In The Words Of Others

derekwadsworthDerek Wadsworth:

She would work very hard to get exactly the semitone which would make her strain the vocal at the top end, so you get this kind of wonderful torture. For example, in "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" she pushed that key change to the absolute limit, so she could only just squeeze it out. To me, she sounded like a little mouse on a railway line when an express train is coming towards her, and you just want to hug that little mouse and save its life...

It was like putting a jigsaw together. Dusty would have made a great scientist, because she analysed every detail.. Dusty Springfield was a creation of Mary O'Brien. She was almost not like a real person. She put the whole package together - the hair, the shoes, the gestures - and she had impeccable taste. There's a saying that the true nature of art reveals itself only at the very highest level, and I think that was the way with Dusty.

dusty psbNeil Tennant:

Dusty takes your song and makes it sound 10 times better.

Annie J Randall, musicologist:

The Sounds of Motown was conceived and hosted by Springfield for the express purpose of igniting the careers of the Detroit singers in European markets. [It] embodied a rejection of racism and apartheid for an international audience [and was] undoubtedly as important as the endlessly analyzed social phenomena associated with the Beatles and the British Invasion.

Greil Marcus, journalist for Rolling Stone:

...a soft, sensual (voice) box that allowed her to combine syllables until they turned into pure cream.

CaroleKingBruce Springsteen:

Man, she’s so fine..

Anne Murray:

The first time I heard Dusty Springfield sing, I became smitten with her voice. The times we have worked together over the years have been some of the most memorable in my life. She is a very special lady and my favorite singer of all time.

Carole King:

Dusty Springfield is one of the greatest singers and interpreters of song in our time. She not only sings the song - she lives the song. It's been an honor, a privilege and a treasure to have her perform so much of my work. I consider Dusty a partner in my songs and a friend in my life.

normatannegaNorma Tanega:

If you scraped off the Irish Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien, she was black underneath. That’s what you found out.

Christian Ward:

With Dusty, you're never sure what you're getting. She can thrill something throwaway and sexist like “Wishin' and Hopin',” then she can come out with a fighting track like “You Don't Own Me.

Derek Wadsworth:

Dusty was one of the sweetest persons I have ever met, without a single bone of malice or unkindness in her body. Nevertheless, she wanted things to be right however much trouble it might take and it is perhaps this kind of persistence, this drive for perfection that had caused some in the music business to have considered her to be 'difficult'.

As a group, we then ran through the whole act, responding willingly to every one of Dusty's precise instructions, including dance step directions for Douggie and the boys, until our leader's previously-clouded face was beaming with contentment and pride. It all sounded tremendous; she had demolished most of what we had started out with and rebuilt the whole edifice from the bottom upwards in a minimum of time, and without ruffling a single feather. Yes. Dusty really knew her business.

Her appealing voice soared above the tumult like an eagle on the wing and the rest of us were sure of one thing. We were in the presence of greatness.

Melissa Manchester:

Listening to Dusty brings back memories of my junior high school years. When she arrived on the scene, she really made a serious impact. No white woman had ever sounded like her. As a developing singer-songwriter, Dusty was one of the voices I would try to emulate-she has such a rich, soulful quality. Recording Home to Myself with her in 1974 was an incredibly rewarding experience. I believe it was the first time another artist had recorded one of my compositions and I was thrilled that I was hired to play the piano. I'm delighted [with] Dusty's performance of the song. She's one of the truly great singers.

dionnewarwickMartha Reeves:

She’s into her music; it’s 100% of her life. Anything else is secondary.

Petula Clark:

The way that she looked was easy to impersonate, but the voice was impossible to imitate. Dusty was the perfect pop singer.

Dionne Warwick:

Tremendous voice, tremendous singer. And very emotional about what she does, and I think that’s probably not only her first love, but her only love.

Barry Manilow:

Dusty Springfield possesses one of the most identifiable and soulful voices of our time. I was aware of her in my teens as she bagan to emerge with her unique sounding hits. But with the release of Dusty in Memphis, I became a life-long fan. When as a young singer-songwriter, I was told that she was about to cut the first song I had ever written, I Am Your child, I was thrilled beyond belief. When Dusty and Brooks Arthur requested I play for her, I was honoured. At the session in 1974, I remember that Dusty insisted I play the exact same accompaniment that I had played for my own version of I Am Your Child. I remember having to do a little math on the spot because my key was totally different than hers. She loved the song and my accompaniment, and I loved her for loving them!

pacemakersGerry Marsden, of Gerry and the Pacemakers:

We did not know Dusty before the tour. She was mad as a hatter and great fun to be with. Once somebody at the theatre brought a cup of coffee to Dusty's dressing room. She had wanted tea, and when she noticed it was not she threw the cup against the wall and whacked out all the light bulbs in her dressing table mirror with the tray. She was shouting, what is this ? We heard smashing and rushed to see what was happening. I thought rock on. Good for you girl. The boys in the band had played tricks on Dusty, so she played them back. She would slap you on the back or leave a drawing pin on your seat. We would put in 5 am wake up calls for each other mostly on days off. We had lots of laughs during the tour.

