Dan Penn

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Dan Penn
Birth nameWallace Daniel Pennington
Born (1941-11-16) November 16, 1941 (age 81)
Vernon, Alabama, U.S.
GenresR&B, soul, country, rock
Occupation(s)Songwriter, producer, singer, musician
Years active1960-present
LabelsFame, Sire, Repertoire, Proper, Dandy, Last Music

Dan Penn (born Wallace Daniel Pennington, November 16, 1941) is an American songwriter, singer, musician, and record producer,[1] who co-wrote many soul hits of the 1960s, including "The Dark End of the Street" and "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" with Chips Moman[2] and "Cry Like a Baby" with Spooner Oldham.[3] Penn also produced many hits, including "The Letter", by The Box Tops. He has been described as a white soul and blue-eyed soul singer. Penn has released relatively few records featuring his own vocals and musicianship, preferring the relative anonymity of songwriting and producing.[4]

Early life and career[edit]

Penn grew up in Vernon, Alabama, United States,[1] and spent much of his teens and early twenties in the Quad Cities–Muscle Shoals area.[5] He was a regular at Rick Hall's FAME Studios as a performer, songwriter, and producer.[1] It was during his time with FAME that Penn cut his first record, "Crazy Over You" in 1960,[6] and wrote his first hit, "Is a Bluebird Blue?", which was recorded by Conway Twitty in the same year.[1] The success of the number 6 pop hit "I'm Your Puppet" by James & Bobby Purify in 1966 convinced him that songwriting was a lucrative and worthwhile career.[7]

Career moves[edit]

In early 1966, Penn moved to Memphis, began writing for Press Publishing Company, and worked with Chips Moman at his American Studios.[8] Their intense and short-lived partnership produced some of the best known and most enduring songs of the genre. Their first collaboration, the enduring classic "The Dark End of the Street" (1967), was first a hit for James Carr and has since been recorded by many others.[1] A few months later, during a recording sessions in which Jerry Wexler introduced Aretha Franklin to FAME Studios and her first major success, the pair wrote "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" in the studio for her, which went to number 37 in Billboard in 1967. In early 1967, Penn produced "The Letter" for the Box Tops.[1] Along with long-time friend and collaborator Spooner Oldham, Penn also wrote a number of hits for the band, including "Cry Like a Baby,"[1] another song that has been covered many times.[9]

As songwriter[edit]

Songs written or co-written by Penn include:[10][11]

Career:1970s onwards[edit]

Penn continued writing and producing hits for numerous artists during the 1960s and finally released a record of his own, the 1972 single entitled "Nobody's Fool."[1] He was coaxed into the studio again in 1993 to record the acclaimed "Do Right Man," for which he reunited with many of his friends and colleagues from Memphis and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.[17] He also has recently written and produced for the Hacienda Brothers.[18]

He now lives in Nashville and continues to write with Oldham and other contemporaries, such as Donnie Fritts, Gary Nicholson, and Norbert Putnam. Carson Whitsett and Penn have had their collaborations recorded by Irma Thomas and Johnny Adams and often teamed with writers Jonnie Barmett and, later, Hoy Lindsey. The team of Penn, Whitsett, and Lindsey were responsible for the title track of Solomon Burke's album Don't Give Up on Me (also recorded by Joe Cocker[19]), and Penn produced 2005'sBetter to Have It by Bobby Purify, which featured twelve songs from the team.[20] Oldham and he also tour together as their schedules permit.

In November 2012, the collection The Fame Recordings was released.[21][22] It included 24 numbers (23 unreleased) Penn had recorded at the FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, between 1964 and 1966.[23] In the fall of 2013, he was inducted in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.[24]


  • Nobody's Fool (1973)
  • Do Right Man (1994)
  • Moments From This Theatre (1999): Live recording (with Spooner Oldham)
  • Blue Nite Lounge (1999)
  • Junk Yard Junky (2008)
  • The Fame Recordings (2012): Compilation
  • The Complete "Live" Duo Recordings - Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham (2015): Double pack. "Moments" CD plus bonus DVD of 22 tracks filmed in concert in London
  • Living On Mercy (2020) Dan Penn


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Colin Larkin, ed. (1993). The Guinness Who's Who of Soul Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 194/5. ISBN 0-85112-733-9.
  2. ^ "Chips Moman - Biography, Albums, Streaming Links". AllMusic. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  3. ^ "Spooner Oldham - Veteran Songwriter, Keyboardist, Road Warrior". Spooneroldhammusic.com. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  4. ^ "BOX TOPS: DAN PENN". Boxtops.com. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  5. ^ Dan Penn; AllMusic, retrieved 2012-12-01.
  6. ^ "ホームページ移転のお知らせ - Yahoo!ジオシティーズ". Geocities.jp. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  7. ^ "Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham interview". Furious.com. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  8. ^ Dan Penn Biography; Danpenn.com
  9. ^ "Cry Like a Baby"; Coverinfo.de, retrieved 2012-12-01
  10. ^ Artist: Dan Penn; Second Hand Songs, retrieved 2012-12-01
  11. ^ Cover Songs of Dan Penn; Hideki Watanabe Archives
  12. ^ "I'm Your Puppet" Archived 2017-03-08 at the Wayback Machine; Coverinfo.de, retrieved 2012-12-01
  13. ^ "List of songs by James & Bobby Purify". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  14. ^ "Coverinfo.de - database with cover versions and musical quotations". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2012-12-01.
  15. ^ "Original versions of Sweet Inspiration written by Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham - SecondHandSongs". Secondhandsongs.com. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  16. ^ "Pegi Young Album". 26 January 2013. Archived from the original on 26 January 2013. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  17. ^ Dan Penn - Do Right Man; Hideki Watanabe Archives
  18. ^ Dan Penn's Works; Hideki Watanabe Archives
  19. ^ Song: Don't Give up on Me; Second Hand Songs, retrieved 2012-12-01
  20. ^ Bobby Purify - Better To Have It; Hideki Watanabe Archives
  21. ^ "Dan Penn: The FAME Recordings | RCR | American Roots Music". Rubbercityreview.com. 20 November 2012. Retrieved 2018-03-07.
  22. ^ Smith, Caspar Llewellyn (2012-12-06). "Dan Penn: The Fame Recordings – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-03-07.
  23. ^ Dan Penn - The Fame Recordings; AllMusic, retrieved 2012-12-01.
  24. ^ Announcing the 2013 Alabama Music Hall of Fame Inductees Archived 2013-06-19 at the Wayback Machine; Alabama Music Hall of Fame, 2012-11-30.


  • Hoskyns, Barney; Say It One Time For The Broken Hearted, Fontana Paperbacks, 1987. ISBN 0-00-637219-8
  • Guralnick, Peter; Sweet Soul Music, Penguin Books, 1991. ISBN 0-14-014884-1
  • Gordon, Robert; It Came From Memphis, Secker & Warburg, 1995. ISBN 0-436-20145-3
  • Younger, Richard: Get a Shot of Rhythm and Blues: The Arthur Alexander Story, The University of Alabama Press, 2000, ISBN 0-8173-1023-1.