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Dusty Springfield in 1966
|Birth name||Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien|
16 April 1939|
West Hampstead, London, England
|Origin||Ealing, London, England|
|Died||2 March 1999
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England
|Instruments||Voice, guitar, piano, percussion|
|Associated acts||Lana Sisters, Springfields, Sweet Inspirations, Pet Shop Boys|
Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien[note 1] OBE (16 April 1939 – 2 March 1999), known professionally as Dusty Springfield was a British pop singer whose career extended from the late 1950s to the 1990s. With her distinctive sensual sound, she was an important white soul singer, and at her peak was one of the most successful British female performers, with 18 singles in the Billboard Hot 100 from 1964 to 1970. She is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the U.K. Music Hall of Fame. International polls have named Springfield among the best female rock artists of all time.
Born in West London to an Irish Catholic family that enjoyed music, Springfield learned to sing at home. She joined her first professional group, The Lana Sisters, in 1958, then formed the pop-folk vocal trio The Springfields in 1960 with her brother Dion.
Her solo career began in 1963 with the upbeat pop hit, "I Only Want to Be with You" (1963). 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). A fan of American pop music, she was the first public figure to bring little-known soul singers to a wider British audience, when she created and hosted the first British performances of the top-selling Motown artists in 1965. By 1966, she was the best-selling female singer in the world, and topped a number of popularity polls, including Melody Maker's Best International Vocalist. She was the first British singer to top the New Musical Express readers' poll for Female Singer. Her image, supported by a peroxide blonde beehive hairstyle, evening gowns, and heavy make-up, made her an icon of the Swinging Sixties.
The marked changes in pop music in the mid-1960s left many female pop singers out of fashion. To boost her credibility as a soul artist, Springfield went to Memphis, Tennessee, to record an album of pop and soul music with the Atlantic Records main production team. Released in 1969, Dusty in Memphis has been ranked among the greatest albums of all time by Rolling Stone and VH1 artists, New Musical Express readers, and the Channel 4 viewers polls. The album was also awarded a spot in the Grammy Hall of Fame.
After this, however, Springfield experienced a career slump for eighteen years. She returned to the Top 20 of the British and American charts in collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys on the songs "What Have I Done to Deserve This?", "Nothing Has Been Proved", and "In Private". Interest in Springfield's early output was revived in 1994 due to the inclusion of "Son of a Preacher Man" on the soundtrack of the movie Pulp Fiction.
Dusty Springfield was born as Mary O'Brien in West Hampstead, North London, England, on 16 April 1939, the second child of Gerard Anthony O'Brien, called "OB", and Catherine (Ryle) O'Brien, called "Kay". Her brother Dion, later to become Tom Springfield, had been born five years earlier on 2 July 1934. Her father, Gerard O'Brien, who had been raised in the British Raj, was neat and precise by nature, and worked as a tax accountant and consultant. Her mother Kay came from a family in County Kerry, Ireland, which included a number of journalists.
Springfield was raised in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, until the early 1950s and later lived in the West London borough of Ealing. She received her education at a traditional all-girls Catholic school (St Anne's Convent School, Little Ealing Lane, Northfields). The comfortable middle class upbringing was disturbed by dysfunctional tendencies in the family; her father's perfectionism, and her mother's frustrations would sometimes spill out in food-throwing incidents. Springfield and Dion both engaged in food-throwing throughout the rest of their lives. She was something of a tomboy in her early years, and was given the nickname "Dusty" because she played football with boys in the street.
Springfield was raised in a music-loving family. Her father would tap out rhythms on the back of her hand and encourage Dusty to guess the musical piece. She listened to a wide range of music including George Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Glenn Miller, among others. A fan of American jazz and the vocalists Peggy Lee and Jo Stafford, she wished to sound like them. She made a recording of herself singing the Irving Berlin song "When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves for Alabam" at a local record shop in Ealing when she was twelve.
After finishing school in 1958, Mary O'Brien responded to an advertisement to join The Lana Sisters, an "established sister act". With this vocal group, she developed skills in harmonising and microphone technique, recorded, did some television performances, and played at live shows in the UK and at U.S. Air Force bases.
