Born in West London to an Irish Catholic family that enjoyed music, Springfield learned to sing at home. In 1958 she joined her first professional group, The Lana Sisters, and two years later formed a pop-folk vocal trio, The Springfields, with her brother Tom. Her solo career began in 1963 with the upbeat pop hit, "I Only Want to Be with You". Among the hits that followed were "Wishin' and Hopin'" (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 pop music, she 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. Although never considered a Northern Soul artist in her own right, Springfield's efforts contributed a great deal to the formation of the genre as a result.
Partly owing to these efforts, a year later she eventually became the best-selling female singer in the world and topped a number of popularity polls, including Melody Makers Best International Vocalist. 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. After its release, Springfield experienced a career slump for several years. However, in collaboration with Pet Shop Boys, she 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 Pulp Fiction soundtrack, interest in her early output was revived.
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