Darlene Love:

We (Nancy Sinatra and I) met through her producer, Lee Hazlewood, whom we did dozens of sessions with including, early in 1968, a song called Sweet Ride for Dusty Springfield. I had always loved Dusty's voice and her ability to sing rhythm and blues songs, even though she was a pop singer from England. she didn't sound black, she just sung everything from her gut and always turned a mirror on a song's best intentions. We had never worked together before, and I'd heard all kinds of horror stories about her throwing teacups out of rage, berating musicians and generally being a scourge to everyone who crossed those panda eyes of hers.

But she couldn't have been nicer: in fact she had asked Lee to book us specifically because she was "in awe" of us! She was very hard on herself, and worked her lead over and over. But it was a real pleasure being around her, and my only regret is that we never got to work together again. She went back to England after that, and though she later moved to the States, our paths never crossed. But I'll always remember "Sweet Ride" as one of those truly magic moments in the studio, gone almost as soon as it occurred but playing in heavy rotation in my memory.

marthareevesMartha Reeves [on touring England]:

I always looked forward to Dusty's visits. She was my devoted friend, and it made me feel special and loved to have a close friend like her. On one of her visits, she had been working in a different town and was not booked in our hotel. She was having problems in her personal life at the time that made her cry. We had a heart-to-heart talk, but I couldn't get her to go into it. She had been having trouble sleeping, although she was exhausted. She was so relaxed after tea service in my room that she curled up and went to sleep fully dressed, just like the baby doll that she was. She looked so peaceful, so I just let her sleep, and I covered her with a comforter like any friend would. The next morning Mickey Stevenson came knocking at my door to tell me of some changes in the show scheduling for the day. As Mickey was standing in the doorway talking to me about some alterations in the show's lineup, he looked past me and spotted Dusty as she lay there with one of her big legs stuck out from under the comforter - fishnet stockings and all. For the rest of the day, all the men on the show kidded and teased me, as though something odd had transpired. I was amazed at just how others regarded our friendship, but I couldn't have cared less what anyone thought.

Martha Reeves [on The Sounds of Motown]:

Dusty allowed me to sing a duet with her on her big hit "Wishin' and Hopin'" with the Vandellas singing background. I could see Diane [Ross] in the wings eating her heart out because she hadn't been chosen to do it.

Pianist Bobby Woods, on the Dusty in Memphis sessions:

It was a kinda icky situation. I didn’t want too get to close to it. At that time people didn’t dare come out of the closet. In the country where I came from, if someone found out someone was homosexual you either got hung [sic] or ran out of town. It was that strong. I was a naïve Southern Baptist boy. I’m not judging her, that’s between her and the Almighty.

wex-dustyJerry Wexler, Producer of Dusty in Memphis:

Dusty had a very fragile temperament, and was a very fragile person. She didn’t feel right because it was Aretha Franklin’s booth or Wilson Pickett or so on. But the performance she finally delivered was incredible. She had a magical soullike quality of her own which is not rhythm and blues or jazz, I don’t how to characterise it. Usually if you say it is too white or too vanilla, you are saying that it lacks soul or passion, but Dusty was the incarnation of the white soul queen. She infused everything she did with tremendous passion. There was a certain sexual vulnerability that Dusty conveyed that was a very important component in reaching her audience.

Neil Tennant:

She hadn't recorded for several years, but as soon as she arrived in the studio and began to sing, we knew that the greatest female singer Britain has ever produced was still on brilliant form. Quite honestly, we were in awe of her. Dusty was a tender, exhilarating and soulful singer; incredibly intelligent at phrasing a song, painstakingly building it up to a thrilling climax. She was also a warm and funny person.

Elton John:

To me she was as good as Aretha Franklin... and completely timeless... she was the greatest.

bettemidlerBette Midler:

Love that Dusty! She has such an idiosyncratic voice, you always know it's her. She's perennially vulnerable, perennially young and a perennial teenager with that kind of angst in the voice, that cry for help, you know, the little girl waiting to be rescued by the big white knight or whatever. I've always loved her voice, I think as a technician she's one of the best, she's a true soul singer. Lots and lots of heartbreak and she's another one who we always believe. She can't sing a bad note, never has, and every time she sings the song, it has depth, you know. That's what a great artist is, a great artist manages to make even the slightest pop tune.. she manages to invest those slight pop tunes with meaning. I really miss her, I really miss her.

