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she was reached by the "Son of a Preacher Man"
Mary Isabel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien was born to Irish parents in Hampstead, London, England, on April 16, 1939. Her reputation as a tomboy earned her the nickname "Dusty" as a child.
Raised in a music-loving family, Dusty was 12 when she made a recording of herself performing the Irving Berlin song "When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves for Alabam" at a record shop in Ealing. In 1958 she joined the Lana Sisters, a pop vocal trio which issued a few singles on the Fontana label before dissolving. In 1960, Dusty teamed with brother Dion O'Brien and friend Reshad Feild to form a folk trio, which named itself the Springfields during a rehearsal in a Somerset field in the spring; the three subsequently took the stage names Dusty, Tom, and Tim Springfield, respectively. Thanks to a string of hits, including "Breakaway," "Bambino," and "Say I Won't Be There," the group had become the best-selling act in the U.K. by 1961. After breaking into the U.S. market with "Silver Thread and Golden Needles" in 1962, the trio traveled to Nashville, Tennesee, where it recorded Folk Songs from the Hills. The girl-group and Motown sounds Dusty heard while in Nashville prompted her to pursue a solo career, and she left the Springfields in late-1963.
Dusty made her solo debut in November 1963 with "I Only Want to Be With You," which quickly went to #4 in the U.K. and #12 in the U.S. Her debut album, A Girl Called Dusty,which included mostly covers of her favorite songs by other performers, was released in April 1964 and reached #6 in the U.K. in May. She broke into the Top Ten in the U.S. with "Wishin' and Hopin'" in 1964, and also enjoyed Top Ten (in the U.K.) successes with "Stay Awhile," "All Cried Out," and "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself." In December of 1964, Dusty stirred controversy by performing to a racially integrated audience in South Africa, a then-illegal activity that got her deported.
In 1965, Springfield released "Your Hurtin' Kinda Love," "In the Middle of Nowhere," and "Some of Your Lovin'," all of which made it into the U.K. Top 40. Her second album, Ev'rything's Coming Up Dusty, was released in October, and peaked at #6 on the U.K. chart. In April of that year, she introduced Motown to the U.K. by hosting a special edition of the television variety show "Ready, Steady, Go! called "The Sound of Motown." In 1966 she released what would become her biggest hit, "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me," which reached the top of the U.K. chart and peaked at #4 in the U.S. A compilation of her singles, Golden Hitsm, released in November 1966, reached #2 in the U.K. "The Look of Love," recorded for the soundtrack of the James Bond parody Casino Royale, was released in January 1967 and peaked at #22 in the U.S.; it would be her only U.S. hit that year. Where Am I Going?, released in October 1967, reached the Top 40 in the U.K. but did not sell well in the U.S. Dusty ... Definitely, released in November 1968, reached the Top 30 in the U.K. but was not sold in the U.S.
In 1968 Springfield signed with Atlantic Records. Dusty in Memphis, so named because it was recorded in Memphis, cracked the Top Ten on both sides of the Atlantic but failed commercially, as did its feature single, "Son of a Preacher Man." A Brand New Me, recorded in Philadelphia and released in January 1970, was also a commercial failure. She had already left Atlantic when See All Her Faces was released (in the U.K. only) in November 1972. Cameo, released by ABC Dunhill Records in February 1973, received respectable reviews but sold poorly. By 1974 Springfield was living in Los Angeles and trying to avoid the British press, which had begun floating rumors about her being gay (something that at the time could have ended her career). Potential bad press, combined with drug and alcohol abuse, kept her out of the music scene for the next four years, except for singing backup on Elton John's Caribou (June 1974) and Anne Murray's Together (November 1975).
Springfield resumed her career in 1978 with It Begins Again, which reached the Top 50 in the U.K. Her 1979 album, Living Without Your Love, failed to reach the Top 50. A handful of U.K. singles was followed by the 1982 album White Heat, but none of the singles nor the album cracked the charts on either side of the Atlantic. In 1987 she returned to California to collaborate with the Pet Shop Boys on a duet titled "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" The single was a global blockbuster, peaking at number two in both the U.S. and the U.K. She subsequently recorded "Something in Your Eyes" with Richard Carpenter and "Something in Your Eyes" with B.J. Thomas, both of which became hits. She returned to England in 1988. "Nothing Has Been Proved," released in February 1989, became her 15th U.K. Top 20 hit, and "In Private," released in November 1989, peaked at #14 in the U.K. The successes of those two singles prompted her to record Reputation, which was released in 1990 and became her third Top 20 U.K. album.
Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994, Springfield went into remission long enough to finish A Very Fine Love, which was released in 1995. She succumbed to the disease in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England, on March 2, 1999, just a couple of months after having been made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for her contribution to music and less than two weeks before being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
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This page was last updated on 10/09/2018.