dusty in Memphis' as one of his favourite albums, and he leapt at the suggestion of using Dusty Springfield's vocals for "What Have I Done To Deserve This?". Dusty also appeared on the promotional video. The single rose to Number. 2 on both the US and UK charts. It appeared on the Pet Shop Boys album Actually, and on both artists' greatest hits collections. Dusty Springfield sang lead vocals on the Richard Carpenter song "Something in Your Eyes", recorded for his album, Time (October 1987). Released as a single, it became a US Number 12 adult contemporary hit. Dusty Springfield recorded a duet with B. J. Thomas, "As Long as We Got Each Other," which was used as the opening theme for the US sitcom Growing Pains in season 4 .
In 1988 a new compilation, The Silver Collection, was issued. Dusty Springfield returned to the studio with Pet Shop Boys, who produced her recording of their song "Nothing Has Been Proved", commissioned for the soundtrack of the 1989 drama film, Scandal. Released as a single in February 1989, it gave Dusty Springfield her fifteenth UK Top 20 hit. In November its follow-up, the upbeat "In Private", also written and produced by Pet Shop Boys, peaked at No. 14. She capitalised on this by recording the 1990 album Reputation. The writing and production credits for half the album, which included the two recent hit singles, went to Pet Shop Boys, while the album's other producers included Dan Hartman. By 1988 Dusty Springfield had left California and, other than when recording tracks for Reputation, she returned to the UK to live. In 1993, she recorded a duet with her former 1960s professional rival and friend, Cilla Black. In October, "Heart and Soul" was released as a single and, in September it had appeared on Black's album, Through the Years. Dusty Springfield's next album, provisionally titled 'Dusty in Nashville', was started in 1993. Originally intended as a country music album, the track selection by Dusty Springfield pushed the album into pop music with an occasional country feel.

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song: 'I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself'
by Dusty Springfield