Being good isn’t always easy

With her blond bouffant and panda eyes she was a veritable “Swingin’ ’60s” icon, at the very forefront of the British Invasion, having hit the American Billboard’s Hot 100 a mere week after the Beatles’ I Want to Hold Your Hand. She was also one of the finest white soul singers of her (or any) era.

But by 1968 the invasion was over. Popular music had changed. Though long accustomed to recording (and often self-producing) in England, she made the bold move of crossing over to American-based Atlantic Records, and headed down to Memphis with something different in mind. Now enshrined in the Grammy Hall of Fame as one of the greatest albums of all time, Dusty in Memphis was all that and more … Then again, this wasn’t the first time Dusty Springfield had been to Tennessee.

Born into a musically-inclined family in 1939, Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien earned her nickname early, while playing football with the boys in her North London neighborhood. By the time she was 18 “Dusty” and her brother, Tom had become folk club regulars, eventually forming a trio with fellow singer, Tim Feild, and using a name they’d come up with while rehearsing in a Somerset field one spring day: the Springfields.

Looking for an “authentic” Appalachian sound, they soon travelled to Nashville, only to become deeply influenced by the R&B scene instead.  The result was a pop-folk style that helped to make them Britain’s top vocal group until the Springfields’ disbandment in 1963. Then, while Tom continued to produce and write songs (including “Georgy Girl”) and Tim became a renowned Sufi mystic (really), Dusty Springfield came into her own with “I Only Want to Be With You,” one of the first singles to be played on BBC-TV’s legendary Top of the Pops.

An uncompromising perfectionist who deplored the quality of her record company’s London studios, she preferred to record in the ladies room where the acoustics were better. Nor would she compromise on her sense of justice, and was famously deported from South Africa after performing for an integrated audience near Cape Town.

Voted Britain’s top female singer throughout the ‘60s, Springfield loved to sing backup for other performers too, using the pseudonym, Glady’s Thong on recordings by Elton John, Kikki Dee, Anne Murray, and (her own one-time backup singer) Madeline Bell.

It was Elton John, in fact, who helped to induct Dusty Springfield into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, two weeks after her death from breast cancer in 1999, saying, “I’m biased but I just think she was the greatest white singer there ever has been … Every song she sang, she claimed as her own.”

That would include this, the third track on Dusty in Memphis, written by John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins.  A top ten hit in both the US and UK, it was originally offered to Aretha Franklin, who eventually recorded it after hearing this version. 

Post Scriptus: During her Memphis sessions Springfield urged Atlantic producer Jerry Wexler to sign on a newly formed group that included one of her favorite session musicians, John Paul Jones. The group was Led Zeppelin, whom the label signed to an historic contract – sight unseen, according to Wexler – based largely on the recommendation of Dusty Springfield.

Son Of A Preacher Man

Billy-Ray was a preacher’s son

And when his daddy would visit he’d come along

When they gathered round and started talkin’

That’s when Billy would take me walkin’

A-through the backyard we’d go walkin’

Then he’d look into my eyes

Lord knows to my surprise

The only one who could ever reach me

Was the son of a preacher man

The only boy who could ever teach me

Was the son of a preacher man

Yes he was, he was

Ooh, yes he was

Being good isn’t always easy

No matter how hard I try

When he started sweet-talkin’ to me

He’d come and tell me everything is all right

He’d kiss and tell me everything is all right

Can I get away again tonight?

The only one who could ever reach me

Was the son of a preacher man

The only boy who could ever teach me

Was the son of a preacher man

Yes he was, he was

Lord knows he was

Yes he was

How well I remember

The look that was in his eyes

Stealin’ kisses from me on the sly

Takin’ time to make time

Tellin’ me that he’s all mine

Learnin’ from each other’s knowing

Lookin’ to see how much we’ve grown

And the only one who could ever reach me

Was the son of a preacher man

The only boy who could ever teach me

Was the son of a preacher man

Yes he was, he was

Ooh, yes he was

The only one who could ever reach me

He was the sweet-talking son of a preacher man

The only boy who could ever teach me

I kissed the son of a preacher man

The only one who could ever move me

The sweet-lovin’ son of a preacher man

The only one who could ever groove me

One thought on “Being good isn’t always easy

  1. 🙂 Right. I oughta know. Ha.

    I never knew the words to this song. It drove me crazy when it came on because it was endless, I thought. That’s probably from not understanding words.

    Today was Quinn’s one-year anniversary and she asked, “Am I a keeper?”

    The question really is, “Am I a keeper, Quinn?”

    She has been so good to and for me.

    I hope all is well over there in lobster land. N/q

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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