In 1960, Springfield left the band and formed a pop-folk trio with her brother Dion O'Brien and Reshad Feild (who was later replaced by Mike Hurst). They chose The Springfields as the trio's name while rehearsing in a field in Somerset in the springtime, and took the stage names of Dusty, Tom, and Tim Springfield. Intending to make an authentic American album, the group travelled to Nashville, Tennessee, to record the album Folk Songs from the Hills. The American pop tunes that she heard during this visit helped turn Springfield's choice of music from folk and country towards pop music rooted in rhythm and blues. The band was voted the "Top British Vocal Group" by the New Musical Express poll in 1961 and 1962. During the spring of 1963, the Springfields recorded their last British Top 5 hit, "Say I Won't Be There". Dusty Springfield left the band after their last concert in October 1963.
Dusty Springfield's first single, "I Only Want to Be with You", written and arranged by Ivor Raymonde, was released in November 1963. It was produced by Johnny Franz in a manner similar to Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound", and included rhythm and blues features such as horn sections, backing singers, and double-tracked vocals, along with pop music strings, in the style of girl bands that Springfield admired, such as The Shirelles. The song rose to No.4 on the British charts, leading to its nomination as a "Sure Shot" pick of records not yet charted in the U.S. by New York disc jockey "Dandy" Dan Daniel of WMCA radio in December 1963, preceding Beatlemania. It remained on the American Billboard Hot 100 for 10 weeks, peaking at No.12. The release finished as No.48 on New York's WABC radio Top 100 for 1964. The song was the first record played on BBC-TV's Top of the Pops programme on 1 January 1964. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc in the UK.
Springfield's debut album A Girl Called Dusty included mostly covers of her favourite songs. Among the tracks were "Mama Said", "When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes", "You Don't Own Me", and "Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa". The album reached #6 in the UK in May 1964. The chart hits "Stay Awhile", "All Cried Out" and "Losing You" followed the same year. In 1964, Springfield recorded two Burt Bacharach songs: "Wishin' and Hopin'" — an American Top 10 hit— and the emotional "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself", which reached #3 on the British chart. The latter song set the standard for much of her later material.
Springfield's tour of South Africa was interrupted in December 1964, and she was deported, after she performed before an integrated audience at a theatre near Cape Town, which was against the South African government's segregation policy. In the same year, she was voted the Top Female British Artist of the year in the New Musical Express poll, topping Lulu, Sandie Shaw, and Cilla Black. Springfield received the award again the following three years.
In 1965, Springfield took part in the Italian Song Festival in San Remo, and failed to qualify for the final with two songs. During the competition, she heard the song "Io Che Non Vivo (Senza Te)". Its English version, "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me", featured lyrics written by Springfield's friend, Vicki Wickham, and her future manager, Simon Napier-Bell. It reached No.1 in the UK in May 1966 and reached No.4 on the weekly Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, where it was also No.35 on the Billboard Top 100 for 1966. The song, which Springfield called "good old schmaltz", was voted among the All Time Top 100 Songs by the listeners of BBC Radio 2 in 1999.
In 1965, Springfield released three more British Top 40 hits: "Your Hurtin' Kinda Love", "In the Middle of Nowhere", and Carole King's "Some of Your Lovin'". These were not included on the album Ev'rything's Coming Up Dusty, which featured songs by Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley, Rod Argent, and Randy Newman, and a cover of the traditional Mexican song, "La Bamba". This album peaked at #6 in the U.K.
Springfield was instrumental in introducing Motown to a wider British audience, both with her covers of Motown songs, and in facilitating the first British TV appearance for The Temptations, The Supremes, The Miracles, and Stevie Wonder on a special edition of the Ready Steady Go! show, called The Sound Of Motown. The show was broadcast on 28 April 1965 by Rediffusion TV, with Springfield opening each half of the show accompanied by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and Motown's in-house band The Funk Brothers.
Springfield released three additional UK Top 20 hits in 1966: "Little By Little" and two dramatic ballads by Carole King: "Goin' Back" and "All I See Is You", which also reached the US Top 20. In August and September 1966, she hosted Dusty, a series of six BBC TV music and talk shows. A compilation of her singles, Golden Hits, released in November 1966, reached #2 in the UK.
Sample from "The Look of Love".
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The Bacharach-David composition "The Look of Love" was designed as the centrepiece for the James Bond parody Casino Royale. For one of the slowest-tempo hits of the sixties, Bacharach created a sultry feel by the use of minor-seventh and major-seventh chord changes, while Hal David's lyrics epitomised longing and lust. This song was recorded in two versions at the Philips Studios of London. The soundtrack version was recorded on 29 January and the single release version was done in April. "The Look of Love" was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song of 1967. The song was a Top 10 radio hit on KGB-AM, San Diego, California and KHJ-AM, Los Angeles radio stations in the western United States, and earned her highest place in the year's music charts at #22.
