Fourteen years after Dusty Springfield's death, her finest album is still one of the great classics of rock and soul. Written by Linnea Crowther. Originally published March 2012.
Dusty in Memphis (Wikimedia Commons/Rhino
When Dusty Springfield's career was lagging in 1968, she didn't give in – nor did she release a halfhearted rehash of her old material in an attempt to recapture the fame of old singles. No, what Springfield did was travel across the ocean, assemble some of the greatest producers and writers and session musicians of the day, and record one of the most critically-acclaimed albums of all time.
Dusty in Memphis was a meticulously-crafted record, overseen by Springfield herself, a notorious perfectionist who rejected most of the songs initially proposed and later rerecorded her vocals to further refine the record's sound. Famous producers were in charge of the album – Jerry Wexler, producer of Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin, among them – but Springfield was used to self-producing her albums, and she kept some creative control over Dusty in Memphis. Elvis's backing band provided the rhythm, and songwriters like Randy Newman and Carole King contributed tracks.
The result was stunning.
The album only made it to No. 99 on the U.S. Billboard charts, but in hindsight, it's regarded as one of the finest albums of the century. And for more than 40 years, it has influenced new music. Dusty Springfield blazed a trail for the white soul singers of the new millennium – without her, there might have been no Amy Winehouse, no Lana Del Ray or Florence Welch… no Adele. Adele has already won more Grammy awards than Springfield (Dusty in Memphis was nominated but didn't win), but she can thank that 1968 Memphis sound, in part, for her success.
Adele – "Rolling in the Deep"
Dusty Springfield – "I Don't Want to Hear it Anymore"