Dusty Springfield: 'Son Of A Preacher Man's Singer's Blue-Eyed Sadness

By | November 6, 2017

test article image
Dusty Springfield in an undated photo. (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Singer Dusty Springfield, whose "Son Of A Preacher Man" was a highlight of the Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction, had a string of hits in the 1960s and '70s, and is among the greatest blue-eyed soul singers of all time. Her other hits include "I Only Want To Be With You," "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself," and "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me," and her 1969 album Dusty In Memphis is considered a masterpiece. But Springfield lived a troubled, unhappy life, and as a closeted gay celebrity in the 1960s and '70s, never felt the freedom to be herself.

Following Dusty In Memphis and "Son Of A Preacher Man," Dusty Springfield spent years -- the '70s and '80s -- in a dark place. "What Have I Done To Deserve This?," her chart-topping 1987 collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys, was a momentary bright spot. Although she lived to see "Son Of A Preacher Man" discovered by a new generation thanks to Tarantino, she died of cancer in 1999.

Mary O'Brien's Unhappy Childhood

test article image

Born Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien in the UK, the future Dusty Springfield grew up in a dysfunctional family. Her home life as a child, as described in a 2014 biography, was less than ideal. Her mother was an alcoholic who spent her days sitting in movie theaters; her father was a bit eccentric, to say the least. There was no such thing as family nurturing in Springfield’s childhood home. Her father demeaned her by calling her “stupid and ugly,” which only fueled her insecurities. This daily torment left her feeling sorely inadequate and soon led to self-mutilation.