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Dusty in Memphis

Published: 3/2/2012
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Dusty Springfield in London in 1970 (Getty Images / Michael Putland)

When Dusty Springfield found her career 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 rather extraordinary. She traveled across the ocean, assembled some of the greatest music producers and musicians of the day, and recorded 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 album'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 Presley's backing band provided the rhythm, and songwriters such as Randy Newman and Carole King contributed tracks.

The result was stunning.

Though the album topped out at No. 99 on the U.S. Billboard charts, today it's regarded as one of the finest of the century. And for more than 40 years, it has influenced new music, with Springfield blazing a trail for the white soul singers of the new millennium. Without her, there might have been no Amy Winehouse, no Duffy… 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. 

First listen to Adele, then enjoy a track by the woman at the heart of white girl soul.

Adele – "Rolling in the Deep"

Dusty Springfield – "I Don't Want to Hear it Anymore"

Written by Linnea Crowther

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