Happy Anniversary: Dusty Springfield, Dusty in Memphis

Thursday, March 31, 2016
Happy Anniversary: Dusty Springfield, Dusty in Memphis

47 years ago today, Dusty Springfield released a record which has gone on to be viewed as one of the definitive albums of her career.

Looking at the list of credits for Dusty in Memphis, it’s no wonder that critics have spent so much time and so many words gushing over its contents: the album’s tracks were produced variously by a trifecta of musical geniuses (Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin, and Jerry Wexler), with conducting and arranging by Gene Orloff not long after his success on Aretha Franklin’s Aretha Arrives, backing vocals by the Sweet Inspirations, and music by Reggie Young, Tommy Cogbill, Gene Chrisman, and a host of others.

It’s a tad staggering to learn that the album’s most iconic song, “Son of a Preacher Man,” was originally rejected by Aretha Franklin, but Aretha’s loss was certainly Springfield’s gain, especially given how her entire catalog received a host of new fans in 1994 as a result of Quentin Tarantino including the song on the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction.

“Son of a Preacher Man” was a top-10 hit in the US at the time of its release, and Springfield’s cover of “The Windmills of Your Mind” hit #31, but they were the only major pop successes from the album: although “Breakfast in Bed,” “Don’t Forget About Me,” and “Willie & Laura Mae Jones” all made it onto the Hot 100, they never made the top 40, and “I Don’t Want to Hear It Anymore” and “In the Land of Make Believe” didn’t even make it that high. (They merely bubbled under the Hot 100.) With that said, however, “The Windmills of Your Mind” did hit #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart, which is no small feat.

Believe it or not, Dusty in Memphis didn’t even manage to chart in Springfield’s native land, but in fairness, it was fighting somewhat of an uphill battle at the time, with the UK charts only acknowledging the top 15 albums at the time. It did, however, received considerable acclaim even at the time of its release, and it’s only become more beloved as the years have gone by.