DUSTY SPRINGFIELD, 60s British pop singer, born (d: 1999); Of the female artists of the “British Invasion,” Dusty Springfield made the biggest impression on the U.S. market. She was the first solo act of the British Invasion and from 1963 to 1970, scored 18 singles in the Billboard Hot 100. She was voted the Top British Female Artist by readers of New Musical Express in 1964, 1965, and 1968. Springfield is an inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the UK Music Hall of Fame.
The fact that Dusty Springfield was never in a publicly known relationship meant that the issue of her being bisexual continued to be raised throughout her life. In 1970, no less, Dusty 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.”
In the standards of year 1970, that was a very bold statement. Three years later, she explained to the Los Angeles Free Press: “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…. I go from men to women; I don’t give a shit. 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.”
Later she stated that she had enjoyed relationships with both men and women and “liked it”. Later she avoided the issue, apart from the occasional comment in the presence of her drag queen fans and Princess Margaret at the performance at the Royal Albert Hall in 1979: “I am glad to see that royalty isn’t confined to the box.” Dusty’s 1981 live-in relationship with Canadian singer Carole Pope, burdened with drug and alcohol abuse and self-injury, was described in a chapter of Pope’s 2000 autobiography Anti-Diva.
In 1995 Springfield was diagnosed with breast cancer. She received months of radiation treatment and for a time the cancer was in remission. In apparent good health again, Springfield set about promoting the album and gave a live performance of “Where Is a Woman to Go?” on the BBC television music show Later With Jools Holland, backed by Alison Moyet and Sinead O’Connor. Cancer was detected again in the summer of 1996. After a fight, she was defeated by the illness in 1999. She died in Henley-on-Thames on the day she had been due to go to Buckingham Palace to receive her Order of the British Empire insignia.
Before her death, officials of St. James’s Palace gave permission for the medal to be collected by Springfield’s manager, Vicki Wickham. She duly presented it to the singer in hospital, where they had been joined by a small party of friends and relatives. Songwriter Burt Bacharach, describing her voice said, “You could hear just three notes and you knew it was Dusty.” Elton John, speaking at her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame said, “I think she is the greatest white singer that there ever has been.”