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Rock Hall Anniversary: Dusty Springfield’s Dusty in Memphis

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In 1968, Dusty Springfield began a new chapter in her career, when she signed with Atlantic Records, which at the time was home to acclaimed artists including Aretha Franklin and Cream. After having recording tunes that had put her on the pop music landscape, Springfield would take a more soulful turn for her next album.

The album was Dusty in Memphis, and it would be her first with producers Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin, and Tom Dowd. The album was initially recorded at the American Sound Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, the same studio that would yield recordings from the likes of Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley and Bobby Womack. It was said that recording with a rhythm track (that featured the Memphis Cats and the Sweet Inspirations, rather than an orchestra) was quite an eye-opener for Springfield to the point of feelings of uneasiness.

Springfield’s vocals would eventually be recorded in New York, where Springfield felt more comfortable. But despite the initial shock in recording in Memphis, she eventually absorbed what she learned there, and the result came soon to be classic tracks including “Son of a Preacher Man”, “the Windows of Your Mind”, “No Easy Way Down”, and “In the Land of Make Believe”.

Despite receiving overwhelming critical praise upon its release, Dusty in Memphis would not be a commercial success. It failed to crack the top 15 in the UK, and peaked at number 99 in the US. The album’s biggest success came from two top forty singles “Son of a Preacher Man” (number 10, and nominated for a Grammy) and “The Windmills of Your Mind” (number 31). But like so many albums where its critical acclaim outweighs its commercial performance, few have done that quite like Dusty in Memphis, which continues to be seen as one of the most influential albums of all time, still receiving numerous accolades to this day.

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