The second season of the BBC's Dusty TV shows, featuring performances of "Get Ready" and the U.K. #13 hit "I'll Try Anything", attracted a healthy audience but the show did not keep up with changes in the pop music market. The comparatively progressive album Where Am I Going? attempted to redress this by containing songs such as a "jazzy", orchestrated version of "Sunny" and Jacques Brel's "If You Go Away". Though it was appreciated critically, it did not sell well. In 1968, a similar fate befell Dusty... Definitely. On this album, her choice of material ranged from the rolling "Ain't No Sun Since You've Been Gone" to the aching emotion of "I Think It's Gonna Rain Today". In that same year, Springfield had a British #4 hit, "I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten", written by Clive Westlake. Its flipside, "No Stranger am I", was written by Norma Tanega. Her ITV series It Must Be Dusty was broadcast in May and June 1968, featuring a duet performance of "Mockingbird" with the guitarist Jimi Hendrix.
In 1968, Carole King, one of Springfield's songwriters, embarked on a singing career of her own, while the chart-peaking Bacharach-David partnership was foundering. Springfield's status in the music industry was further complicated by the progressive music revolution and the uncomfortable split between what was underground and "fashionable" and what was pop and "unfashionable". In addition, her performing career was becoming limited to the British touring circuit, which at that time largely consisted of working men's clubs and the circuit of hotels and cabarets. Hoping to reinvigorate her career and boost her credibility, Springfield signed up with Atlantic Records, the record label of one of her idols, Aretha Franklin. The Memphis sessions at the American Sound Studio were recorded by the A-team of Atlantic Records: producers Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, and Arif Mardin; the back-up vocal band Sweet Inspirations; and the instrumental band Memphis Cats, led by guitarist Reggie Young and bass guitar player Tommy Cogbill. The producers were the first to recognise that Springfield's natural soul voice should be placed at the forefront, rather than competing with full string arrangements. At first, Ms. Springfield felt anxiety about being compared with the soul greats who had recorded in the same studios. Springfield later stated that she had never before worked with just a rhythm track, and that it was the first time she had worked with outside producers, as she had produced her previous recordings herself - though she never took credit for this. Due to what Wexler called a "gigantic inferiority complex" and Ms. Springfield's pursuit of perfection, her vocals were recorded later in New York. During the Memphis sessions in November 1968, Dusty suggested that the heads of Atlantic Records should sign the newly-formed band Led Zeppelin. She knew the band's bass player, John Paul Jones. Without having ever seen them and largely on Dusty's advice, the record company signed a $200,000 deal with them. That was the biggest contract of its kind for a new band up until that time.
Sample from "Son of a Preacher Man".
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The album Dusty in Memphis received excellent reviews on its initial releases both in the U.S. and the UK. Greil Marcus of Rolling Stone magazine wrote:"... most of the songs... have a great deal of depth while presenting extremely direct and simple statements about love.... Dusty sings around her material, creating music that's evocative rather than overwhelming... Dusty is not searching—she just shows up, and she, and we, are better for it." The sales numbers failed to match the critical success; the album did not crack the British Top 15 and peaked at #99 on the American Billboard Top 200 with sales of 100,000 copies. However, by 2001, the album had received the Grammy Hall of Fame award, and was listed among the greatest albums of all time by Rolling Stone and VH1 artists, New Musical Express readers, and the Channel 4 viewers polls.
The main song on the album, "Son of a Preacher Man", was written by John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins. It reached #10 on the British, American and international music charts. Its best results in continental Europe were #10 on the Austrian charts and #3 on the Swiss charts. The song was the 96th most popular song of 1969 in the United States. It earned Springfield a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1970. The writers of Rolling Stone magazine placed Springfield's release at #77 among 'The 100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years' in 1987. The record was placed at #43 of the 'Greatest Singles of All Time' by the writers of New Musical Express in 2002. In 2004, the song made the Rolling Stone list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time at #240. In 1994 the song was featured in a scene of the film Pulp Fiction, and the soundtrack reached No. 21 on the Billboard 200, and at the time, went platinum (100,000 units) in Canada alone. "Son of a Preacher Man" helped the album sell over 2 million copies in the U.S., and it reached #6 on the charts.
