Sunday, April 28, 2019

Remembering and Celebrating Dusty

Before the month of April ends, I want to acknowledge and celebrate the late, great Dusty Springfield (1939-1999) who, if still with us, would have turned 80 on April 16. (In the images above and below, Dusty is shown recording the album that would turn out to be her last, 1995's A Very Fine Love.)

My interest in and admiration for Dusty is well documented here at The Wild Reed, most notably in Soul Deep, one of my very first posts. Other previous posts worth investigating, especially if you're new to Dusty, are Dusty Springfield: Queer Icon, which features an excerpt from Laurence Cole's book, Dusty Springfield: In the Middle of Nowhere; Celebrating Dusty (2017), which features an excerpt from Patricia Juliana Smith's insightful article on Dusty's “camp masquerades”; Celebrating Dusty (2013), which features excerpts from Annie J. Randall's book, Dusty!: Queen of the Postmods; Remembering Dusty, my 2009 tribute to Dusty on the tenth anniversary of Dusty's death; and Remembering Dusty, 20 Years On, my tribute this year on the twentieth anniversary of her death.

And, of course, off-site there's my website dedicated to Dusty, Woman of Repute (currently only accessible through the Internet archive service, The Way Back Machine).

My website's name is derived from Dusty's 1990 album Reputation, and as I explain in Soul Deep, it was this album that introduced me not only to Dusty's music but also to her life and journey – much of which resonated deeply with me. Indeed, my identification with aspects of Dusty's journey played an important role in my coming out as a gay man.

In honor of the April 16 80th anniversary of Dusty's birth, I share today a few of my favorite images of Dusty, accompanied by a series quotes about her that I first shared on the introduction page of Woman of Repute. I also share today one of my favorite recordings of Dusty's, the rather obscure "I Believe in You."

Recorded in 1971 for Dusty's third album with Atlantic Records in the U.S., the languid and blusey “I Believe in You” was one of two single releases from these sessions, the other being “Haunted.” Both failed to chart. Soon after, a rumored falling out with company executives lead to Dusty's contract with the label not being renewed. The album suffered an even crueler fate; it was shelved and never given a catalogue number or title, though “Faithful” had been its working title, taken from the name of one of the album's tracks, “I'll Be Faithful.”

A fire in the mid-1970s at one of Atlantic's storage sites was thought to have destroyed the “Faithful” session tapes, leaving only the two singles (and possible third single) and their b-sides from the sessions intact. However, in the 1990s the album's producer, Jeff Barry, was asked about the sessions and revealed he had kept completed stereo mixes of all the tracks. Most were released as bonus tracks on the Rhino/Atlantic deluxe remastered edition of Dusty in Memphis in 1999, though “Someone Who Cares” and “Nothing is Forever” had been released on Springfield's UK-only 1972 album See All Her Faces.

In April 2015, Faithful was released as a proper album, forty-four years after its planned release was shelved, with an additional bonus track, “Nothing Is Forever,” which was the B-side to the aforementioned single “Haunted.”

Additionally, Faithful marks Springfield's 14th studio album release, chronologically speaking, first in two decades, and first posthumous release.

It's gone way beyond just lovin'
And for a long time now
It's been more than just a thrill
Oh, honey, I believe in you.

. . . I've waited a long time
To have me this feelin'
A Sunday kind of feeling
All peaceful and out of sight
Oh, honey, I believe in you . . .


Maybe it's the sultriness. The urgency in the gentlest whisper, the subtlety in her boldest proclamations of love, loss, heartache, and ascendancy. Maybe it's the way she can capture both the ecstasy of the afterglow and the despair of a breakup's aftershock. But there is something about Dusty Springfield that makes her contribution to pop music - hell, to life - particular, peerless. There are plenty of divas, plenty of blue-eyed soul sisters, but there is only one Dusty, and when I think about it there is no other singer who reaches me in so many ways so deeply as Dusty. . . . While remaining incredibly true to her own sensibility and spirit, no other singer has as effortlessly proven that soul is not a matter of color or nationality but of feeling. Dusty knows not just the look of love but also its essence.

Barry Walters
American writer

The way she looked was easy to impersonate -
the panda eyes and the bouffant hair.
But the voice was impossible to imitate.
Dusty was the perfect pop singer.

Petula Clark
Legendary British vocalist

Being the first British artist to chase The Beatles up the U.S. charts, Dusty used her celebrity to champion the cause of soul music in England, bringing over Motown acts [including Martha and the Vandellas] before anyone had heard of them and featuring them on her TV specials. Her affinity with blacks didn't stop with their music. In 1964, she was deported from South Africa after refusing to perform for segregated audiences, long before apartheid was a cause celebre. "I wasn't making any major statements," she told the British press. "I just thought it was morally the right thing to do." If that isn't textbook soul, it ought to be.

