18 ene. 2017

Dawn Penn: How we made You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)

"The moment it became a hit, eight different people claimed they wrote it"

I grew up in Jamaica, near Studio One, the famous recording studio in Kingston. It became a second home, especially on Sundays, when they would hold auditions. I was barely into my mid-teens when I got a chance to sing for the legendary producer "Sir Coxsone" Dodd. It was 1967, the early days of rocksteady, and he liked my voice.

You Don't Love Me (No No No) was our first recording and I remember standing next to Jackie Mittoo, the keyboard player from the Skatalites, following his chords as I sang about lost love. In church, we used to sing this old gospel thing, "Yes, yes, yes, Jesus loves me", so I sang, "No, no, no." People said: "It's too negative. It'll never sell." But it was a big hit in Jamaica.

I made more records, but never saw any money for them, and in 1970 left Jamaica to trace my family ancestry. This took me to Pennsylvania and the British Virgin Islands. After 17 years, I came back to Jamaica and found the island alive with dancehall. I was asked to rerecord the song for Studio One's 35th anniversary. They made it a bit more dancehall, then Atlantic picked it up and it became a global smash.

The moment that happened, eight different people claimed they wrote it. Eventually, it was decided that some of my lyrics were similar to Willie Cobbs' 1961 blues song You Don't Love Me, which itself was similar to Bo Diddley's 1955 track She's Fine, She's Mine. This was the first I'd heard these records, but the royalties were split three ways and some of my payments are still held up today.

It's been a rough ride at times, but I was nominated for a Grammy and now everyone wants to sing the song: Beyoncé, Lily Allen, Rihanna, even the Wu-Tang Clan. I've never earned enough to buy myself an aeroplane or anything, but I’ve made seven albums and people all over the world still want to hear me sing my signature song.

Cleveland 'Clevie' Browne, producer

I used to play the original version of You Don't Love Me so much, I wore a hole in the vinyl. Then, in 1992, Dawn Penn came to our studio, trying to sell a tape. I couldn't believe it was her. When I told Steely (fellow producer Wycliffe Johnson), it was like telling a child that Santa Claus was outside. We told her we’d love to re-record You Don't Love Me.

The vocal on the single is actually the demo: the first take, recorded just to help us lay down the track. Dawn's voice was so perfect that we didn't have to do any equalisation or anything, which amazed me. When she sang it again, it wasn't the same. As they say, sometimes the first cut is the deepest.

A great song is always a great song, but we gave it some new clothes. The sample at the beginning is from U-Roy: "Wake up the town and tell the people." Great sample! We were still just learning the business: I didn't think about copyright and eventually had to pay for it. Steely's keyboard created a smooth, deep bass, like the old sound system recordings. We couldn't find the trumpeter from the original record, so David Madden, who was Bob Marley's trumpeter, did a great job. Sometimes when you work on a record, you get a feeling it is going to be a hit, but we had no idea how big. We made it timeless, a bridge between the old and new.

Source: theguardian.com