Dusty Springfield

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Dusty Springfield in 1966
Dusty Springfield (1939–1999, real name Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien) was a singer who made her name with the trio The Springfields, and then had a successful solo career. At one point she was the best-selling female singer in the world.

She was born in West Hampstead and raised in High Wycombe and then in Ealing.[1] She was was described as a tomboy, and got the nickname "Dusty" for playing football with boys in the street.[2]

In 1958 she joined the singing group the Lana Sisters. In 1960 she formed The Springfields with her brother Tom, and another singer, Tim Field, and she and Tom adopted "Springfield" as their stage surname. The Springfields disbanded in 1963, and Dusty then had a number of hits as a solo artist, including "I only want to be with you" (1964) and "you don't have to say you love me" (1966).

She said of herself:

""I was deeply influenced by black singers from the early 1960s. ... I liked everybody at Motown and most of the Stax artists. I really wanted to be Mavis Staples. What they shared in common was a kind of strength I didn't hear on English radio."[3]

She moved to the United States in 1970, but her career stalled and she returned to England in the early 1990s.

Personal life[4]

From mid-1966 to early 1970s Springfield lived in a domestic partnership with fellow singer, Norma Tanega. In September 1970, Dusty told Ray Connolly of the Evening Standard:

"many other people say I'm bent, and I've heard it so many times that I've almost learned to accept it ... I know I'm perfectly as capable of being swayed by a girl as by a boy. More and more people feel that way and I don't see why I shouldn't."[5][6]

By the standards of 1970, that was a very bold statement.[5] Three years later, she explained to Chris Van Ness of Los Angeles Free Press:

"I mean, people say that I'm gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay. I'm not anything. I'm just ... People are people... I basically want to be straight ... I go from men to women; I don't give a shit. The catchphrase is: I can't love a man. Now, that's my hang-up. To love, to go to bed, fantastic; but to love a man is my prime ambition ... They frighten me.[7]

During her time in America, Dusty was involved in several relationships with women, including an "off and on" domestic relationship with Faye Harris, a US photojournalist.[8] In 1981 she had a six-month love affair with singer-musician Carole Pope.[9] In 1982 Springfield met an American actress, Teda Bracci, at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting; in April 1983 they moved in together and seven months later they exchanged vows at a wedding ceremony which was not legally recognised under California law.[10] The pair had a "tempestuous" relationship which led to an altercation with both Springfield and Bracci hospitalised – Springfield had been smashed in the mouth by Bracci wielding a saucepan and had teeth knocked out requiring plastic surgery.[11] The pair had separated within two years.[10]

In 1995 she was diagnosed with cancer, from which she died in 1999.

Further reading

Bob Gulla, "Dusty Springfield". Icons of R&B and Soul: An Encyclopedia of the Artists Who Revolutionized Rhythm. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Icons, 2008 ISBN 978-0-31-334044-4.


  1. Gulla page 357
  2. http://books.google.com/?id=OdsHAQAAMAAJ&dq=dusty+springfield&q=tomboy#search_anchor Edward Leeson, Dusty Springfield: A Life in Music. Michigan: Robson Books. ISBN 978-1-86105-343-5. page 14
  3. http://www.biography.com/people/dusty-springfield-9491157 Biography.com
  4. This section adapted from the Wikipedia article of the same name
  5. 5.0 5.1 http://www.cpinternet.com/mbayly/article38.htm Adam Sweeting, "The Invention of Dusty Springfield" The Independent Woman of Repute 26 March 2006
  6. http://www.rayconnolly.co.uk/pages/journalism_01/journalism_01_item.asp?journalism_01ID=78 Ray Connolly, "Dusty Springfield" Evening Standard September 1970
  7. http://www.thefreelibrary.com/The+secret+life+of+Dusty+Springfield-a054492600 Michele Kort "The Secret Life of Dusty Springfield" The Advocate 1999
  8. http://books.google.com.au/books?id=YNae0zmGow4C&pg=PA364&dq=i+only+want+to+be+with+you+phil+spector&q=i+only+want+to+be+with+you+phil+spector&hl=en#v=onepage&q=%22Faye%20Harris}&f=false Gulla, p. 372.
  9. Penny Valentine and Vicki Wickham, Dancing with Demons: The Authorized Biography of Dusty Springfield Hodder & Stoughton, 2000 ISBN 0-340-76673-5
  10. 10.0 10.1 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-399153/The-day-Dusty-vowed-I-want-you.html?printingPage=true "The Day Dusty Vowed: 'I Only Want to Be with You'" Daily Mail 4 August 2006
  11. [http://books.google.com.au/books?id=pLgqFaYmgw8C&pg=PA376&dq=Valentine+and+Wickham&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Ke7uT_WMJdGciQeezJCVDQ&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Dusty%20was%20hospitalized&f=false Gulla, p. 375.