ONE HIT WONDERS #8
Dawn Penn : You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No)
Contributor: Ian du Feu
In 1992, as part of a 35th anniversary for Studio One, Dawn Penn was asked to sing You Don’t Love Me on stage. The concert was a success and Dawn was invited to re-record the song with Steely & Clevie for the album Steely And Clevie Play Studio One Vintage.
A little later this version of the song, You Don’t Love Me, (No, No, No), was released as a single and started to pick up airplay. The single charted in the UK in June 1994, peaking at No.3. The song became internationally popular, giving Dawn Penn her one hit wonder.
Except this wasn’t the end … or even the beginning.
Dawn Pickering was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1952. She played piano and violin and sang at church with her sisters. The family lived near Studio One and from 1966 until about 1968 she hung out and recorded a few songs there.
|Track||Single / Album|
|You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)||Atlantic/Big Beat A8295|
|When I'm Gonna Be Free||Island WI-3095|
|Long Day, Short Night||Rio R113|
|Why Did You Lie?||Discolite DR12|
|To Sir Wth Love||WIRL WL177|
|You Don't Love Me||Coxsone CS 1008|
|Blue Yes Blue||FPB 7125-1|
|Night & Day (Baby I Love You So)||Atlantic A8249T|
|Chilling||Never Hustle The Music|
|Yes, Yes, Yes (Jah Jah Loves Me)||Heartical HS059|
Dawn’s upbringing was quite strict, and in keeping with the times her father encouraged her to study, go to church and take music lessons. The first song Dawn recorded, When I’m Gonna Be Free, was written by her and is a cry for a bit of space set to a simple ska beat.
This recording alerted Coxsone Dodd to Dawn’s sweet voice and he asked her to sing at Studio One.
Coxsone Dodd was one of the innovative pioneers in the Jamaican music scene. Coxsone had made his name by providing good sound systems to dances and continually improved his service to keep ahead of the competition. His sound system was one of the first to allow the DJ to talk between tunes. He soon set up a recording studio, and established a shop to sell his releases. The recording studio, Studio One, became instrumental in helping some of Jamaica’s most loved artists start their career. Studio One had a house band consisting of some of the members of the Skatalites, who laid down a lot of instrumentals and rhythms. Various artists could then record over these backing tracks.
Dionne Warwick’s 1965 record, Long Day, Short Night, was a Bacharach & David song which was really popular in Jamaica. Dawn Penn recorded her version in 1966. The vocal is light and hopeful as a young woman looks forward to seeing her lover again. Oddly, the record is attributed to Dawn Tenn. It is recorded with Prince Buster and his All Stars. The backing rhythm is a tight ska shuffle, and the house bands would soon develop this into the rocksteady beat as popular taste changed.
Dawn’s next single, Why Did You Lie?, is a ska/rocksteady classic; a light beat and a beautiful vocal describing the hardships of love. The song and the B-side of the single were produced at Duke Reid’s studio. Tommy McCook and the Supersonics were the musicians involved, and Dawn helped with the instrumentation for both songs. Jamaica didn’t have copyright laws until recently, which goes some way to explaining the proliferation of copying that went on, and also explains why people weren’t credited for compositions, which in turn made receiving royalties difficult.
The next tune I have chosen was recorded in Dawn’s 1967 purple patch and is a cover of Lulu’s To Sir With Love from the film of the same name. This time Bunny Lee produced the tune, initially the single was only released in Jamaica, and to make matters more murky the song was credited to Suzette.
In 1967, the rocksteady classic Love Me Girl/You Don’t Love Me 7″ was released on the Coxsone Records label. This is a youthful version of the song that would eventually become a huge hit. Dawn’s vocal has a slightly eerie echo, and the instrumentation is languorous but hypnotic.
1967 also saw the recording of Blue Yes Blue where Dawn was backed by the Prince Buster All Stars again. A sad ballad, set to a rocksteady rhythm which showcases a lovely vocal. In a time when there weren’t many women in the recording industry, particularly at the start of reggae, Dawn stands out, and was writing her own material.
In 1970, Dawn left Jamaica and the music industry to live in the British Virgin Islands, and didn’t return until 1987. Five years later, her chance meeting with Steely & Clevie led to the rerecording of You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No). As the updated version became a worldwide success lots of people claimed to have written the song. Dawn recently stated that some royalties are still held up on the recording.
Steely & Clevie sampled U-Roy’s Wake The Town at the start of the single, claiming that it made a link back to the classic Studio One sound.
A search for the composer of You Don’t Love Me, (No, No, No) lists Dawn Penn, Coxsone Dodd, Willie Cobbs and Ellas McDaniel. As the original producer of the 1967 version, Coxsone was instrumental in giving the song a rocksteady beat.
Ellas McDaniel aka Mr Bo Diddley released the single Diddley Daddy in 1955 on the Checker label. The B-side of this single, She’s Fine, She’s Mine, began to take on a life of its own and is the song that morphed into You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No).
I like to think of people being blown away by Bo Diddley’s songs and then assimilating them into their own work. Willie Cobbs’ single You Don’t Love Me was released in 1961 and became the mother of all earworms. The funky riff is a direct copy of Bo Diddley’s She’s Fine, She’s Mine; the lyrics have been altered and the song is the definitive version for the covers that follow.
Some interesting covers of Willie Cobbs’s version preceded Dawn Penn’s cut including the instrumental Shimmy Shimmy Walk from Billy Lee Riley’s band under the name of The Megatons in 1962 (see Footnote) and Sonny & Cher’s You Don’t Love Me from 1965.
And in 1967, Dawn and Coxsone picked up the song and recorded it at Studio One. This version, in turn, became the standard for many reggae acts.
The lyrics are economical and universal. The “no, no, no” is sung to the first three notes of the blues scale, with the third note then flattened for extra sadness. It is harmonious and almost uplifting, leading to “you don’t love me and I know now” which piles on another negative, and repetition of the “n” sound alliterates the despondent vibe.
On face value it’s the lament of a woman realising that her man no longer loves her. But the sparsity of the lyric means that personal interpretation is possible, and most people will find something with which to empathise. I read once that Phil Collins’s lyrics can be viewed as a conversation with God, (it could be true, I rarely listen to his music). The Coen brothers have admitted to using biblical language to add depth to their dialogues. The final verse reference to “praying” in You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No) signposted a religious interpretation of the song. I feel the song echoes Matthew 27:46 and is a desperate howl into a universe that allows innocent people to suffer.
I thought I had overanalyzed the words, but recently read an interview where Dawn said the lyric was a counterpoint to her time at church where the choir would sing, “Yes, Yes, Yes, Jesus I Love You”.
So the classic one hit wonder was built on a rock ‘n’ roll foundation, overlaid with a blues earworm, mixed up with some rocksteady beat and spiced with a bit of gospel depth.
The single that followed You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No) was Night & Day (Baby I Love You So). An updated cover of Augustus Pablo & Jacob Miller’s Baby I Love You So. This song brought Dawn into the electronic reggae mid-1990s and the song was in the soundtrack for the film After The Sunset. There are some great mixes of this track, in particular the Colourbox version.
In 2015, Dawn released Chilling as a single. The self penned tune is a laid-back contemporary tribute to hanging out and enjoying the sun. Her recent work is relevant and shows that after 50 years around the music industry she is more than a ‘one hit wonder’.
And to bookend this selection of songs I have chosen Yes, Yes, Yes (Jah Jah Loves Me) which is basically the ying to Dawn’s hit single’s yang. A positive take on divinely ordered universe set to a minor swing.
Dawn Penn is still recording and performing and lives in England.
Extract: In 1961, Billy Lee Riley and his band (Pat O’Neil on bass, James Van Eaton on drums, Jimmy Wilson on organ, Martin Willis on sax) went to the Pepper Sound Studio in Memphis and recorded the instrumentals ‘Shimmy Shimmy Walk Parts 1 and 2″ which were released under the name of The Megatons on the Dodge label (#808) out of Ferriday, Louisiana. This disc was subsequently issued on Checker 1005 and made position #88 on the Billboard charts in January 1962. The band returned to the Pepper Studio in March 1962 and laid down a further ten sides. These were leased or sold to the Chess brothers who erased Riley’s harmonica and added Bo Diddley on guitar and released (some of) the tracks (with new titles) in 1963 as Bo’s ‘Surfin’ With’ album on Checker LP-2987. (source: Rockabilly Hall of Fame, for more on Billy Lee Riley visit their website.
Matthew 27:46 – And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Some of the other versions of You Don’t Love Me (with YT clips)
The first few are covers of the original Bo Diddley song, the others start with Willie Cobbs’ reboot as the route, and in the last section some versions that emanated from Dawn Penn’s classic:
The Pretty Things – She’s Fine, She’s Mine (1965)
Thee Headcoats – She’s Fine, She’s Mine (1993)
Clarence Edwards – She’s Fine, She’s Mine (1996)
Tommy Raye – You Don’t Love Me (1964)
The Starlets – You Don’t Love Me (1965)
Junior Wells – You Don’t Love Me Baby (1965)
Gary Walker – You Don’t Love Me (1966) the Walker Brothers drummer’s single credits the composer as T. Raye (see above)
Grateful Dead – You Don’t Love Me (1966)
John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers – You Don’t Love Me (1967)
Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Steve Stills – You Don’t Love Me (1968)
Kaleidoscope – You Don’t Love Me (1968)
Booker T & the MGs – You Don’t Love Me (1968)
Magic Sam – You Don’t Love Me Baby (1968)
James & Bobby Purify – You Don’t Love Me (1968)
Ike & Tina Turner – You Don’t Love Me (Yes I Know) (1969)
Damnation of Adam Blessing – You Don’t Love Me (1969)
Beautiful Days – You Don’t Love Me (1969)
Frank Zappa – Willie The Pimp (1969) it’s a FZ composition natch!
Evolution – You Don’t Love Me Baby (1969)
The Allman Brothers Band – You Don’t Love Me (1971)
Caballo Loco – You Don’t Love Me (1979)
Otis Rush – You Don’t Love Me (1986)
Gary Moore – You Don’t Love Me (1995)
Prince Jazzbo – Fool For Love (1968) the second track on the clip
Big Youth – Screaming Target (1972)
Black Uhuru – No No No (1979)
Rihanna – You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No) (2005)
Ghostface Killah – No No No (2007)
LA Vampires & Zola Jesus – No No No (2010)
Beyoncé – No, No, No (You Don’t Love Me) (2010)
This is Ian’s third post for Toppermost, his first was on Fats Waller, the second on King Tubby. Ian spends time listening to music and can be found @IanFurgie.