b. Mary Isabel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien, 16 April 1939, Hampstead, London, England, d. 2 March 1999, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England. A long-standing critical favourite but sadly neglected by the mass public from the early 70s until the end of the 80s, the career of the greatest white soul/pop singer the UK has ever produced was a turbulent one. Formerly referred to as ‘the White Negress’, Springfield began as a member of the cloying pop trio the Lana Sisters in the 50s, and moved with her brother Tom (Dion O’Brien, b. 2 July 1934, Hampstead, London, England), and Tim Field into the Springfields, one of Britain’s top pop/folk acts of the early 60s. During the Merseybeat boom, she took a bold step by going solo. Her debut in late 1963 with ‘I Only Want To Be With You’ (the first ever song performed on the long-running UK television programme Top Of The Pops) removed any doubts the previously shy convent girl may have had; this jaunty, endearing song is now a classic of 60s pop. She joined the swinging London club scene and became a familiar icon for teenage girls, with her famous beehive blonde hairstyle and her dark ‘panda’ eye make-up. Over the next three years Springfield was constantly in the bestselling singles chart with a string of unforgettable hits, and consistently won the top female singer award in the UK, beating off stiff opposition from Lulu, Cilla Black and Sandie Shaw. During this time she campaigned unselfishly on behalf of the then little-known black American soul, R&B and Motown Records artists; her mature taste in music differentiated her from many of her contemporaries. Her commitment to black music carried over into her tour of South Africa in 1964, when she played in front of a mixed audience and was immediately deported.
From Encyclopedia of Popular Music in Oxford Reference.