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Dusty Springfield Biography

Home > Music > S > Springfield, Dusty > Biography

Birth Name: Mary Isabel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien
Born: 1939/04/16
Birth Place: Ealing, London, England
Died: 1999/03/02
Years Active: 1958-1995
Genres: Pop, Soul

Dusty Springfield (born Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien, April 16, 1939 – March 2, 1999) was a British pop singer whose career extended from the late 1950s to the 1990s. With her distinctive sensual sound, she was an important white soul singer, and at her peak was one of the most successful British female performers, with 18 singles in the Billboard Hot 100 from 1964 to 1970. Her image, supported by a peroxide blonde beehive hairstyle, evening gowns, and heavy make-up, made her an icon of the Swinging Sixties. She is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the U.K. Music Hall of Fame.

Born in West London to an Irish Catholic family that enjoyed music, Springfield learned to sing at home. She joined her first professional group, The Lana Sisters, in 1958, and then formed the pop-folk vocal trio The Springfields in 1960 with her brother Dion.

Her solo career began in 1963 with the upbeat pop hit, “I Only Want to Be with You.” Among the hits that followed were 1964’s “Wishin' and Hopin'” and “I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself”1966’s “You Don't Have to Say You Love Me” and 1969’s “Son of a Preacher Man.” A fan of American pop music, she was the first public figure to bring little-known soul singers to a wider British audience, when she created and hosted the first British performances of the top-selling Motown artists in 1965. By 1966, she was the best-selling female singer in the world, and topped a number of popularity polls, including Melody Maker's Best International Vocalist.

Her rendition of “The Look of Love,” written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, was included on the soundtrack of the 1967 James Bond film “Casino Royale” and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song.

The marked changes in pop music in the mid-1960s left many female pop singers out of fashion. To boost her credibility as a soul artist, Springfield went to Memphis, Tennessee, to record an album of pop and soul music with the Atlantic Records main production team. Released in 1969, “Dusty in Memphis” has been ranked among the greatest albums of all time amongst rock critics. It earned Springfield a nomination for a Grammy Award and its standout track “Son of a Preacher Man” was an international Top 10 hit in 1969. The album was also awarded a spot in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

After this, however, Springfield experienced a career slump for eighteen years. She returned to the Top 20 of the British and American charts in collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys on the songs “What Have I Done to Deserve This?,” “Nothing Has Been Proved” and “In Private.” Interest in Springfield's early output was revived in 1994 due to the inclusion of “Son of a Preacher Man” on the soundtrack of the movie “Pulp Fiction.”