Elvis Costello:

The voice is... one of the greatest voices in pop music, without doubt. And I don’t think she’s ever really got credit for that because people concentrate on the icon aspect of it. You know, the hair and the eyelashes and the hand movements.

Rod McKuen:

Another of Johnny’s guests that week in 1970 was the inimitable Dusty Springfield. I’d met Dusty years before on my first trip to London, she her brother Tom and Tim Field then comprised a country-folk trio called "The Springfield’s." Now only a few years later we were big enough in our own rights to be guesting with Johnny Cash. What a heady time for both of us. After we finishing taping the Cash show, Dusty, Norma Tanega, Edward and I traveled back to LA together and had another week of craziness. We did the town, I showed her off to everyone, before she flew off to London and I headed out for a tour of Australia. Both vowing we’d see each other soon and certainly work together again. Boy, did we.

Of course these memories and so many others have crowded my head since Dusty’s death from breast cancer last week. I have been trying to write something meaningful about our personal and professional friendship that has spanned four decades. It’s been impossible. A letter about a TV show 29 years ago with Johnny & Dusty seems like yesterday. I’ve played and replayed tapes of my British TV series where Dusty was a special guest and "The Christmas in New England" special we did together; listened to her marvelous recording of "If You Go Away" and "Simple Gifts" and especially the duets we did on various shows. And, I’ve reread her letters and cables. So much of Dusty is there and so much is missing.

In the end I’ve put this task aside and will return to it another time. Dusty Springfield’s talent and intelligence are way beyond emotion. And I’m so filled with emotion and grief about Dusty’s too short life, and the love she radiated during it, that this is neither the time or place for a proper and deserved eulogy. One of a kind, indeed. Irreplaceable, you bet.. I love you Dusty and I always will.

Tom Jones:

There was only one Dusty Springfield. When she died, music lost a legend.


She was a real powerful force, and yet she was shy and vulnerable... to sing with that amount of passion takes courage... Dusty had such a great spirit that will never die.

Paul McCartney:

Dusty always had credibility. I was glad I had the chance to tell her how much I and the other Beatles had always thought of her. She was a great singer and a beautiful lady who will be missed by many.

joolshollandJools Holland:

Dusty was on 'Later' and she performed the song Where Is A Woman To Go. In this performance she got Allison Moyet and Sinead O'Connor to come and sing the backing vocals and I was very excited, and nervous about meeting her becuase I'd been such a fan since I was a small child. But she was totally musical and completely in control through gentleness and encouraging to all the people around her, and so in the end, a brilliant performance came out of not just her but she bought it out of all the people around her.

Joss Stone:

I've never ever turned her off. I've never skipped a song.. . . When people say my name and her name in the same sentence, it's crazy! Dusty is amazing.

Carole King:

There is a hole in music where Dusty Springfield used to be.

annie lennoxAnnie Lennox:

Dusty is singing
The drab evening
Once again.
In sparkle gown
Arcs of vibrato
Of Invisible
Dusty is singing.

In Her Own Words

Dusty-in-chair“I'm the most misunderstood, misquoted person I know, honestly.”

“It's marvellous to be popular, but foolish to think it will last.”

“I am a wreck after a performance, I am quite nervous, Basically I am quite a shy person so to take on the mantle of a performer is not an easy act. Whenever they say 'Dusty Springfield' I think 'This is somebody else'. ”

“Give a butch roar or a girlish shriek, I don’t mind who does what, sort it out for yourselves!”

“Please if you looked at me nicely, take me home. You like me! You fancy me! Wow! You know, can I kiss your boots? I was so innocent, and so insecure and so over-awed. Coming from having no confidence in myself on any level. That somebody could fancy me...They could be the rottenest people in the world, and some of them were. I made some dreadful mistakes, and I've never been allowed to forget them. Some of them were genuinely rotten people; there was nothing good about them, nothing nurturing. I didn't know how to sustain a relationship - didn't know what a relationship was. I don't know, I just ran over people.”

dquote4"How would I describe myself? Well I'm about the last person to ever become a pop singer. It's something I love, but somehow one always imagines that a girl pop singer would always be very much in command of situations and that's about the last thing that I am. I'm so scatter-brained it's surprising that I ever arrive at dates at the right time."

“A few days ago I was on a TV quiz show in Hollywood ["The Dating Game"] in which my prize was to go off on a date to winter sports in Kitzbuhel. Another girl on the show won a trip to Peru, which I'd have loved, but a European resort was no great thrill for me. Then my date turned out to be a young Greek-American who looked like Ken Dodd. He was a nice guy but we didn't seem to have much in common, even though he wanted to get into show business and asked my manager to manage him! In the end, I managed to get out of going and came back to London instead.”

biog1On performing at the Brooklyn Fox: “The Vandellas did the backup for Marvin Gaye and on the first show there was always one who overslept, so I got to be the third Vandella….and that to this day is the biggest thrill of my life.”

