Amy Lamé on Dusty Springfield

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Stand up comic and broadcaster Amy Lamé lauds her favourite Londoner, Dusty Springfield

  • Amy Lamé on Dusty Springfield

    Amy Lame

  • Dusty was born in Hampstead and grew up in Ealing. As a pop star, she captured the essence of the swinging '60s: the false eyelashes, the short skirts, the big hair. She was quintessentially '60s and quintessentially London.

    To my absolute shame, I only discovered Dusty Springfield when she collaborated with the Pet Shop Boys on 'What Have I Done to Deserve This' in 1987. I was a little indie kid. Listening to her voice, I was like: 'Who the hell is that?' But by that time, she had fallen totally out of favour. She had been through her drink and drug addiction, and she was not on the map of pop anywhere. It wasn't until then that I started looking into her.

    It sounds like she had a pretty tough childhood. Apparently her dad, who was an accountant, was very shy and retiring and her mother was really fiery. It was clear that her older brother (with whom she formed The Springfields) was the favourite child. I think her drive to succeed was her desire to be loved and to be accepted, probably just by her mum and dad.

    She became quite an icon for gay men. She's one of those unique characters that everyone – men, women, straight, gay – respects. I've never met anyone who says 'Dusty? Can't stand her'. I think that's why she was so successful in America. Nobody really wanted to see a female solo artist but Dusty broke all the moulds. She attracted people from different sorts of backgrounds. She was playing the Palladium and the Royal Albert Hall, and she was playing working men's clubs. Women asked for her autograph because they were totally entranced and enthralled by her and her look. Men quivered in their boots thinking that she was the most glamorous thing they'd laid their eyes on.

    Her first big break came with The Springfields, because they were the first British pop group to get into the American charts – two years before The Beatles. I think that's what really kind of set her up for success. Between 1963 and 1969 was her total heyday but it was incredibly punishing. It took every ounce of energy that she had just to get on stage and do what she did.

    She gave an interview to the Evening Standard in 1970, and she revealed to a journalist that she was perfectly capable of being swayed by a girl as by a boy. All of her partners were women, and pretty much exclusively black. But of course in those days, it wasn't the done thing. You certainly didn't admit to it. She went out with Norma Tanega and they had a really funny hit in the '60s called 'Walking My Cat Named Dog'.

    Her depression began when she moved to LA and started working the hotel circuit. That's when she seriously started self-harming. She was on prescription pills, and God knows what else, and drinking. Sadly she got breast cancer in the early 1990s and died in 1999. For a time she went into remission, but her cancer returned. It's a shame because she had a new recording contract signed and it kind of felt like she was on her way back. She died the day she was due to receive her OBE from the Queen.

    God knows that as lesbians we certainly struggle for cool icons. If there is anyone that could be the number one lesbian icon in the world forever and ever amen, it's Dusty Springfield.

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Sean Mcgrath
Sean Mcgrath

I first became a big fan in 1968...I had liked her since her first hit in 1963, tried to buy it as an 11 year old but they had sold out that Christmas in the Co -Op record store in Birkenhead......but I was given the album Where Am I Going in '68 and I became seriously hooked by the voice and her sound....and have been ever since. I remember the interview with Ray Coleman, it was not that big news ...most people thought she was gay by then I think. She was very unfashionable in the 1970s and it was only in the late 1980s that she found commercial success again courtesy of the PSB.....bless em! But there were albums with great songs during those fallow years....Cameo (1973), It Begins Again (1978), Living Without Your Love (1979), White Heat (1982). She was very special and with a quite unique sound to her voice and an image that added to the glamoour and mystery.I wish she was stiill around...but then again I wonder if she would be as appreciated as she only seems to have become since she has died.