Dan Penn is the Alabama-born songwriter who co-wrote several of the classics of the heyday of soul music. Penn teamed up with collaborators including Chips Moman and Spooner Oldham to write such classics as “Do Right Woman,” “Dark End of the Street,” “Sweet Inspiration,” “It Tears Me Up,” “Take Me (As I Am),” “You Left the Water Running,” and “I’m Your Puppet.” You may remember the songs as performed by artists such as Aretha Franklin, The Sweet Inspirations, Percy Sledge, Solomon Burke, James Carr and Bobby Purify.
Penn began his career as a performer and returned to performing in the 1990’s. In Penn’s own distinctive voice music historian Peter Guralnick discerns a peculiar combination of emotional vulnerability and tensile strength. It’s a description that fits the classic songs themselves. Penn and Moman’s “Dark End of the Street” was their first collaboration and an instant classic for James Carr in 1967; the song may have fulfilled their ambition to write “the best cheatin’ song ever.” The video above provides Penn’s version from 1994’s “Do Right Man,” with liner notes by Guralnick from which I have borrowed for this birthday salute to Penn.
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