Words and Interview by Jesse Serwer, Photos by Alex Solmssen, Dawn Penn’s dress by Gureje, Inc.
Dawn Penn‘s rocksteady single “You Don’t Love Me”—or, as it’s somewhat better known at this point, “No, No, No”—is one of the bedrock foundations of reggae music, a tune that will never stop coming around as long as there are sound systems playing dances. Despite the ubiquity of the track (which has been versioned or sampled by everyone from Sean Paul and Rihanna and Vybz Kartel to Ghostface Killah), until recently not much was known about Penn, who disappeared from the music business for decades before returning in the early ’90s to cut a new version of “No, No, No” with Steely and Clevie which made the song a hit all over again. Recently, the singer, who left Jamaica in 1970 to settle in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands before moving to Brooklyn and her current home, London, released a dubstep single called “City Life” and penned an autobiography, Story of My Life. We spoke with Penn on her most recent visit to the U.S., over food at Soule Restaurant on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, where she was joined by her son, rapper/singer Continental Crooks. As it turns out, that restaurant has since been re-named Caribbean Soul. We can’t think of a more fitting description to describe the music Penn has made over the years.