Dusty Springfield is, arguably, one of the greatest vocalists Britain has ever produced. However, her popularity at home wasn’t shared in neighbouring France, where she enjoyed just two hits in the 1960s.
She was born Mary O’Brien on 16 April 1939 in West Hampstead, London. She was given the nickname Dusty as a child.
In 1958 she joined the Lana Sisters, who released several singles over the next couple of years.
She left the group in 1960 to form the folk trio the Springfields with her brother Dion (who renamed himself Tom Springfield) and Tim Feild, and adopted the name Dusty Springfield. The group scored several UK hits, before Dusty quit the group in autumn 1963.
Her first French recording had been with the group the Springfields. The group recorded – but didn’t release – French versions of their two 1961 UK hits. Breakaway became Lève toi and Bambino became Bambino (petit enfant tu dors).
After Dusty scored her first few solo hits in the UK, Philips were keen to promote the singer in the rest of Europe. She had already enjoyed a top 20 hit in France with Every day I have to cry, in March 1964, and in July that year, she recorded a number of songs in French, German and Italian.
From those recordings, she released an EP in French in the autumn of 1964, titled simply Dusty Springfield. It contained Demain tu peux changer (a version of US girl group the Shirelles’ Will you still love me tomorrow), Je ne peux pas t’en vouloir (Losing you – recorded before the English-language version), L’été est fini (The summer is over) and Reste encore un instant (Stay awhile). The EP was also released in the UK in the summer of 1965 as Mademoiselle Dusty.
She scored her biggest French hit in the spring of 1969 with Son of a preacher man, which peaked at number five, and enjoyed just one further top 40 hit, 20 years later, with the Pet Shop Boys-produced In private.
However, her relative lack of success in France didn’t prevent French stars from covering her material.
In 1963, French rocker Richard Anthony and Madagascan brother-and-sister six-some Les Surfs both recorded I only want to be with you as À présent tu peux t’en aller. Richard Anthony made quite a career out of recording further Dusty songs, including Pas comme les autres (Something special), Si tu restes avec moi (In the middle of nowhere), Il est temps de comprendre (Di fronte all’amore) and Je ne vois que toi (All I see is you).
In 1964, Françoise Hardy issued C’est le passé, a version of Once upon a time, which Dusty had penned herself, Sheila cut Oui, il faut croire, her take on I just don't know what to do with myself and Sophie enjoyed success with Tente de chance (Wishin’ and hopin’). In 1969, Séverine released Je ferme les yeux, je compte dix, a version of I close my eyes and count to ten and Nicoletta cut Le grand amour, her take on Son of a preacher man.