Dusty hosted her third and final BBC musical variety series (her fourth variety series overall) Decidedly Dusty (co-hosted by Valentine Dyall) which aired in September and October 1969. All eight episodes were later wiped from the BBC archives, and to date the only surviving footage consists of domestic audio recordings.
At the start of the 1970s Springfield was a major star, though her record sales were declining. Her intimate companion Norma Tanega had returned to America after their relationship had become stressful, and she was spending more and more time in America herself. In 1970 her second and final album on Atlantic Records, A Brand New Me (From Dusty... With Love in the UK), with songs written and produced by Gamble and Huff, was released. The album and related singles only sold moderately, and Springfield was unhappy with both her management and record company. She recorded some songs with producer Jeff Barry in early 1971, which were intended for an album to be released by Atlantic Records; however, her new manager Alan Bernard managed to get her out of the Atlantic contract, and some of the songs were used on the UK-only album See All Her Faces, and the 1999 release Dusty In Memphis-Deluxe Edition. In 1972, Springfield signed a contract with ABC Dunhill Records and Cameo was released in 1973 to respectable reviews, though poor sales.
In 1973, Springfield recorded the theme song for the TV series The Six Million Dollar Man. Her second ABC Dunhill album was given the working title Elements and scheduled for release as Longing. The sessions were soon abandoned. Part of the material, including tentative and incomplete vocals, was released on the 2001 compilation Beautiful Soul. She put her career on hold in 1974 and lived reclusively in the United States to avoid scrutiny by British tabloids. During this time she sang background vocals for Anne Murray's album Together and Elton John's album Caribou, and was heard on the single "The Bitch Is Back". Springfield released two albums on United Artists Records in the late 1970s. The first was 1978's It Begins Again, produced by Roy Thomas Baker. The album charted only briefly in the UK, though it was well received by critics. The 1979 album, Living Without Your Love, did even worse, not charting at all. In autumn 1979, Springfield played club dates in New York City. In London, she recorded two singles with David Mackay for her British label, Mercury Records (formerly Philips Records). The first was the disco-influenced "Baby Blue", which reached #61 in Britain. The second, "Your Love Still Brings Me to My Knees" (released in January 1980), was Springfield's final single for Mercury Records; she had been with them for nearly 20 years. On 3 December 1979, she performed a charity concert for a full house at the Royal Albert Hall, in the presence of Princess Margaret. In 1980 Springfield sang "Bits and Pieces", the theme song from the movie The Stunt Man. She signed an American deal with 20th Century Records that year, which resulted in the single "It Goes Like It Goes", a cover of the Oscar-winning song from the film Norma Rae. Springfield was uncharacteristically proud of her 1982 album White Heat, which was influenced by New Wave music. She tried to revive her career in 1985 by returning to the United Kingdom and signing to Peter Stringfellow's Hippodrome Records label. This resulted in the single "Sometimes Like Butterflies" and an appearance on Terry Wogan's live television show. None of Springfield's recordings from 1971 to 1986 charted on the British or American Top 40s.
In 1987, she accepted an invitation from the Pet Shop Boys to sing with Neil Tennant on the single "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" and appeared on the promotional video. This record rose to #2 on both the British and American charts. The song appeared on the Pet Shop Boys album Actually and both of their greatest hits collections. Springfield sang lead vocals on the Richard Carpenter song "Something in Your Eyes", recorded for Carpenter's album Time. Released as a single, it became a #12 adult contemporary hit in the United States. Springfield recorded a duet with B.J. Thomas, "As Long as We Got Each Other", which was used as the theme song for the American sitcom Growing Pains.
