British pop star Dusty Springfield died at her home outside London Tuesday,
two weeks before she was to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
She was 59 and had fought a long battle with breast cancer.
Springfield was one of the most infuential and best-loved British pop singers
to emerge around the time of the British invastion. Her hits included "I Only
Want to Be With You," "Wishin' and Hopin'" and a 1987 collaboration with the
Pet Shop Boys, "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" Her 1969 album Dusty in Memphis -- which was reissued on CD two weeks ago with 11 extra tracks -- is considered a soul-pop classic.
Among her many champions in the rock world where pop songwriters Elvis Costello, who covered her U.K. hit "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself," and Sting; both artists submitted songs for her 1982 album White Heat.
"Dusty Springfield's contributions to music are innumerable. She
embodied the British pop chanteuse, mastered American soul music and
delivered a stunning run of classic hit singles," read a statement from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "Dusty's subtle yet forceful vocals and impeccable delivery were uniquely British and universally appealing. Her Dusty in Memphis album stand as one of
the best recordings of the rock era.
"Though the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum mourns her passing, we
take solace that she knew of her induction before her death."
Springfield, who will also be remembered for her huge bouffant hair-dos, was
born Mary O'Brien in London in 1939. She had her first hits in the early '60s
as one-third of the British folk-pop trio The Springfields, which also
included her brother Tom (born Dion). Their much-covered "Silver Threads and
Golden Needles" reached #20 on the charts in 1962, a year and a half before the Beatles broke in America. She left the band for a solo career in 1963; Tom Springfield became a songwriter and producer for the Seekers.
Dusty Springfield, who had a husky voice, reinvented herself as a soul-pop
singer. She made an instant impression in the U.K. by holding her own in duets
with soul singer Martha Reeves on the TV program "Ready, Steady, Go."
Springfield's early solo hits, inspired by Motown, girl groups and American
soul, included "I Only Want to Be With You," "Stay Awhile," "Wishin' and Hopin'," "Losing You," and "In the Middle of Nowhere."
Critics considered Springfield's songs to have more depth and intensity than
the girl groups with whom she often competed on the charts. But throughout her
career she remained more popular at home in the U.K. than in the United
She covered top material by such esteemed writers as Burt Bacharach and Hal
David and Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Her biggest '60s hit was 1966's "You
Don't Have to Say You Love Me," a soulful adaptation of an Italian pop song.
As the decade progressed, Springfield's song selection veered toward the
middle of the road.
But after signing with Atlantic Records in the U.S., Springfield reached her
moment of true glory. She hooked up with American soul musicians and Aretha
Franklin's production team for Dusty in Memphis, an LP that featured
startling takes on songs by Bacharach, Randy Newman and others and featured
the major hit "Son of a Preacher Man."
The legendary Philadelphia soul team of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff produced A Brand New Me (1970), for which Springfield garnered continued critical praise. But after moving to the U.S., she recorded only sporadically and with little commercial success in the '70s.
She made a major comeback when she hooked up with British dance act the Pet Shop Boys to record "What Have I Done To Deserve This?," which reached #2 in the U.S. in 1988. Her last album, A Very Fine Love (1995), was a
venture into adult-contemporary pop that featured contributions from singer
Daryl Hall of Hall and Oates and country singers Mary Chapin Carpenter and
She struggled with her illness in the last few years. At last year's Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Rolling Stone magazine founder Jann Wenner asked the audience to pray for her recovery. In January, she was
honored in the U.K. with the Order of the British Empire medal.
A spokesperson for Ms. Springfield, who did not want to be named, said the singer died at her home around 10:40 p.m. British time Tuesday night in Henley-on-Thames, about 30 miles from London, England. The spokesperson said had been seriously ill in the months leading to her death.
"She's not performed for quite some time," he said.
Funeral arrangements, he said, have not yet been made.
Along with Dusty in Memphis, the album Dusty in London was
reissued two weeks ago. Several other Springfield albums are scheduled for CD reissue later this month.
(Contributing Editor Chris O'Connor contributed to this report.)