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Dynamic Dusty

Although my all-time favourite album is "Dusty in Memphis" and the one I go to for pre-gig warm-ups, it's this song that gets to me, in terms of focus on her as a singer.


Written by Michel Legrand, with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, it's been covered by every big star singer you can think of: Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Barbra Streisand, Shirley Bassey, Mel Torme, Scott Walker, and, in more recent times, Alison Moyet. For me, and I don't say this lightly as there are several singers in that list who I worship and adore, not one of them captures it the way Dusty Springfield does. Peggy Lee and Scott Walker come close to it, Streisand very close to it, but the "vibe" just isn't strong enough to bring out the depth and drama of the lyric.


A fiendishly difficult melody, it has defeated most of them in that they rely on simple technique and ability to carry them through; leaving the interpretation to fight for itself. Or, they play with tempo to add their own particular stylistic vocals to it (Bassey, Torme). The musical arrangements differ, obviously, but again it's to the detriment of the song and its message.


Having written all that I feel as though I have betrayed singers I love and should be arrested by the Music Police forthwith! But it simply shows that no matter how wonderful a voice you may have, you cannot sing everything, or truly understand every lyric. This stuff is all subjective, of course. What is amazing to one is ghastly to another.


For me, Dusty is the only one who truly understands this song. She has given herself up to it in a way other singers have not. This is evident from the first phrase (and title of the song). She comes in with delicacy and vulnerability where others have chosen to batter the door down. She handles the melody with such ease, using that trademark breathiness, but without losing precision. Moving into the section "I want to see your face in every kind of light" (how beautiful a lyric...), she opens up with emotion, not volume or hardness, then drops down to "let me be the one to hear the silent wish you make". Dynamics, dynamics, dynamics! The control of the very last note on "you" is superb.


The overall effect is an ache - the ache that loving someone so deeply can bring. I think there's a dash of the unrequited in this version and I wonder if that's what Dusty used as inspiration (even though it was written for a marriage proposal scene in a film). Dusty's personal life caused her a lot of heartache, for which I am sad, but we, the listeners, ultimately benefit.




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