Sunday, December 9, 2012

Bonnie Dobson -- "Morning Dew" (1962)

Take me for a walk in the morning dew, my honey
Take me for a walk in the morning sun, my love

Bonnie Dobson was a folk singer/songwriter who was born in Toronto in 1940.  In 1960, she left her university studies and came to the United States to perform at folk festivals and coffeehouses from California to New York.

Dobson was working in Los Angeles when she saw On the Beach, a post-apocalyptic movie starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, and Tony Perkins, that was set in Australia.  The movie, which is based on the 1957 novel of the same name by Nevil Shute, is about the aftermath of a nuclear war that has wiped out the entire population of the northern hemisphere.  As deadly radioactive fallout drifts inexorably towards Australia, most of the population opts to take suicide pills rather than waiting for the inevitable.

I remember On the Beach vividly -- especially the movie's score, which featured the traditional Australian song, "Waltzing Matilda."  The movie scared the hell out of me, and it had a similar effect on Bonnie Dobson:

[I]t made a tremendous impression on me, that film. Particularly at that time because everybody was very worried about the bomb and whether we were going to get through the next ten years. . . . I remember I was singing in Los Angeles . . . and suddenly I just started writing this song. . . . I'd never written songs and this song just came out and really it was a kind of re-enactment of that film in a way where at the end there is nobody left and it was a conversation between these two people trying to explain what's happening. It was really [about] apocalypse . . . .

Dobson later told an interviewer that she thought she first performed "Morning Dew" at the Ash Grove, a famous folk music club in Los Angeles.  (Doc Watson, Pete Seeger, Muddy Waters, Johnny Cash, Phil Ochs, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, and many other greats played at the Ash Grove.)

But the song first came to the attention of a larger audience at the inaugural Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia, Ontario, in 1961.  (That festival is still going strong after 50 years.)

This version of "Morning Dew" was recorded live at Gerdes Folk City, another legendary music venue in lower Manhattan, in 1962.  (Folk City was where Peter, Paul & Mary and Bob Dylan debuted, and where Dylan met Joan Baez.  Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, the Byrds, Emmylou Harris, Phoebe Snow, Hüsker Dü, and Sonic Youth also performed at Folk City before it lost its lease and closed in 1987.)

Gerdes Folk City
A lot of people have covered "Morning Dew," and the next several 2 or 3 lines posts will feature the most significant of those cover versions.

Here's Bonnie Dobson's original recording of her song, "Morning Dew," which is sometimes called "(Walk Me Out in the) Morning Dew":

Here's a link you can use to buy the song from Amazon:

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