Monday, March 05, 2018

DANCING WITH DEMONS (Marcia's book review)

Repost from Marcia.

Dancing with Demons: The Authorized Biography of Dusty Springfield

Book time.  I read Penny Valentine and Vicki Wickham's Dancing With Demons: The Authorized Biography of Dusty Springfield.

In the US, Dusty, a singer, is known for "The Look of Love," "Wishin' & Hopin'," "Son of a Preacher Man" and, with the Pet Shop Boys, "What Have I Done To Deserve This" -- among other hits.

She was England's biggest female singer of the 20th century.

She triumphed in the sixties, then move to the US in the seventies.

The authors explain how throughout her chart topping days in the sixties, she had a secret, she was a lesbian.

In 1970, she gave an interview to The Evening Standard of London where she stated she was just as "capable of being swayed by a girl as by a boy."

Though you had David Bowie and other guys flirting with gay and bi, not a lot of lesbians.  And Dusty was a lesbian -- not swayed by 'a boy' at all.

But that interview changed her image.

Was she saying farewell to England with that interview?  Dusty was moving on to the US because she'd apparently climbed all the mountains Europe could provide.

But in the US, she wouldn't find that success.

She'd record Dusty In Memphis which is seen as a classic today but sold only 100,000 copies when it was released.  This despite "Son Of A Preacher Man" -- a track on the album -- being a top forty hit.

Why did it do so poorly?

I wasn't seeing the album in real time so I don't know.

But my hunch?

It was promoted wrong.  It looks out of date.

I can remember thinking it was a sixties album the first time I ever saw the cover.

It looks like the 60s.  And when the seventies are under way, who's going to spend time buying a 60s album?  You want something new.  Dusty's already a fixture of the sixties.  The album cover should have looked like its decade.

That was it for her and the seventies.

She had no more hits.

And worse was her personal life.  She was involved with women who betrayed her and hurt her -- in one instance, she was beaten so badly she had to have plastic surgery and her face was never the same.

The 80s were her scrambling to come back.  She'd also try to tell her parents she was gay but they didn't want to know.

Elton John -- who was vicious about her in his infamous seventies Rolling Stone interview -- would not be a good enough friend to help her.

It would be The Pet Shop Boys who would help her.  They were fans and would write the song "What Have I Done To Deserve This?" and ask her to record it with them.  It would be a top ten hit.  And her comeback.  And she did the song for the film Scandal with them and it was another hit.

She recorded an album -- was recording it -- when she found out she had cancer.

She would finish the album and promote it (A Very Fine Love) but the cancer would come back and take her life.

She hid in the closet -- which was common for her time -- in the sixties but stuck a toe out in the early 70s only to have her whole body pulled out (the turned on by a guy or a gal resulted in her being branded "lesbian" not "bi").

After that she grew comfortable enough privately to even tell her parents.

She went up against multiple bad affairs.  None of us deserve that.

She also made amazing music.

And she took brave stands -- not just the toe out of the closet.  Motown was championed by Dusty in England.  And she stood up to South Africa's apartheid system -- and did it in the sixties.  And she was slammed for it but she stood her ground.

And we need to stay here for a second because the book doesn't make this point and they should have.

In the seventies and early eighties while she was struggling and often in need of money?

At any time, she could have gone to South Africa.

They would have paid her hundreds of thousands of dollars to perform at Sun City.

Maybe even a million -- in many ways, she's the pop star that got the boycott rolling for the pop music world.

Having her play Sun City would have been a coup for the apartheid system.

But she never went looking for that.  She had her beliefs and her ethics and she didn't go there.

Linda Ronstadt did.

She wasn't in need of money.  She was charting with hit songs and having hit albums.  But in the time when Dusty needed money, Dusty didn't go.

This is a strong and moving book.
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