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Colette’s Corner: A Birthday Contribution

That’s right. Today is Colette’s Birthday, so a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Ms. C.

In addition to reflecting on her birthday, Colette has also been reflecting on the late, great Dusty Springfield. A soul icon, I always considered Dusty a bit of a white-bread Janis Joplin — and I mean that in a good way.

She’s worshipped in England, and a soul queen for many in other nations. Once you hear that tender, sultry, bluesy sound of her unique voice, you just want more of it.

The personification of blue-eyed soul, Dusty Springfield was a passionate devotee of Black American music, with a thrilling set of pipes. She came up in the ’60s with her family band, The Springfields, then quickly hit the charts with a string of solo hits. The many wonderful songs she introduced are matched by her covers of a big sampling of the greatest pop/r & b tunes of the 1960s and ’70s.

Though she died fairly young, at age 59, after a lengthy bout with breast cancer, Dusty left behind a slew of albums. And aficienados can be grateful for the tremendous cache of videos of her live performances, thanks to fans collecting numbers from the popular TV musical variety shows she hosted in England. She was also among the first people to introduce British TV audiences to the glories of Motown, by hosting the “Ready, Steady, Go” series, “The Sound of Motown.” (The whole thing is available on Youtube, and it is fabulous.)

Recently the American singer Shelby Lynne recorded a lovely tribute disc of Dusty tunes, titled “Just a Little Lovin.” And in the wake of that release it’s great to share some of Dusty’s finest performances and those of her colleagues/acolytes. (If you like’em, more will come later — including some smashing duets.)

Let’s start with one of Dusty’s first major hits:

This boppin’ little tune by Phil Spector has a melody I can’t get out of my head. It’s a total delight, and a major fave in Dusty’s repertoire. Fashion note: Dusty loved big blonde ‘dos, heavy Cleopatra-style eye makeup, and very glam, sparkling duds. But if she often had a plastic-fantastic look, her bubbly personality and terrific musicality were totally for real:

— “I Only Want to Be with You”

Here’s Shelby Lynne’s charming bossa nova-style take on the same song:

— “I Only Want to Be With You”

Here is another great Dusty hit, performed on the “Sound of Motown” show with the fantab Martha Reeves and the Vandellas.

— “Wishin’ and Hopin'” with Martha Reeves and Vandellas

This song is perhaps my favorite female/male-duet song ever. I love the Carly Simon/James Taylor version, the gritty Inezz & Charles Fox original. But even though I don’t know (or care) much about the band she’s performing with (The Echos) the way Dusty tears into this just slays me:

— “Mockingbird”

Among Dusty’s many, many cover gems, give a listen to her take on a little Herman’s Hermits ditty that she turns into a kick-butt soul tune. Sing it sister! (sorry for bad visuals, but the sound is swell):

-“Can’t You Hear My Heart Beat”

Even when drenched in musical melodrama and soapy strings, Dusty’s great voice rang through. This is one of them big ‘ol, schmaltzy love songs from the early 1960s, a huge hit for Dusty — and a challenge for most singers, including quite a few American Idol contesants who’ve botched it. Dusty’s peerless original:

— “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me”

Here is a bit of Shelby Lynne’s poignant version of the same song:

— “You Don’t Have to Say Love Me”

Here’s one of the choicest of Dusty hits, on a tune that Aretha (stupidly, in my book) passed on. Recorded on her great album recorded in Muscle Shoals, “Dusty in Memphis,” it tells such a poignant story. (Eat your heart out, Joss Stone…..)

— “Son of a Preacher Man”

Aretha recorded “Preacher Man” later, with predictably awesome results:

Probably the song most associated with Dusty is this ultra-seductive Burt Bacharach tune. I first heard it on the soundtrack of the James Bond flick, “Casino Royale,” and it went right into my musical bloodstream:

— “The Look of Love”

I’ll end this set with a rare clip of Dusty singing an Anthony Newley song, from his Broadway musical “The Roar of the Greaspaint, the Smell of the Crowd.” This is Dusty picking up on the roots of black music, jubilant in her understanding of its passion, and backed up by three great backup singers:

— “Gonna Build a Mountain”

Thanks for a great look back at the great Dusty Springfield, Colette….and a very Happy Birthday to You!

 
 
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