Remembering Dusty Springfield
Dusty Springfield was born Mary O'Brien on this day in 1939. She and her older brother Dion were raised by middle-class parents who were fond of music. In fact, Dusty's father would often tap out musical rhythms on the back of her hand, and have her guess which song it was. She also loved playing soccer in the street with the neighborhood boys, and the tomboy nature helped earn Mary the nickname Dusty.
After finishing school, in 1958, Dusty joined a vocal group, named the Lana Sisters, learned how to harmonize and did her first recording and TV show appearances. Two years later, she left the group to form her own act – a folk-pop trio with her brother Dion and Reshad Field. They Christened themselves the Springfields and so, Mary O'Brien's official stage name became Dusty Springfield.
The group had some pretty successful singles in early '60s England, but the big moment for Dusty came when they traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, to record an album and hopefully capture an "American" sound. During the trip, Dusty heard tons of American pop songs, and she became less interested in folk tunes and more interested in the Motown sound and other R&B-inflected girl group music.
In the fall of '63, the left the group and went solo. Her first solo single, written and arranged by Ivor Raymonde, copped the "wall of sound" production style Dusty had so fallen in love with. It turned out that music fans on both sides of the Atlantic loved Dusty, too. "I Only Want to Be with You" proved a debut smash, and launched Dusty into a very fruitful '64, during which she was considered one of the stars of the British Invasion alongside The Beatles. She had a bevy of hits that year, including the U.K. smash "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself" and the U.S. Top 10 hit "Wishin' and Hopin'" (both penned by the Burt Bacharach/Hal David team).
Springfield set herself apart from the many other female singers of the time because of her white soul (or blue-eyed soul) sound. Dusty's breathy delivery seemed to hint at a strong sexuality. In fact, many listeners thought she was a black, American performer upon hearing her records.
At the end of '64, Springfield courted controversy – but only for the best of reasons. The singer was deported from South Africa for performing in front of a racially integrated crowd, which was forbidden in the country at that time (and for some time after). The incident only enhanced her "cool" standing, and she remained an enormously popular star. more on this story
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