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Dusty Springfield (Mary O'Brien)
Life Span: Born 16th April 1939, West Hampstead; Died 2nd March 1999, Henley-on-Thames, London.
Star Sign: Aries
Famous As: Popular British soul singer

Childhood: Her full name was Mary Isabel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien. She was born into an unstable family environment - her parents did not get along, and she constantly felt overshadowed by her older brother Dion. Nevertheless, she was inspired by her father's love of Jazz and classical music, and the voice of Peggy Lee, and developed a love of singing. Her ambition showed itself at an early age; when the 10 year-old Mary was asked what she wanted to be, the reply came "I want to be a blues singer!"

Work: After leaving school, O'Brien began sculpting her singing career by singing with in local folk clubs with her brother Dion. In 1958, she responded to an advert to join a female singing trio called the Lana Sisters. For two years, the groups enjoyed some success in UK and the US, and O'Brien was glad of the experience of singing on stage, harmonising and microphone technique this gave her.
In 1960, she left the group to join Dion and their friend Tim Field in the group The Springfields. The name apparently came, very simply, from the fact that in spring, they would go and rehearse in the fields. This was also when Dion took the name Tom Springfield, and Mary O'Brien became Dusty Springfield.
For three years they were relatively successful, having cornered a musical niche which appealed to people who, as Dusty put it "were cheerful and jumped around a lot". In 1962, when the group were visiting Memphis, Tennessee, Dusty was greatly inspired by the Motown music she heard there, especially a song called 'Tell Him' by The Exciters. She commented that it was "The most exciting thing I had ever heard, the attack in it!". After this time, she began to feel a need to have control over her own music, and inject into it the soulful, Motown sound which had so inspired her.
In 1963, The Springfields split up, performing a farewell concert at the London Palladium in September.
O'Brien retained the name Dusty Springfield, and January 1964 saw the start of her long, successful solo career, with her first single 'I Only Want To Be With You'. The song was an energetic pop/motown hybrid that began to show Dusty's naturally soulful vocal style.
With this and her follow up singles from the album 'A Girl Called Dusty' (1964), she had truly cornered yet another musical niche - a link between soul and pop - that was to gain her enormous amounts of success during the sixties. Between 1963 and 1969, she had a string of hit singles.
Her first number one single was 'You Don't Have To Say You Love Me', in 1966.
She became something of a European pioneer of Motown, not only in her music but also by hosting programmes such as a Ready Steady Go - Motown Special on the UK channel ITV.
Her success began to falter at the end of the sixties, as Dusty herself began to question the direction she was going in. He 1967 album 'Where Am I Going' reflected this, and was not as successful, though it did show Dusty's unique ability to adapt her voice to many different styles.
With touring exhaustion and bouts of laryngitis setting in, she felt herself losing control of her career, and more importantly being guided towards the sweeping orchestral arrangements and outlandish, long dresses of the adult cabaret scene.
Her 1969 album, 'Dusty in Memphis' cured this. Her voice became the focus, and the sound was calmer, more introspective. Her voice was an instrument in the ensemble, as she had always aspired it to be.
It was also the most critically acclaimed of her albums, and from it, she enjoyed huge success with the single 'Son of a Preacher Man', for many years to come.
The seventies and eighties saw less and less of Dusty in the limelight, but her music continued, always reaching to a standard that had been set by 'Dusty in Memphis'. Certainly in critics' eyes, at any rate.
Her web biographer Andy Robinson writes: "Too many biographical pieces falsely state that “Dusty vanished from the scene as the sixties came to a close.”
It is my opinion that, during the seventies and into the eighties, Dusty made some of her finest work, drawing on both past and present personal experience and thus emotionally charging her material as never before."
It was unfortunately also a time of depression, substance abuse and self doubt for the singer.
She returned to the limelight in 1987, collaborating with The Pet Shop Boys on their single 'What Have I Done to Deserve This?'. The song gave Dusty a chance to show that she had not lost her unique talent in the years where she had largely been forgotten by the pop industry.
More albums and collaborations followed, most notably with Richard Carpenter (of The Carpenters) on his album 'Time'. This return to the limelight continued well into the nineties, but ended when Dusty was diagnosed with breast cancer 1994. Chemotherapy sent the disease into remission, but in 1996 it returned, and there was very little that could be done.
In March 1999, Dusty finally lost her battle. Her funeral took place in Henley-on-Thames, to a final audience of devoted fans numbering in the hundreds. Andy Robinson remarks: "So many, in fact, that the town centre was closed to traffic. Dusty once said she wanted to bring Henley to a standstill, and she did!"

Friends & Relationships: Dusty's personality and behaviour were notorious among her contemporary musicians. She was eccentric, prone to mood swings and painfully shy. Much of this has been attributed to her dysfunctional upbringing, and her mother's erratic behaviour. Others have also noted that her reputation as a 'difficult' artist in the studio can now be seen to, in part, have roots in the male dominated music industry of the sixties, and the way in which it was unaccustomed to female musicians being in control of their own studio time.
Her later emotional instability is said to have roots in the inner conflict she experienced with her Catholic upbringing and her sexuality.
This was alluded to in a 1975 interview in the Evening Standard, when Dusty implied that she was bisexual.
This was the only reference she made to her sexuality in her life, aside from a comment she made between songs at a concert in the early eighties, regarding Lesbian rights, which got her into a lot of trouble at the time.
Despite her general unwillingness to talk about the subject, biographers revealed that she had been a lesbian, after her death.
Aside from her music, Dusty was involved in animal rights with her friend Billy-Jean King, and famously adored her cats Malaysia and Nicholas. She even dedicated the album 'Reputation' to Malaysia after she was run over and killed.
Her closest friend, who became her manager in later years, was Vicki Wickham. It was she who largely encouraged Dusty to carry on during the lowest moments of her career, when she suffered many blows to her already low confidence.

Greatest Achievements: In 1964, the New Musical Express named her best Female Vocal Artist, and in 1967, she was nominated for an oscar for her song 'The Look of Love', the theme from the film 'Casino Royale'.
She received her OBE in New Years honours in 1999, just a month before her death. Ten days after her death, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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