Famous singer of the 1960s-80s, Dusty Springfield went to school in High Wycombe and lived near Henley in her latter years.
Link with the Chilterns
Went to school in High Wycombe and lived near Henley in her last years
16th April 1939
2nd March 1999
Dusty Springfield (real name Mary Isobel Catherine O’Brien) became famous in the 1960s and remains an icon of that era. While she was a convent schoolgirl Dusty Springfield dreamed of putting away her plump, dowdy image. She learned to sing, and would accompany herself and other friends on acoustic guitar. From 1949 – 1950 she attended St Augustine’s Roman Catholic Primary in High Wycombe. She then moved on to St Bernard’s Convent School in High Wycombe briefly before her family moved back to London.
Dusty’s elder brother Dion – later known as Tom – had already entered the world of entertainment when Dusty joined a group called the Lana Sisters. After a short period with them she joined her brother and, initially, Tim Field, to form the Springfields whose music, with strong folk and country influences, was very successful.
After a few years the Springfields disbanded and Dusty became even more successful as a solo artist with her own records and television appearances.
After the 1960s this success waned and she moved to the USA, but this led to a long period of disappointment and upset in her professional and personal life. However, after some years the successful UK band the Pet Shop Boys approached her to perform on a record. The success of this and those which followed encouraged Dusty to return to Europe, initially to the Netherlands and then to England.
She moved to a house beside the River Thames near Henley-on-Thames in the 1990s. While recording a new album she became ill with cancer. Treatment helped for a while but then her health deteriorated badly. Her OBE was collected on her behalf a few weeks before she died at home in 1999.
Biography: Dusty: the Definitive Biography by Lucy O’Brien, published by Pan Books 2000.
What you can visit
There is a memorial to Dusty Springfield in the churchyard of St Mary’s Church, Hart St , Henley-on-Thames RG9 2AU.