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Dusty Springfield

You don't have to say you love me - Issue 8 . Summer 2000

Born in London in 1939, she may have been Mary O'Brien to her parents, but to the rest of the world she was Dusty Springfield. Famous for her blonde beehive, black eye make-up and amazing soul voice, she was also one of the first pop stars to admit to messing around in the bedroom with the same sex. Having survived a convent school education, Mary O'Brien was working in a department store when she joined the all-female trio the Lana Sisters. In 1960 she and her brother Dion assumed the names Dusty and Tom Springfield, and began three years of chart success as The Springfields.

In 1962, their parents Catherine and Gerard O'Brien, moved to 11 Wilbury Road in Hove. The following year Dusty launched her solo career, and released I Only Wanna Be With You. Not only did it reach number 4 in the charts, but it was the first record to be played on Top of the Pops! Anyone into pop trivia will be fascinated to learn that the melody was written by song-writer Ivor Raymonde whilst on holiday at West Witterings near Bognor Regis. Wow!

Dusty visited her parents in Hove as often as she could. We have an eyewitness account from BOP friend Grant of Dusty arriving in Wilbury Road in a pink Thunderbird with a black girlfriend. In 1964 she told the Argus that her mum was still fussing over her:
"Mum doesn't think I get enough sleep. I don't but I live."
She became a huge star in America as well as at home, and throughout her life was hounded by the media about her personal life. In 1970 she told the London Evening Standard:
"I'm as perfectly capable of being swayed by a girl as by a boy. More and more people feel that way and I don't see why I shouldn't."

"I don't give a damn"

Her career floundered in the 70s, but the interest in her private life didn't. She told Keith Howes of Gay News in 1978:
"People can draw their own conclusions and I don't give a damn. I'm not going to commit myself to being homosexual or heterosexual, because people are going to write what they want about me - they always have. Actually you can print this, I'm having a three-way with Princess Anne and one of her horses".

However tragedy was just around the corner in Hove. In 1979, her mother died of lung cancer in a nursing home, and her father had a fatal heart attack in Rottingdean.

Her career was revived in 1987 with the Pet Shop Boys single What Have I Done To Deserve This. Yet again this sparked questions about her sexuality. If you'll forgive the pun, she put the record straight in the following year with the News of the World:

"I have tried sex with both men and women - I found I liked it".

In 1994 she began a long struggle with breast cancer, and it was this that finally took her from us on 2 March 1999, aged only 59. There isn't a plaque on the Wilbury Road property, but she is commemorated locally in the form of the number 18 Brighton & Hove bus - the Dusty Springfield (most buses have a unique number on the front, bottom right-hand corner). If any one has any memories of Dusty around Brighton or Hove, we'd love to hear from you.

All text and images copyright Brighton Ourstory, a registered charity, number 1106242.

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