On March 2, 1999, Dusty Springfield lost her hard-fought battle against cancer, leaving millions mourning the loss of one of the most soulful vocalists ever to emerge from the U.K. Her absence, however, has in no way lessened anyone’s appreciation of her back catalog: her songs continue to pop up on the soundtracks of movies and TV shows, and in 2021, Real Gone Music issued a new compilation, The Complete Atlantic Singles 1968-1971, bringing together 24 tracks from Springfield’s stint on the label, including the non-LP singles that concluded her Atlantic Records career.
To honor Springfield’s memory, we’ve cherry-picked a few tracks to spotlight them as some of the must-hear material in the mix. Of course, it’s all must-hear material, but just because it qualifies as such doesn’t mean you’ve necessarily taken the time to make it so, so we’re just trying to help you by giving you a little nudge.
“Son of a Preacher Man” / “Just a Little Lovin' (Early in the Mornin’)” (1968)
Okay, so we’re starting out this list of five songs by unabashedly cheating and ultimately turning it into a list of six songs, but given that they were two sides of the same single, it just feels right to place them together. “Son of a Preacher Man” doesn’t really need any more ink from us or anyone else, since its spot on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack instantly turned it into the one Dusty Springfield song that everybody knows, but even though that B-side by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil also happens to lead off Dusty in Memphis, it’s still the lesser-known side of the single, and it’s a song more people should be talking about.
“The Windmills of Your Mind” (1968)
Written by Michel Legrand, with English lyrics added by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, this tune - which plays over the opening credits of The Thomas Crown Affair - was originally offered to Andy Williams, but when he passed, it became Noel Harrison who crooned the song for the film. After hearing Harrison’s version, Atlantic Records president Jerry Wexler swayed Dusty into covering the song, although she didn’t want to do it and - per her friend and manager Vicki Wickham - she hated the song because she couldn’t identify with the words. Despite this, she still managed to deliver an outstanding take on the track, one which became a Top 40 hit.
“In the Land of Make Believe” (1968)
That this Burt Bacharach and Hal David composition should’ve been recorded by Dionne Warwick before Dusty got around to tackling it should come as no surprise, but it’s an interesting sidebar that Warwick’s version was recorded in ’64, the same year The Drifters released their version of the song. Of course, no matter who recorded it first or even second, Dusty successfully made the beautiful tune her own.
“A Brand New Me” (1970)
This was the title track to Springfield’s follow-up to Dusty in Memphis, and the LP holds a distinction in her catalog as the lone album on which the same production team was behind every song. That team, in case you aren’t aware, was Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who defined the sound of Philadelphia, and they took full advantage of Dusty’s gift for soulful vocals, resulting in an album that’s almost as strong as the one that preceded it.
“Someone Who Cares” (1970)
Given that this was B-side of “I Believe in You,” Dusty’s final single for Atlantic and a non-LP release that apparently failed to chart anywhere, it scarcely had a chance to be heard, let alone cherished...and, boy, is that a shame! Written by Alex Harvey (not the one of Sensational Band fame), the tune made its debut on the soundtrack to the 1970 Jason Robards/Katharine Ross film Fools, where it was performed by Kenny Rogers and The First Edition, but as great as Kenny is, he can’t come anywhere near the amount of emotion that Dusty puts into her performance. If ever there was a lost classic in her catalog, this is the one, so go forth and discover it immediately.