Saturday, January 19, 2013

IN THE WINTER - Dusty Springfield & Barbi Benton

In the winter…Dusty Springfield sometimes didn't have a man to help shovel the sidewalk. Which was her choice. Barbi Benton had Hefner to keep her warm. But since he was always a bit spindly, that un-PC fur coat helped, too.

Both ladies covered Janis Ian's "In the Winter" while still in their prime. Both versions are below.

As you'd expect, the expressive Ms. Springfield almost does justice to the original, and the production values are fairly well copied. Give her an extra point for her British-Southern accent, which unintentionally makes "for a dime I can talk to God" into "for a damn." The sultry, smoke-dream singer always tended to put a romantic and soft edge on the heartache songs. Or, to put it in the country terms C&W singer Barbi Benton would understand, she was achy, but not breaky.

Benton, discovered by Hefner, was promoted via several covers and nude layouts for Playboy in the 70's (nice of Hef to share). She won fame but was not taken seriously when she was promoted as a singer. Nashville not too pleased with any titular competition for Dolly Parton, and probably wondering how C&W authentic a New York born Jew could be. With the hype and a decent song ("Brass Buckles") Barbi actually had a Top Ten C&W chart hit in 1975, and her first two albums went Top 20 in 1975.

Shifting to pop mainstream for her 1976 "Something New" album, she offered a decent if pointless cover of "He's a Rebel" (complete with backing chicks) and in a more ambitious choice, took the spotlight for "In the Winter."

It's a very credible solo performance, but taking into account that Barbi remained friends with Hef after their half-dozen years together, she doesn't have the heart of a stalker needed to make this song memorable. Her 1978 album "Ain't That Just the Way" went nowhere and after one more try with "Kinetic Voyage" in 1988, she pretty much retired from both singing and acting to raise her kids.

The winter of their careers? Dusty's last years have been well documented, and her sparse output in her last decade was mainly involved in gay-friendly duets with the Pet Shop Boys and re-mixes for the disco crowd that had become ardent fans ever since the whispers of her true sexuality became known. Barbi has occasionally surfaced for a photo-op at a celebrity event, but is apparently fine with her domestic life and the warm fuzzy letters she still gets from nostalgic fans.


In the Winter BARBI BENTON

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