The White Queen of Soul, Dusty Springfield, 16th April 1939 – 2nd March 1999. A British pop singer with a soulful, sensual sound. Dusty had a unique timing and delivery that propelled her to fame. At a time when soul was the happening thing in music on both sides of the atlantic, Springfield won Top Female British Artist as voted by the New Musical Express four years running, topping a poll which included huge acts such as Lulu, Sandie Shaw and Cilla Black. The uniqueness of Springfield’s voice was described by Burt Bacharach when he said: “You could hear just three notes and you knew it was Dusty.”
Dusty’s first hit was the upbeat pop hit, “I Only Want to Be with You” in 1963. Which would be followed by a string of hits throughout the 1960s. Her image, supported by a peroxide blond beehive hairstyle, evening gowns and heavy make-up, made her an icon of the Swinging Sixties. And her popularity was not limited to the UK, topping charts and radio playlists in the US.
Dusty’s career sadly started to fade with the change in music culture toward more progressive music and the association with underground as “fashionable” and pop which had become “unfashionable”. In an effort to revive her faltering career Dusty went to the States and signed with Atlantic Records. Here she recorded perhaps her most famous album ‘Dusty in Memphis’ in 1968. Despite being unanimously well received critically, the album failed to top charts in the US or the UK. But one track stood out strongly and remains one of Dusty’s greatest hits today, “Son of a Preacher Man”, which earned Springfield a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1970.
Despite Springfield’s decline in popularity, her impact on British Music culture and fashion was incredibly powerful. Springfield became an icon and her style was adopted widely and that included her “panda eye” mascara which is well captured in David Redferns image. Springfield was recognised by countless awards throughout her career. Today she sits in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the UK Music Hall of Fame. Voted amongst the top female artists of all time by all the major music magazines and also received the Grammy Hall of Fame award posthumously. Springfield succumbed to cancer on 2nd March 1999, the same day Springfield had been scheduled to go to Buckingham Palace to receive her award of Officer, Order of the British Empire from her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Springfield’s manager collected the medal on her behalf and presented it to her in the hospital the day before her death. In the days after her death, her friend Sir Elton John stated, “I think she is the greatest white singer that there ever has been”.
Dusty Springfield’s first major hit “I Only Want To Be With You”.