David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 322: Dusty Springfield (Son Of A Preacher Man)

January 30, 2024

I have written before about the relationship of some songs with my lack of faith, primarily to note how much awe I have for people with solid rock foundations of religious faith: Charlie Sexton's "Sunday Clothes" (Day 59) and Tanya Donelly's "Oh Me Of Little Faith" (Day 4) being the two most obvious examples. If I think about it, hearing Dusty Springfield's "Son Of A Preacher Man" throughout 1969 and the early 1970s should have affected my views about religion and faith. Luckily, seven-year old boys live life cluelessly. As a prepubescent boy during this time, I probably thought Billy Ray was the same guy as Bobby McGee. (By, the way, I have no doubt seven-year old boys are much more worldly than I was in 1969; the world moves pretty fast these days.)

"Son Of A Preacher Man" is a pretty sensuous song about the flesh more than the spirit. After all, that clergyman's son is the "only one who could ever reach" her, with his "sweet talking" and kisses accompanying his plea for her to "get away tonight." "Being good isn't easy," Dusty sings at one point: that just depends how you define "good," Dusty.

Frankly, I've always been surprised this song wasn't more scandalous at the time. Originally written for Aretha Franklin, "Son Of A Preacher Man" was rejected by the Queen of Soul because she believed it disrespectful.After Springfield recorded it, Franklin did record it. "D I S R E S P E C T -- all I'm asking in return, honey, is to give me my profits."

Hilariously, doing my research via Google with "son of a preacher man controversy" search terms, I find "Why Was Son Of A Preacher Man Controversial" at a site called Music-Filter. Yay, I will be able to explore these hypocrisies and dynamics of the sexual revolution era.

Except that it is a dead site. Click on it and you get "This Domain Is For Sale," currently up for auction by Porkbun. (You cannot make this shit up.) So, now I not only want to prove my point for Dusty, but for my legacy, because at some point, I will die and my website will be up for auction. (Note for Pix and Lincoln, anybody but Porkbun, please.)

Since it was the late 60s, I find it hard to believe somebody didn't publicly decry the song. Perhaps, it wasn't quite big enough, reaching #10 in the U.S., to find national scorn (oh, the beauty of pre-social media days), and maybe innocent-looking Dusty didn't quite evoke the same reaction as Janis Joplin might have if she covered it.

In many ways, it's a big disappointment that Dusty didn't revert to her real name when releasing the song. "Son Of A Preacher Man" by Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien would have shocked the world. Honestly, is there a more cliché Irish Catholic name? I don't know much about Dusty, but changing her name coincided with her brother changing his name before they formed The Springfields. I guess The O'Briens wasn't going to cut it as a band name.

The thing is the song is very sexy. The initial build-up is foreplay extraordinaire, especially through the light plucking of the guitar. The moaning ad lib of Springfield's, "yes, he was" could be crooning in a lover's ear. The brass is very risqué, and could be the background for a seduction. I should be glad I was only seven when I heard the song; who knows what confused thoughts I made have had four or five years later? However, about that time, Billy Joel was telling me that you "Catholic girls start much too young." Being good is not only not easy, Dusty, but it only means you will die young.

Stay true to yourself, Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette.

1Songfacts. "Son Of A Preacher Man." Dusty Springfield. https://www.songfacts.com/facts/dusty-springfield/son-of-a-preacher-man  Retrieved January 20, 2024.

Dusty Springfield. "Son Of A Preacher Man." Dusty In Memphis. Atlantic, 1969. Link here.

Day 321: Ellen Foley "Stupid Girl"

Day 323: Nirvana "All Apologies"

See complete list here.