The Complete Dusty Springfield by Paul Howes Review

Releasing from Titan Books is the brand new revised and expanded edition of The Complete Dusty Springfield. During her career that spanned nearly four decades, the British songbird had six top 20 singles in the United States and sixteen in the United Kingdom. With such hits as “I Only Want To Be With You” and “Son of a Preacher Man“, the odds are that if don’t know her by name, you’ve certainly heard her music.

Springfield has nominations for Academy Awards, a Grammy, and her album “Dusty in Memphis” was voted as one of the greatest albums of all-time by Rolling Stone. Her single from that album, “Son of a Preacher Man“, earned a spot on their list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time. Known for her feisty spirit in the studio and perfectionist nature, Dusty was one of the first females in the music industry to produce the majority of her music. There are stories contained in the book featuring her directing the bass player, asking for more effort from the string section, a little higher on the voice, and other things that were unheard of at the time. She was a true pioneer in a male dominated industry, and UK power singers like Adele have surely been influenced by her work.

Dusty fought personal demons for many years as a result of the repression of her sexual identity. She identified as a lesbian, but kept it secret for years in fear of ruining her career. In 1973, she may an incredibly bold statement on the nature of discrimination and the nature of sexuality 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.”

The Complete Dusty Springfield covers every song (288, to be exact) in her catalog including her early days with The Lana Sisters. In addition, there’s a full listing of every radio appearance in the UK and the United States, a list of all her concerts, documentaries, and anything you’d ever want to know about Dusty Springfield’s career. When they say complete, they mean it.

Author Paul Howes has assembled a borderline stalkerish book that will be sure to satiate the taste of any Dusty fan. The content is broken down into transcriptions and anecdotes of every song she’s ever recorded down to the most minute detail. Want to know who wrote and produced “I Just Wanna Be There” or who arranged “Second Time Around” when Dusty released it in November 1968? Do you wonder what take was used on “The Look of Love” or what studio “Someone Who Cares” was recorded in? Well, it’s all here.

The encyclopedic nature of The Complete Dusty Springfield will be a great addition to the collection of a budding songwriter, but fans looking for a biography of Dusty may be more than a bit disappointed. There’s a nice section of pictures and a complete diary of events from her life dating from 1963 until her untimely death from breast cancer in 1999, but nothing about her personal battles or tumultuous life. That’s the way it should be. She was a fantastic singer, and her music is what should be celebrated. If you’re a Dusty fan, this is the last book you’ll ever need about her music career.

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