February 3, 1999 12:42


Legendary British diva dies after long battle with cancer...

Dusty Springfield died last night (Tuesday March 2) at her home in Oxfordshire after a four year battle with cancer.

When tags like 'legend' are attached to every no-mark who survives more than a few years in the music business, it sometimes devalues it when it is needed to describe someone who unquestionably deserves it.

Born Mary Isabel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien in London, Dusty's pop career began in the late 1950s as a member of The Springfields, a folk trio formed with brother Tom.

Her solo career launched her as a great white soul singer and one of the few British female artists to enjoy international success. Her biggest hit - 'Son Of A Preacher Man' - was a top ten in both Britain and the US.

While contemporaries like Sandie Shaw and Cilla Black stuck to fairly routine British pop music, always with an eye to the middle of the road Saturday night TV variety show audience, Dusty pushed herself and her music, bringing a heavy Motown influence to her work and carefully selecting her material. She recorded several Burt Bacharach & Hal David songs, most notably 'The Look Of Love'. Like Scott Walker, she championed Belgian singer Jacques Brel, covering his 'If You Go Away' on her fourth album 'Where Am I Going' in 1967. She also covered several Carole King & Gerry Goffin songs, enjoying a 1966 hit with 'Goin' Back' - later recorded by The Byrds - and recording the definitive version of 'No Easy Way Down' - recently recorded by Mark Eitzel.

Her best album - 'Dusty In Memphis' - was recorded with Atlantic/Stax producer Jerry Wexler. It was her high watermark; she settled in America and recorded a series of hit and miss albums, though her performances cannot be faulted and all containing occasional great songs - her cover version of Van Morrison's 'Tupelo Honey', for example. She made a few ill advised records, like the early 80s disco album 'Whiteheat' and a comeback orchestrated by Peter Stringfellow.

She worked with The Pet Shop Boys in the mid 80s and again for her 1990 album 'Reputations' which recaptured some of the spirit of her 60s work.

Unlike other mainstream British showbiz singers, Dusty had mystique; her personal style - the make-up applied with a shovel, the processed hair, the white lips - was almost like a mask. Rumours abounded about her private life, which she actually managed to keep very private. For Dusty, it was just about the music.

While Cilla became of TV presenter and Sandie Shaw became a Morrissey-approved novelty act, Dusty was still making music up until her illness made it too difficult to continue. She still had the distinctive smokey, silky voice with the undertones of sensuality that put her nearer to Aretha Franklin than to Petula Clark. Dusty was awarded an OBE in the New Years Honours list. She was too ill to attend the ceremony to collect it. Her legacy is a phenomenal body of work and an inspiration for artists as diverse as Elvis Costello and Neil Tennant and every British female singer with ambitions to record a great torch song.

Read More On This Artist

More News
Bat For Lashes unveils new song 'Skin Song' - listen
Manic Street Preachers' Nicky Wire: ''Futurology' is one of our most...
The Vines share video for new single 'Metal Zone' - watch
Azealia Banks reportedly 'free' from Interscope recording contract
Zach Braff discusses Coldplay and Bon Iver-featuring soundtrack to new movie Wish I Was Here
Limp Bizkit at Glastonbury? 'I doubt we'll ever be invited'
Mick Jagger laughs off claims he is to blame from Brazil's 7-1 World Cup defeat
Robin Thicke album 'sells less than 54 copies' in Australia, according to reports
Poll result: NME readers do not want to see pyrotechnic flares banned from music festivals
T In The Park weather update: Warm and sunny to begin with before longer spells of rain
Sinead O'Connor replaces Bobby Womack as Womad headliner
Kasabian's Serge Pizzorno teams up with Noel Fielding for second series of 'Luxury...
Nick Cave to perform live at Barbican screening of '20,000 Days On Earth' documentary
Sonisphere organisers 'shocked' by festival attack which left 21-year-old male...
Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt to produce indie film
N-Dubz confirm plans for 2015 reunion and vow to 'come back like Black Eyed Peas'
Courtney Love lists sex as her 'favourite obsession'
Ellie Goulding breaks up crowd fight at Eden Project gig
Sum 41's Deryck Whibley says Iggy Pop is supporting his recovery from alcohol addiction
Burzum's Varg Vikernes found guilty of inciting racial hatred
Bruce Springsteen debuts short film for 'Hunter Of Invisible Game' – watch
Justin Bieber sentenced to anger management and community service for egging neighbour's house

More News


Please login to add your comment.

Featured Videos
Latest Tickets - Booking Now
Know Your NME
  • Facebook
  • Twitter

NME Store & Framed Prints
Most Read News
Popular This Week
Inside NME.COM
On NME.COM Today