Born on the 16th of April 1939 in West Hampstead, London, Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien, popularly known as Dusty Springfield was a famous record producer and singer. She was given the nickname “Dusty” for playing football with boys in the street, and was described as a tomboy.
Springfield was raised in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, until the early 1950s and later lived in the West London borough of Ealing. She attended St Anne’s Convent School, Northfields, and a traditional all-girl school.
Springfield was raised in a music-loving family. Her father would tap out rhythms on the back of her hand and encourage her to guess the musical piece. Dusty Springfield has been recognized around the world as the best female soul singer that Britain ever produced.
With her oddly erotic, hoarse voice, she racked up a string of hits from the 1960s and beyond. In that same year, upon teaming with her brother Dion and his friend Tim Feild in the folk trio the Springfield’s, O’Brien adopted the stage name Dusty Springfield; thanks to a series of hits including “Breakaway,” “Bambino” and “Say I Won’t Be There,” the group was soon the U.K.’s best-selling act.
Dusty recorded her first pop song “I Only Want to Be with You” in 1963. It reached No. 4 in the charts and was the first song played on the new BBC TV pop show Top of the Pops (1964). The sixties brought a steady succession of top-ten hits and a lifestyle to match.
By 1968, however, Springfield’s commercial fortunes were on the decline in the wake of Sgt. Pepper and the Summer of Love, “girl singers” were now widely perceived as little more than fluff.
In response, she signed to the American label Atlantic, traveling to Memphis to record with producers Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, and Arif Mardin; the resulting album, issued in early 1969 as Dusty in Memphis, remains her masterpiece, a perfect marriage of pop and soul stunning in its emotional complexity and earthy beauty.
In 1970, she moved to America and, although she attempted a few come-back tours, they never really worked. But her life only took on more struggles in her new home. Beset by drug issues and other personal problems, Springfield failed to capture the run of stardom she’d once enjoyed.
However, time in the studio did produce the seminal album; “Dusty in Memphis”. She was the first person to bring the sound of Motown to England in her variety music show. She performed “Mockingbird” with Jimi Hendrix. She appeared as herself in An Audience with Dame Edna Everage (1980) in the eighties.
Springfield, who returned to England in the early 1990s, released her final studio album, A Very Fine Love, in 1995. That same year, she was diagnosed with cancer and after months of radiation therapy the illness was believed to be in remission.
From there on out, health problems were a constant in her life. She passed away from cancer, on March 2, 1999 days later; she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.