Dan Penn ► Monday Musical Appreciation

Celebrating a birthday today is Dan Penn, a name almost unknown, but the writer of some of the greatest Soul tunes ever recorded.

Born Wallace Daniel Pennington according to his official biography he was:

 A native of Vernon, Alabama, Penn moved to the Florence/Muscle Shoals area while still a teenager and assumed the role of lead vocalist in a local group calling itself the Mark V Combo. When asked what kind of music they played, Penn replies, “R&B, man. There was no such thing as rock. That was somethin’ you picked up and throwed.” He laughs. “Or threw.” It was around this time that he penned his first chart record, Conway Twitty’s “Is a Bluebird Blue”. During the early ’60s, Penn began working with Rick Hall at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, first as a songwriter, and then as an artist under the names Lonnie Ray, Danny Lee, and finally Dan Penn. 

The WikiWackyWoo picks up the story:

In early 1966, Penn moved to Memphis, began writing for Press Publishing Company, and worked with Chips Moman at his American Studios.[5]
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 that saw Jerry Wexler introduce 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.[6]

As always, it’s all about then music. Here are just some of the many hit tunes penned by Penn:

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.