“Dionne is angry with me to this day for covering a couple of her songs. But that’s what English acts did, including the Beatles. We all swiped things. The embarrassment is when you come face to face with the person who did the original and usually did it much better. If I’d of done the original of something, I’d have been very angry too. Most of them were very charming, but a couple of them had it in for me.”

"One of my biggest fears is growing old. Youth seems to be so important in this game and I want to stay on top all the time. If things look like they are sliding, then I'll throw the lot up. I don't want to be an old show business hag with memories and clippings."

dquote1“I have to, in the walk on, I can’t stand in the wings for that reason, I have to run from the dressing room on to the stage because I might run the other way if they gave me five seconds to stand in the wings, it’s almost as if I am playing somebody else.”

“When a man stands his ground they say, ‘Yeh! He stood his ground!’ When a woman stands her ground she’s a B-I-T-C-H. (as recalled by Madeline Bell.)

“I don't need to be adored, to hear that applause. If I never heard it again, I would still be fine.”

"And I don't think I have the physical appearance of a girl singer. I'm not sure how they should look, it's just that I don't think I fit the bill. I think my face is old looking."

“I had no trouble with my singing or career, it was Mary O’Brien I had trouble with. To this day when they announce me as Dusty Springfield I stand backstage and think myself into her personality."

dquote2“One of the reasons that propelled me out of England was that I had no private life whatsoever.”

"Whatever your personal political feelings are, if you become involved in them publicly you're bound to come out the loser."

“I don't like the idea of getting old, because I have great empathy for old people. I understand their sadness and their loneliness and it really hurts. I don't think I'd like to feel I was a nuisance. Loneliness in old age and any time is very sad.”

“Somewhere – you never know when – I crossed the line from heavy drinking into problem drinking. I was addicted to all sorts of things. So many of us were. I’m an addictive personality. A lot of us who went through the Sixties went through a training period of being ravers. It was encouraged. The more you fell downstairs and indulged in lunatic behaviour, the more people said ’Oh, she’s a right card, isn’t she!’ and actually it worked for a while.”

dquote3“I still think that because I don’t go [attend Mass] I am going to Hell... But I don’t want to go to Hell because I haven’t really done anything evil. I’m just lazy and self indulgent.”

"I was a nothing kid. Not particularly good. Not particularly bad."

“Once I broke a telephone. I was very cross. I've never done anything quite as bad before or since. Oh, I once smashed some plates, but I did not like them much, anyway.”

“I think that [cats] are amazingly beautiful and sensuous. They get up in the morning and they look great. They’re comic and affectionate, and they can spot a phoney straight away."

dquote6“All the things that have happened in my life are meant to happen. Having done the ’Rent A Diva’ bit, and having had some success with the Pet Shop Boys thing, there was no more mileage in it. I’m not a dance act. I felt if I was to do music again I'd have to be where I felt comfortable and was allowed to be less of a diva. Where it wasn’t necessary for me to sound as if I was about to explode if I changed key one more time.”

“I think the Diva only came with various overwritten dramas that come along that people make up all sorts of stuff. I mean you do one thing and it gets blown up into this legend of pop Callas proportions and it was - most of it was - rubbish, but I also ran with it for a while. I almost started to believe it for a while. But I’m not a Diva at all... In the pop world I was probably given to more waving of arms and general noise making, sort of directing traffic.”

“I think Divas have this rather... neurotic is the wrong word... but there’s this sort of tension, and it's very real. I am tense, not now, but I certainly am when I am worrying about things on stage, and I think that edge makes it an uneven performance, but in the high parts, it creates an atmosphere of 'God, is she going to explode, or is she even going to get through this song, is she going to finish this act, what's going to happen next?’ and I think that living-on-the-edge quality makes audiences quite enjoy themselves."

“They might come out sweating, certainly I do, and exhausted, but they think that they have had a very good time! I'm there to give them a good time no matter what the cost to me, I am a wreck after a performance!”

“I burp like everyone else and I’m promiscuous. My affections are easily swayed and I can be very unfaithful.”

dquote7“A lot of people say I’m bent and I’ve heard it so many times I’ve almost learned to accept it ... I couldn’t stand to be thought of as a big butch lady. But I know I’m as perfectly 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.”

“I think my life and career would have been easier without the constant gay rumours. My sexuality has never been a problem to me but I think it has for other people. They seem to want me to be either gay or straight – they can’t handle it if someone’s both. How many other women entertainers can you think of who’ve admitted they’re bisexual? Believe me, some are”

“Look, let's say I've experimented with most things in life."