Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien OBE (April 16, 1939 – March 2, 1999), professionally known as Dusty Springfield, was an English pop singer and record producer whose career extended from the late 1950s to the 1990s. With her distinctive mezzo-soprano sound, she was an important singer of blue-eyed soul and at her peak was one of the most successful British female performers, with six top 20 singles on the US Billboard Hot 100 and sixteen on the UK Singles Chart from 1963 to 1989. She is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and UK Music Hall of Fame. International polls have named Springfield among the best female rock artists of all time. Her image, supported by a peroxide blonde bouffant hairstyle, evening gowns, and heavy make-up, as well as her flamboyant performances, made her an icon of the Swinging Sixties.
Born in West Hampstead in London to a 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 Springfield and Tim Feild. They became the UK’s top selling act. 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).
In January 1994, while recording her penultimate album, A Very Fine Love, in Nashville, Tennessee, Springfield felt ill. When she returned to England a few months later, her physicians diagnosed breast cancer. She received months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment and the cancer was in remission.
In 1995, in apparent good health, Springfield set about promoting the album, which was released that year. By mid-1996, the cancer had returned and in spite of vigorous treatments, she died in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire on March 2, 1999.
Her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame occurred two weeks after her death. Her friend Elton John helped induct her into the Hall of Fame, declaring, “I’m biased but I just think she was the greatest white singer there ever has been … every song she sang, she claimed as her own.”
Springfield’s funeral service was attended by hundreds of fans and people from the music business, including Elvis Costello, Lulu and Pet Shop Boys. It was a Catholic funeral, which took place at the church of St Mary the Virgin in Henley-on-Thames, where Springfield had lived during her last years. A marker dedicated to her memory was placed in the church graveyard. In accordance with Springfield’s wishes, she was cremated and some of her ashes were buried at Henley, while the rest were scattered by her brother, Tom Springfield, at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.