Donna Dawson - Money can't buy love

A: Donna Dawson – Money can’t buy love

B: Pioneers – Smoking


When Dennis Brown recorded his first version of ‘Money in my pocket‘ in 1972 it was a smash hit. Further cuts by Big Youth, Bingy Bunny and Bongo Herman followed, before it was revived some six years later to become an even bigger hit. Donna Dawson’s 1973 take, however, is greatly overlooked and hardly ever comes up in a search.

Donna Dawson. I had never heard of her until a Pressure Beat reader sent me a message. Apparently ‘Money can’t buy love’ came out in Jamaica on the Record Globe label and in the UK on the brown Trojan label, on which it was paired with “The first cut is the deepest”. The latter is omitted on the US release, which is the pressing that is featured here.

So, who is Donna Dawson? A one-hit-wonder who recorded a few songs and then moved on? Or, there it is again, a pseudonym? Greatly helped by the good folk over at Trojan Forum, who gave me a leg up with their suggestions, I started my own little investigation.

nell hindsThe first thing that is striking about this Donna Dawson track is that it doesn’t really sound like it’s coming from the Gibbs studio’s. Or rather, the backing does but the overdubs don’t. Credited as producers are Joel Gibson and Sydney Crooks. These two have enjoyed an on-and-off working relationship from the early days of Gibbs’s enterprise, right into the new millennium, with Crooks acting both as singer, arranger and producer. Sydney eventually moved to the UK in the early seventies and it is more than likely he took some tapes with him. Perhaps a recut of “Money in my pocket” was one of them.

Once in Britain, Crooks began a career as producer and recorded, among many others, songs with Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown, Winston Groovy, Denzil Dennis and The Marvels. The latter was a group formed by Alex ‘Dimples’ Hinds, Ornell Hinds and Eddie Smith. They began their career in the early sixties in Jamaica, singing background vocals on hits like ‘Wash Wash‘ and recording their own songs such as ‘Millie’ and ‘Saturday‘. The doo-wop appoach on these recordings would always stay with the group and the threesome regularly declared their love for North-American music with a series of strong cover songs. The 1970, Lloyd Charmers produced ‘Rocksteady‘, originally by Aretha Franklin, struck like lightning and would become their biggest hit ever. On the wings of that song Dimples, Ornell and Eddie began touring Europe and started working in England with producers Dandy Livingstone and Sydney Crooks.

With Crooks sitting on some tapes and the Marvels recording more coversongs than ever before, trying to score big once more, it is not so strange that the Trojan Forum people suggested that there might be a link between “Money can’t buy love” and the Marvels. Donna Dawson, they stated, is probably Donna Hinds singing at an early age. This makes sense because the name is almost right, plus Donna Hinds had strong links with the group and would eventually become a member of the Marvels. In 1977 she sang “Run away pet” for Trojan and listening to that, I definitely hear similarities in Dawson’s and Hinds’ voice. I decide that they are probably the same person.

But I was wrong.

donna hindsThrough Marcus Downbeat, who looks after the Blue Beat label’s heritage, I get hold of Donna Hinds. As it turns out, Donna Hinds was way too young at the time “Money” was recorded. Therefore she can’t tell me anything about the session, but when I ask her about Donna Dawson, she replies:

Nice to hear from you. Just to give you a little insight to ‘Money can’t buy love:’ [it] was recorded by my mother Nell, an original member of the Marvels. She decided to use the name Donna Dawson on this track, as my name is Donna and Dawson was her maiden name.

My ‘Runaway pet’ was recorded by me, as you rightfully said, approx 5 years later at the tender age of 11 years old. This track was produced by the veteran Dandy Livingstone, and was released as a 7″ in on the Trojan label. Then years later it came out on one of the Trojan box sets.

I was just the child of Dimples and Nell, so I always ended up at rehearsals and studio sessions and one day I went to Dandy Livingstone’s house with my father and Dandy suggested he gives me the opportunity to record a song. Well, that was the beginning of Donna Hinds. Lol!

So, ‘Money can’t buy love’ is definitely not a one hit wonder, but a certified gem by a very funky and very talented lady.

Special thanks to Donna Hinds, Marcus Downbeat, Nick Faris and the Trojan Forum members for your time, help and suggestions.



Label: Joe Gibbs (USA) / Trojan (Uk) / Ja ?
Release date:1973
Matrix: 4072 A
Riddim: Money in my pocket

(originally posted on 23-10-13)


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