Festival slot, new single and autobiography
Dawn Penn

Right in the middle of ska and rubbing shoulders ever so briefly with reggae, rocksteady was briefly the prominent listen to genre of the mid-sixties over in the Caribbean. Dawn Penn’s smash hit ‘You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No)’ was one of the most successful anthems of that intermediary movement. “The last time I checked it went to number one in more than 53 countries, including Hong Kong, Russia and Australia.” Originally released in 1967, ‘You Don’t Love Me’ featured Tommy McCook and the Skatalites and was a huge hit in her native Jamaica.

Admittedly, she never really expected the song to be popular when she first released it back in 1967. “I didn’t really think about that. When I recorded it I just met up with some friends and sang the song onto tape," she says modestly. "I thought that the song ‘You Don’t Love Me’ was a simple song that a young child would gravitate towards.”

Skip forward to the early 1990s and Penn’s recording career received the revival that she had been waiting for. Her first full-length album since her comeback was released. ‘No No No’, showed that she still knew her way around the studio, with a voice holding up well despite the expected decaying nature of age. Yet, much like that fine wine analogy, maturity only added an extra numbing dimension to the already paining lyrics of the hit. A remake of 1967’s ‘You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No)’ single arrived in June 1994. It went straight to number 1 in Jamaica, as well as toppling Japan, US and Canada. “I can’t believe it really. There’s no reason for me to think that it would be a hit again.” Since, a plethora of artists have sampled and covered the melancholy jam, as far adrift as Kano, Ghostface Killah, and Rihanna.

Dawn Penn is performing at this year’s Outlook Festival in Croatia this September, Europe’s largest bass and sound system culture festival. “I’m excited to be playing at the festival; I haven’t been to Croatia before. A friend of the promoter asked me if I wanted to do the gig. I’d heard of the festival before from other people.”

Several websites wrongly mentioned that Dawn had taken a 17-year break from music. “That’s not true as I was still performing during that time; it wasn’t like I wasn’t involved in music. I went to the island of Tortola to check out my roots on my father’s side. I moved to a foreign country so I had to get a job there. I worked for different firms such as Barclays bank, where I had to learn how to read bank statements or balance sheets and worked for a Caribbean airline. It’s all in my finished autobiography anyway, called The Story of My Life. It hasn’t got a release date, but it’ll be coming out soon.”

As many of the icons agree, reggae isn’t what it once was; yet there is hope. “I think that the vintage music from back in the day has more substance than what is being done now and that’s the longevity of that music for you. The thing is that I have been across the world and there are just so many bands, you have really good bands in Germany, Hawaii and Japan. There’s a band from Melbourne, Australia that I really like.”

Interview by Simon Carle. Feature by Errol Anderson

Dawn’s next single, ‘Story of my Life’ is out later in the year and shares the same name as her eponymous autobiography which is also out soon.

Dawn Penn plays Outlook festival from September 1st. For more info go to www.outlookfestival.com


Stay tuned for more Outlook Festival coverage, before, during and after, on ClashMusic.com hub page HERE.

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