Serene Dominic
American music critic

She didn't write the songs, and if you had never heard her sing, you could argue Dusty was a '60s version of the non-writing, so-called divas of today, the Celine Dions, Mariah Careys, et al. But the difference is that she was an interpreter, not just someone who hit the right notes. Like Sinatra, she didn't write the songs but she sounded as if she had lived them.

– Bernard Zuel
Australian music critic

[Dusty's voice] stirred up strange feelings and mysterious longings, unearthing anything you thought was buried for good. It was the voice of experience. . . . [She] refused to indulge in anything as ordinary as excess. Her voice could sound as big as a hurricane, but the British pop icon never blew a tune away just because she could. She used her power sparingly, unleashing the gospel diva within only when necessary. She treated the songs she recorded like scripts, and she negotiated their emotional peaks and valleys like an Oscar-winning Sherpa. No wonder songwriters loved her. . . . Whether she was holding back ot letting her big voice fly, Dusty Springfield sang like a woman whose interior life was as rich as the melodramas she played out on vinyl. She sang with intelligence and intuition. She gave the songs room to breathe, but she always made them her own.

Karla Peterson
American music critic

Dusty Springfield's voice wafts through her recordings like smoke, spiraling into shadowy plumes, echoing in a sexy mist. Listening to her records, you can never quite locate the center of her voice. She seems to be everywhere and nowhere in the song, permeating the pianos, vibrating between violin strings. It's a bewitching mix of messages her voice exudes, expressing both power in its barreling range and vulnerability in its airy tone. Match a sound that engrossing to top-rank material, brilliantly ornamental arrangements, and a singer decked out like a Christmas tree, and you've got a certified legend on your hands . . . Dusty's authority comes through in more than just her honed persona. It also rings through the command of her voice. What other singer could combine the power of Barbra Streisand, the grace of Julie London and the soul of Martha Reeves? That Dusty can explains why her songs will always appeal to anyone who ever had a heart.

Jim Farber
British music critic

Most of the queer boy bands of contemporary rock music, as well as such androgynous or sexually ambiguous women performers as Annie Lennox, Allison Moyet, Chrissie Hynde, and even Madonna, demonstrate the musical, visual or aesthetic influence of Dusty Springfield, one of the first women in rock who dared to 'strike a pose.'

– Patricia Juliana Smith
Author and editor of The Queer Sixties

She's unique, alien, an enigmatic amalgamation
of black soul and Brit melodrama,
private passions and popular myth,
fantasy and reality.

Who was Dusty?
Did she ever really exist?
What did it all mean?
Now all we have is the music.
Just listen to the music.

– Christian Ward
British music critic/writer

Related Off-site Links:
Remembering the “White Queen of Soul” on the 80th Anniversary of Her Birth (Part 1)Daily Kos (April 16, 2019).
Remembering the “White Queen of Soul” on the 80th Anniversary of Her Birth (Part 2)Daily Kos (April 16, 2019).
Remembering Dusty Springfield on What Would Have Been Her 80th BirthdayAlbumism (April 16, 2019).
Rediscovered: Dusty Springfield’s Faithful – Ken Paulson (Americana Music News, April 25, 2015).
The Unexpected Historical New Release from Miss Dusty Springfield – Faithful – David Cocas (The Real Music Divas, April 15, 2015).

For more of Dusty at The Wild Reed, see:
Soul Deep
Dusty Springfield: Queer Icon
Remembering Dusty, 20 Years On
Remembering Dusty (2018)
Celebrating Dusty (2017)
Celebrating Dusty (2013)
Remembering Dusty (2009)
Remembering Dusty – 14 Years On
Remembering Dusty – 11 Years On
The Other "Born This Way"
Time and the River
Remembering a Great Soul Singer
A Song and Challenge for 2012
The Sound of Two Decades Colliding


Connie Olson said...

This brought tears to my eyes. Dusty truly influenced my career as a very young singer. Thank you, Michael.

Kathleen Olsen said...

I give thanks for all you have taught me about this amazing talent . . . Dusty!

Di Fergo said...

Loved her music. Thank you for remembering Dusty. A brilliant talent.

David Hay Gibson said...

Thanks for your tribute to Dusty on your excellent Wild Reed blog, Michael. In my view it’s the most respectable and beautifully written tribute blog to Dusty on the internet! Take care and enjoy your present time in Australia. Warm greetings, David xx