LifeNotes: Songwriter/Producer Ed Penney Dies

Ed Penney

Ed Penney

Veteran Nashville songwriter and producer Ed Penney died peacefully at home on Dec. 29 at age 89.

Penney is best known as the producer and co-writer of 1980’s “Somebody’s Knockin’” by Terri Gibbs. It earned her the 1981 CMA Horizon Award and a Grammy nomination.

Penney also co-wrote and produced the singer’s singles “Ashes to Ashes” (1982) and “Some Days it Rains All Night Long” (1982). In addition, he produced the Gibbs follow-up hits “Rich Man” (1981), “I Wanna Be Around” (1981), “Mis’ry River” (1982) and “Baby I’m Gone” (1983).

Born in Cambridge, MA in 1925, Ed Penney served in the U.S. Marines in the Pacific Theater during World War II. In the 1950s, he became a personality on Boston radio, hosting the popular program  “Penney Serenade.” During this period, Variety named him one of the 10 most influential disc jockeys in America.

In 1960, he launched Ed Penney & Associates as a public relations firm representing entertainers, sports figures, music publishers and movie companies.

Ed Penney moved to Nashville in 1971 to pursue his passion for songwriting. During the next two years, his songs were recorded by Jim Ed Brown, Brian Collins, Anne Murray, Barbi Benton and others. Jerry Wallace released Penney’s “The Song Nobody Sings” as a single in 1973.

He had his first songwriting hit when Barbara Mandrell recorded his “That’s What Friends Are For” in 1976. Dottie West released his “That’s All I Wanted to Know” as a single in 1977, and a year later Moe Bandy’s version of “Two Lonely People” became Penney’s first top-10 hit as a writer.

Following his string of successes with Terri Gibbs in the 1980s, Penney retired from music. Even so, his songs continued to be recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis, Lee Greenwood, Judy Lindsey and even rapper DMX.

Burl Ives, Eddy Arnold, Beth Williams, Hank Williams Jr. and Glen Campbell are among the other artists who have recorded his songs. Ed Penney served on the boards of the Recording Academy, the NSAI and The Songwriter Guild.

During his retirement from music, Penney owned and operated Dad’s Old Bookstore in Green Hills. Opened in 1984, this business indulged his interest in rare books and autographs for many years.

He is survived by his wife Patricia and by children Linda Floyd, Edward Penney, Wayne Penney, Diane Penney, Elaine Eskew, Kathleen Penney and Kevin Penney as well as 11 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Visitation was scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 3 at 9:15 to 10:00 a.m. at Christ the King Church, 3001 Belmont Blvd. Eulogies were set for 10-10:30 a.m., with his celebratory mass at 10:30 a.m. Internment is in Harpeth Hills Memorial Garden, 9090 Highway 100. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.


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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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