A new compilation of Springfield's greatest hits, The Silver Collection, was issued in 1988. Springfield returned to the studio with the Pet Shop Boys, who produced her recording of their song "Nothing Has Been Proved", commissioned for the soundtrack of the film Scandal. Released as a single in early 1989, the song gave Springfield a UK Top 20 hit. So did its follow-up, the upbeat "In Private", written and produced by the Pet Shop Boys. She capitalised on this by recording the 1990 album Reputation, another UK Top 20 success. The writing and production credits for half the album, which included the two recent hit singles, went to the Pet Shop Boys, while the album's other producers included Dan Hartman. Sometime before recording the Reputation album, Springfield decided to leave California for good, and by 1988 she had returned to Britain. In 1993, she was invited to record a duet with her former 1960s professional rival and friend, Cilla Black. The song "Heart and Soul" was released as a single and appeared on Black's Through the Years album. Provisionally titled Dusty in Nashville, Springfield started recording the album A Very Fine Love in 1993 with producer Tom Shapiro. Though originally intended by Shapiro as a country music album, the song selection with Springfield pushed the album into pop music with an occasional country feel. The last song Springfield recorded in the studio was the George and Ira Gershwin song "Someone To Watch Over Me". The song was recorded in London in 1995 for an insurance company television advertisement. It was included on Simply Dusty (2000), the extensive anthology that Springfield had helped plan, but did not live to see released. Her final live performance was in The Christmas with Michael Ball in December 1995. She died of breast cancer on 2 March 1999.
Dusty Springfield was one of the best-selling British singers of the 1960s. She was voted the Top British Female Artist by the readers of the New Musical Express in 1964–1967 and 1969. Of the female singers of the British Invasion, Springfield made one of the biggest impressions on the American market, scoring 18 singles in the Billboard Hot 100 from 1964 to 1970. The music press considers her an iconic figure of the Swinging Sixties. Quentin Tarantino caused a revival of interest in her music in 1994 by including "Son of a Preacher Man" in the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, which sold over three million copies. In that same year, in the documentary Dusty Springfield. Full Circle, guests of her 1965 Sound of Motown show credited Springfield's efforts with popularising American soul music in the UK. She was known all over Europe, and performed at the Sanremo Music Festival. She released a number of singles in French, German, and Italian.
Influenced by American pop music, Dusty Springfield created a distinctive white soul sound. Most responses to her voice emphasise her breathy sensuality. Another powerful feature was the sense of longing, in songs such as "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself" and "Goin' Back". The uniqueness of Springfield's voice was described by Burt Bacharach when he said: "You could hear just three notes and you knew it was Dusty." Greil Marcus of Rolling Stone captured Springfield's technique as "a soft, sensual box (voice) that allowed her to combine syllables until they turned into pure cream." She had a finely tuned musical ear and extraordinary control of tone. She sang in a variety of styles, mostly pop, soul, folk, Latin, and rock'n'roll. Being able to wrap her voice around difficult material, her repertoire included songs that their writers ordinarily would have offered to black vocalists. She performed as the only white singer on all-black bills on several occasions in the 1960s. Her soul orientation was so convincing that early in her solo career, U.S. listeners who had only heard her music on radio or records sometimes assumed that Springfield was African American. Later, a considerable number of observers have either thought she sounded black and American or made a point of saying she did not. Springfield constantly used her voice to upend commonly held beliefs on the expression of social identity through music. She did this by referencing a number of styles and singers, including Martha Reeves, Carole King, Aretha Franklin, Peggy Lee, Astrud Gilberto, Mina, and many others.
Springfield implored her white British backup musicians to capture the spirit of the black American musicians and copy their instrumental playing styles. In the studio, she was a perfectionist. The fact that she could neither read nor write music made it hard for her to communicate with her session musicians. During her extensive vocal sessions, she repeatedly recorded short phrases and single words. She often produced her songs, but did not take credit for doing so.
She once slated the recording studio for the Philips Record company as "an extremely dead studio". She felt as though someone had turned the treble down which meant she couldn't get an edge. "There was no ambience and it was like singing in a padded cell. I had to get out of there," she said. She would often end up in the ladies' toilets for its superior acoustics. Another example of her refusal to sing in the studio is Close My Eyes And Count To Ten - that was recorded at the end of the corridor.
Dusty Springfield is a camp icon. In public and on stage Springfield developed a joyful image supported by her peroxide blonde beehive hairstyle, evening gowns, and heavy make-up that included her much-copied "panda eye" mascara. Springfield borrowed elements of her look from blonde glamour queens, such as Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve, and pasted them together according to her own taste. Her ultra-glamorous look made her a camp icon and this, combined with her emotive vocal performances, won her a powerful and enduring following in the gay community. Besides the prototypical female drag queen, she was presented in the roles of the 'Great White Lady' of pop and soul and the 'Queen of Mods'.
