On this day in history : 2nd March 1999 – The death of singer and record producer Dusty Springfield – who’s career spanned five decades – from the 1950s through to the 90s….

Image source : Philips Records / Billboard – Public domain

Dusty was born Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien on the 16th of April 1939 in West Hampstead, London – into an Irish Catholic family…. She spent the early part of her childhood in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire before later moving to West London….

She began to sing with her brother Dion, performing in folk clubs – and in 1957 the pair worked in Butlin’s holiday camps…. She then joined the Lana Sisters in 1958, performed on television and played live shows both at home in the UK and at US Air Force bases in Europe….

In 1960 she was back working with her brother and together with Tim Field they formed ‘The Springfields’ – a folk-pop trio, who went on to have chart success both here and in the US…. It was at this time that she and Dion changed their names…. The story goes the band got their name by taking Tim’s surname and as it was a beautiful day added ‘Spring’ to it, giving the name ‘Springfield’…. She changed her name to ‘Dusty Springfield’ and Dion changed his to ‘Tom Springfield’….

Image credit : Bradford Timeline via Flickr

Dusty’s solo career began in 1963 with I Only Want To Be With You, which charted at No.4…. It was followed by a succession of other hits, such as 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)…. It was also in the late 1960s that she was given her own variety show on the BBC, with guest appearances from the likes of Tina Turner and Jimi Hendrix….

Dusty, 1966 – Trade ad for ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ – Philips Records

The blonde beehive hair-do and darkly made up eyes gave Dusty the iconic 60’s look…. She could also be a high-spirited lass in nature….and liked nothing more than a good old food fight! Once making the newspaper headlines when she aimed a cake at a waiter at the Melody Maker Polls Awards….

Image credit : Bradford Timeline via Flickr

Dusty relocated to the States in 1970….the strain was beginning to show…. She had been living with American songwriter Norma Tanega since late 1966 but cracks were beginning to appear in the relationship…. Dusty didn’t like the media intrusion into her private life nor the speculation about her sexual orientation…. By now her health was beginning to deteriorate and she was suffering from bouts of depression…. She settled in Los Angeles and became involved in campaigning for animal rights…. By the mid 1970s she had slipped into relative obscurity and had begun to drink heavily….

But in 1987 there was to be a massive turnabout…. She was asked by The Pet Shop Boys to record What Have I Done To Deserve This? with them….which went on to reach No.2 on both sides of the Atlantic…. She then recorded the theme tune to the 1989 film Scandal, a version of The Pet Shop Boys’ Nothing Has Been Proved…. It was at this point that she came back to England to live…. A BBC biography, ‘Dusty’, was televised in May 1994 – and she released a new album A Very Fine Love in 1995….

Record cover – Fair use

It was whilst recording this album in Nashville during January 1994 that Dusty became unwell…. Her doctors in England diagnosed breast cancer and she underwent intensive chemotherapy and radiation treatment – putting her cancer into remission…. However, by mid 1996 it was back…. Dusty died in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire on the 2nd of March 1999….

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