PRINT May 1999


Dusty Springfield

AT CERTAIN TIMES nothing makes more sense than listening to a Dusty Springfield record all day. In the past you could just leave the arm on the phonograph and let the album replay over and over. Dusty in Memphis was particularly suited for this. You could play it all night (getting high), turn it down while you went to sleep (nodded), and turn it up again when you woke up Sunday morning (coming down). With the new Rhino edition of Dusty in Memphis, containing an additional fourteen songs (many previously unreleased), it's almost as easy, even if we're older now, trying not to stay up all night, and missing too many brain cells to figure out how to program the repeat function on the CD player.

Dusty in Memphis has long been considered a perfect pop record. It's also the consummate drug album, all the more insidious and ravishing coming from Dusty. Just listen to the sequence with “Son of a Preacher Man” removed: Just a Little Lovin'. So Much Love. I Don't Want to Hear it Anymore. Don't Forget About Me. Break-fast in Bed. Just One Smile. The Windmills of Your Mind. In the Land of Make Believe. No Easy Way Down. And of course, I Can't Make it Alone. The additional songs, including a gorgeous rendition of Bread's hit “Make it With You” and the first version of “You've Got a Friend,” the Carole King song that James Taylor made famous, are fantastic to be sure, but all in all there's too much time for the heebie-jeebies to set in while you chase around for the glory of the original.

Heaven asked for Dusty back the month before last, after her long battle with breast cancer. Picture the horse-drawn glass hearse bearing her corpse through the cold, rainy streets of Henley-on-Thames, while a thousand mourners listened to “You Don't Have to Say You Love Me” for the last time in her presence, and you have some idea of what her voice, always a quiet wail against a wall of melodramatic bombast, meant. Who could withstand the emotional torrent of “Don't Forget About Me” over the St. Mary the Virgin PA? Lulu cried as she addressed the crowd. Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant, who produced Dusty's final international hit, paid tribute, as did Elvis Costello, who read a note from Burt Bacharach. Flowers arrived from Paul McCartney, Cilia Black, the Rolling Stones, Gary Glitter, and hundreds of others. A few days later Elton John inducted Dusty into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame byrecalling a story about hairspray, a not-to-beforgotten part of the double-false-eyelash, double-mascara, double high presentation that is as much her legacy as her many hits. Two months earlier Queen Elizabeth had presented her with the Order of the British Empire, making her Miss Dusty to you. She will be remembered by many, though, as “The White Negress,” a distinction she shares with no one.

Jack Pierson is an artist living in New York.