Springfield is an inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the UK Music Hall of Fame. She was placed among the 25 female rock artists of all time by the readers of Mojo magazine (1999), editors of Q magazine (2002), and a panel of artists by VH1 TV channel (2007). In 2008, Dusty appeared at #35 on the Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Singers of All Time". Various films and stage musicals continue to commemorate her. Universal Pictures has scheduled a biographical film to be released in 2011 with Kristin Chenoweth playing Springfield.
In the 1960s she topped a number of popularity polls, including Melody Maker's Best International Vocalist for 1966; in 1965 she was the first British singer to top the New Musical Express readers' polls for Female Singer, and topped that poll again in 1966, 1967, and 1969 as well as gaining the most votes in the British Singer category from 1964 to 1966.
Her album Dusty in Memphis has been listed among the greatest albums of all time by Rolling Stone and VH1 artists, New Musical Express readers, and the Channel 4 viewers polls, and in 2001, received the Grammy Hall of Fame award.
In 2008, actress Nicole Kidman was announced as star and producer of a Dusty biopic, apparently yet to surface. Other reported candidates for the role include West Wing actress Kristin Chenoweth and, perhaps somewhat incongruously, Madonna.
Helena Lockwood prodormed one of her songs on tonight's the night in December of 2011 Helena had been trough a lot and she is now teaching in st benadicts in west Cumbria (2012)
Springfield's biographers and journalists have suggested she had two personalities: shy, quiet, Mary O'Brien—and the public face she created in Dusty Springfield. In the 1970s and early 1980s, during a time when her career had slowed down, she succumbed to alcoholism and drug dependency (which she later battled successfully). She was hospitalised several times for self-harming (by cutting herself) and was diagnosed as suffering from manic depression. During this period of psychological and professional instability, Springfield's involvement in some intimate relationships influenced by addiction resulted in episodes of personal injury. An incident in early 1983 led to her brief hospitalisation at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where she was admitted under her real name and received medical attention from hospital staff who were unaware of who she was. In her early career, much of her odd behaviour was carried out more or less in fun and was treated as such (as, for example, her noted food fights and hurling a box of crockery down a flight of stairs). Springfield had a "wicked" sense of humour and a great love for animals (particularly cats). She was an advocate for several animal-protection groups. She enjoyed maps and would intentionally get lost and navigate her way out.
The fact that Springfield was never reported to be in a relationship recognised by the public meant that the issue of her being "bisexual" was raised continually throughout her life. In 1970, Springfield told the Evening Standard:
|“||A lot of people say I'm bent, and I've heard it so many times that I've almost learned to accept it....I know I'm perfectly as capable of being swayed by a girl as by a boy. More and more people feel that way and I don't see why I shouldn't.||”|
|“||I mean, people say that I'm gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay. I'm not anything. I'm just ... People are people.... I basically want to be straight.... The catchphrase is: I can't love a man. Now, that's my hang-up. To love, to go to bed, fantastic; but to love a man is my prime ambition.... They frighten me.||”|
In the 1970s and 1980s, Springfield became involved in several romantic relationships with women in Canada and the US that were not kept secret from the gay and lesbian community. She had a love affair with singer-musician Carole Pope of the rock band Rough Trade.
While recording her final album, A Very Fine Love, in January 1994 in Nashville, Tennessee, Springfield felt ill. When she returned to England a few months later, her physicians diagnosed breast cancer. She received months of radiation treatment, and, for a time, the cancer was in remission. In 1995, in apparent good health, Springfield set about promoting the album.
Cancer was detected again during the summer of 1996. In spite of vigorous treatments, she succumbed on 2 March 1999. She died in Henley-on-Thames on the day she had been scheduled to go to Buckingham Palace to receive her award of Officer, Order of the British Empire. Before her death, officials of Queen Elizabeth II had given permission for the medal to be collected by Springfield's manager, Vicki Wickham, and it was presented to the singer in the hospital in the company of a small party of friends and relatives. Her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, had been scheduled for 10 days after her death. Her friend Sir Elton John helped induct her into the Hall of Fame, stating:
|“||I think she is the greatest white singer that there ever has been.||”|
Springfield's funeral service was attended by hundreds of fans and people from the music business, including Elvis Costello, Lulu, and the Pet Shop Boys. It took place in Oxfordshire, at the ancient parish church of St Mary the Virgin, in Henley-on-Thames, the town where Springfield had lived during her last years. A marker dedicated to her memory was placed in the church graveyard. Some of Springfield's ashes were buried at Henley, while the rest were scattered by her brother, Tom Springfield, at the Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland.