Sunday, 15 May 2011

Unsung heroes of Soul

In the history of southern soul music many names are offered up when discussing the great pioneers of that particular music genre, two names that are often consigned to the back pages of that history are Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham. Both were amazing songwriters writing some of the classic songs of the southern soul era. Not only were they important as songwriters they also played a pivotal role in the success of FAME studios out of Muscle Shoals and Chips Momans American Sound Studios in Memphis.

Dan Penn first announced himself on the music scene in 1961 when he wrote Is a Bluebird Blue whoch became a hit for Conway Twitty. Not long after he teamed up with Spooner Oldham to write and songs and in 1965 Let's Do It Over by Joe Simon hit the top 20 of the R&B charts. The following year they wrote I'm Your Puppet which became a million selling hit for James and Bobby Purify. They continued to write some outstanding soul material over the next three years including, You Left the Water Running covered by Otis Redding, Maurice and Mac and the Purify Brothers. It Tears Me Up and Out of Left field both hits for Percy Sledge, Do Right Woman for Aretha Franklin which was the B side of Respect. They also wrote the U.S#2 hit Cry Like a Baby for the Box Tops which Dan also produced and the brilliant Sweet Inspiration. Dan also worked as a producer at American Sound with Chips Moman and he produced the classic The Letter by The Box Tops in 1967. He also co-wrote the classic Dark End of The Street with Moman in 1967.

Spooner Oldham has had a long and distinguished career as a session musician, writer and producer. Spooner was part of the session crew at Fame Studios that played on records for Wilson Pickett (Mustang Sally, Land of a Thousand Dances, Funky Broadway etc), Percy Sledge (Spooner plays the farfisa organ on When a Man Loves a Woman), Aretha Franklin (he plays on I Never Loved a Man and Do Right Woman). In the 70's Spooner played with artists like Neil Young, Jackson Browne, the Everly Brothers and Linda Ronstadt.

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