Dan Penn (born Wallace Daniel Pennington, 16 November 1941) is an American singer, musician, songwriter, and record producer 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 and "Cry Like a Baby" with Spooner Oldham. Penn also produced many hits, including "The Letter", by the Box Tops. Though considered to be one of the great white soul singers of his generation, Penn has released relatively few records featuring his own vocals and musicianship, preferring the relative anonymity of songwriting and producing.
Early life and career
Penn grew up in Vernon, Alabama, and spent much of his teens and early twenties in the Quad Cities–Muscle Shoals area. He was a regular at Rick Hall's FAME Studios as a performer, songwriter, and producer. It was during his time with FAME that Penn cut his first record, "Crazy Over You" in 1960, and wrote his first hit, "Is a Bluebird Blue?", which was recorded by Conway Twitty in the same year. The success of the #6 pop hit "I'm Your Puppet" by James & Bobby Purify in 1966 convinced him that songwriting was a lucrative and worthwhile career.
In early 1966, Penn moved to Memphis, began writing for Press Publishing Company, and worked with Chips Moman at his American Studios. 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", was first a hit for James Carr and has since been recorded by many others. A few months later, during the legendary recording sessions in which Jerry Wexler introduces 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 #37 in Billboard in 1967. In early 1967 Penn produced "The Letter" for the Box Tops. He and long-time friend and collaborator Spooner Oldham also wrote a number of hits for the band, including "Cry Like a Baby", another song which has been covered many times.
- "I'm Your Puppet"
- "A Woman Left Lonely", originally recorded by Janis Joplin
- "You Left the Water Running", a #42 R&B hit for Barbara Lynn in 1966, also recorded by Otis Redding and released posthumously in 1976
- "Sweet Inspiration", a #5 hit for the Sweet Inspirations in 1968
- "I Hate You", recorded by Bobby Blue Bland and Jerry Lee Lewis
- "Handy" and "Everyday Livin' Days", recorded by Merrilee Rush
- "Got a Feelin' for Ya", recorded by Kelly Willis
- "I'm Not Through Loving You Yet", recorded by Pegi Young (ex-wife of Neil Young) on her solo album
- "Like a Road Leading Home", recorded by Albert King and Jerry Garcia
- "Nobody's Fool", recorded by Alex Chilton
- "Time I Took a Holiday", recorded by Nick Lowe
- "Where You Gettin' It", recorded by Theryl DeClouet
- "Out of Left Field", recorded by Percy Sledge and Hank Williams, Jr.
- "Slippin' Around", recorded by Clarence Carter and the Detroit Cobras
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". 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. He also has recently written and produced for the Hacienda Brothers.
He now lives in Nashville and continues to write with Oldham and other contemporaries, such as Donnie Fritts, Gary Nicholson and Norbert Putnam. He and Carson Whitsett 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 are responsible for the title track of Solomon Burke's album Don't Give Up on Me (also recorded by Joe Cocker), and Penn produced 2005's Better to Have It, by Bobby Purify, which featured twelve songs from the team. He and Oldham also tour together as their schedules permit.
In November 2012 the collection The Fame Recordings was released. It included 24 numbers (23 unreleased) Penn had recorded at the FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, between 1964 and 1966. In the fall of 2013 he will be inducted in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
- 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
- Dan Penn: A Shade-Tree Guy; The Box Tops
- Dan Penn; Allmusic, retrieved 2012-12-01.
- Dan Penn Singles Discography; Hideki Watanabe Archives
- Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham interview; Perfect Sound Forever, 1998.
- Dan Penn Biography; Dandy Records
- "Cry Like a Baby"; coverinfo.de, retrieved 2012-12-01
- Artist: Dan Penn; Second Hand Songs, retrieved 2012-12-01
- Cover Songs of Dan Penn; Hideki Watanabe Archives
- "I'm Your Puppet"; coverinfo.de, retrieved 2012-12-01
- "Woman Left Lonely"; coverinfo.de, retrieved 2012-12-01
- Song: Sweet Inspiration; Second Hand Songs, retrieved 2012-12-01
- Albums; Pegi Young
- Dan Penn - Do Right Man; Hideki Watanabe Archives
- Dan Penn's Works; Hideki Watanabe Archives
- Song: Don't Give up on Me; Second Hand Songs, retrieved 2012-12-01
- Bobby Purify - Better To Have It; Hideki Watanabe Archives
- Dan Penn - The Fame Recordings; Allmusic, retrieved 2012-12-01.
- Announcing the 2013 Alabama Music Hall of Fame Inductees; 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.