Her image, supported by a peroxide blonde bouffant hairstyle, evening gowns and heavy make-up, as well as her flamboyant performances, made her an icon of the ‘Swinging Sixties’.
Dusty’s singing career began at her home along with a family who enjoyed music immensely. She joined ‘The Lana Sisters’ in 1958, and two years later formed a pop-folk vocal trio, ‘The Springfield’s’ with her brother, Tom Springfield and Tim Field. They became the UK's top-selling act. Her solo career began in 1963 with the upbeat pop hit, " I Only Want to Be with You’. Among the hits that followed were Wishing and Hoping’ (1964), ‘I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself’ (1964), ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me’ (1966) and ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ (1968).
As a fan of US soul music, Dusty brought many little-known soul singers to the attention of a wider UK record-buying audience by hosting the first national TV performance of many top-selling Motown artists beginning in 1965. Partly owing to these efforts, a year later she eventually became the best-selling female singer in the world and topped several popularity polls, including ‘Melody Maker’s Best International Vocalist’. Although she was never considered a ‘Northern Soul’ artist in her own right, her efforts contributed a great deal to the formation of the genre as a result. She was the first UK singer to top the ‘New Musical Express’ readers' poll for ‘Female Singer’.
To boost her credibility as a soul artist, Springfield went to Memphis Tennessee to record ‘Dusty in Memphis’, an album of pop and soul music with the ‘Atlantic Records’ main production team. Released in 1969, it has been ranked among the greatest albums of all time by the US magazine ‘Rolling Stone’ and in polls by VH1 artists, ‘New Musical Express Readers’ and Channel 4 viewers. The album was also awarded a spot in the ‘Grammy Hall of Fame’. Despite its current recognition, the album did not sell well. After its release, she relocated to America where she experienced a career slump for several years. However, in collaboration with ‘Pet Shop Boys’ Dusty returned to the Top 10 of the UK and US charts in 1987 with "What Have I Done to Deserve This?’. Two years later, she had two other UK hits on her own with ‘Nothing Has Been Proved’ and ‘In Private’. Subsequently, in the mid-1990s, owing to the inclusion of ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ on the film’s soundtrack of ‘Pulp Fiction’ interest in her early output was revived.
We must remember that Dusty (who was Gay) had always avoided questions relating to her sexuality and private life when she was a British household name with her own television show and regular appearances. The era for Gays coming out of their closets had not yet become the norm and many careers would have been placed at risk through outright honesty. By the start of the 1970s, although a major star, Dusty’s career was declining. Along with being a Gay who wished to live out her life more openly without risk of reproach, this is probably the reason why Dusty went to live and work in America where she could live with her partner, Norma Tanega. After she and her partner split up, Dusty’s life became more stressful and she ended her career singing in lowly establishments that she once would never have entered.
My closest contact with Dusty herself was a brief note I got from her during the 1990s when I was in contact with numerous celebrities and famous names due to my charitable work and the publication of my children’s books that dealt with themes that children and adults found hard to emotionally cope with. My initial contact had been with the Secretary of her British Fan Club, Patricia Rhodes of Palo’s Green, London.
At the time I was approaching numerous celebrity artists and authors to donate a signed copy of their work for one of the many Charity Auctions I arranged between 1990 and 2000. This was one avenue of fundraising that was very popular and profitable, and which (along with the sales of approximately 200,000 of my published books that raised £200,000 profit for charitable causes) proved to be a winner. One week prior to the Charity Auction and a mere five months before her death, I received a signed LP and a brief note from Dusty via her Fan Club Secretary (because Dusty was said to be in America at the time). The note which authenticated the signed record of Dusty’s was auctioned off with her recording of ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me’ and fetched a few hundred pounds if I recall correctly.
I later learned through a phone conversation with her fan club Secretary that the last few years of Dusty’s life had been far from happy ones. I will always cherish my memories however of that soulful voice that became loved by her worldwide audience of Gays and heterosexuals’. Dusty, I know that your song said, ‘You don’t have to say you love me’ but, take it from me, girl, ‘We do, and we always will”.
Love and peace Bill xxx