Monday, December 17, 2012

Bonnie Dobson -- "Morning Dew" (1969)

You can't go walking in the morning dew today
You can't go walking in the morning dew today

In 1969, Bonnie Dobson re-recorded “Morning Dew” for an eponymous album that was released in the United States on RCA.  

The album was produced by Jack Richardson, a Canadian who is best-known as the Guess Who’s producer.  (Richardson also produced albums by Alice Cooper, Poco, Badfinger, and Bob Seger’s very successful Night Moves.)

Dobson’s previous album had what one reviewer termed a “sparse, chaste style” – most of the tracks featured only Dobson’s voice and an acoustic guitar.  (Think early Joan Baez.)  But her 1969 album represented a shift in style from traditional folk to middle-of-the-road pop – the arrangements incorporated a little percussion but a lot of strings.  (Think Bobbie Gentry without the Southern accent.)

I like this arrangement of “Morning Dew” a lot.  Dobson has a very pure soprano voice, and her vocal style is simple and straightforward.  There’s nothing groundbreaking about the arrangement or her performance, but there’s nothing objectionable either.   Primum non nocere – “first, do no harm” – applies to musical performance as much as it does to the practice of medicine.

The lyrics on Dobson's 1969 recording of "Morning Dew" are slightly different from the original lyrics.  This version has five verses, although the first and last verses are essentially identical.

Bonnie Dobson in 1969
Each verse consists of two pairs of repeated lines.  The second pair of lines seems to be spoken by a different person, and represent a negative response to the first pair of lines.

For example, here's the first (and last) verse:

Take me for a walk in the morning dew, my honey
Take me for a walk in the morning dew, my love  
You can't go walking in the morning dew today
You can't go walking in the morning dew today

The first speaker in the second verse says (twice) "I hear a man moaning, 'Lord.'"  The second speaker responds by saying (twice) "You didn't hear a man moan at all."

In the third verse, the first speaker says "I know I hear my baby crying, 'Mama!'" and then repeats herself.  But her companion answers in the negative: "You'll never hear your baby cry again" (and then repeats himself).

Finally, the first speaker in the fourth verse twice asks "Where have all the people gone?"  Mr. Answerman twice responds "Don't you worry about the people anymore."

So the whole song really has only eight lines.  It doesn't seem as if it would be that hard to come up with eight lines.  But I've never come up with eight lines that I've turned into a song.  (Have you?)  Bonnie Dobson has, which is why 2 or 3 lines is talking about her today.

Bonnie Dobson in 2009
By the way, Bonnie released yet another version of "Morning Dew" on her 2010 album, Looking Back.  I don't like that arrangement as much as the one on the 1969 recording, but I think her voice is just as pure and beautiful as it was 40 years ago.  (It's hard to believe she was almost 70 when Looking Back was recorded.)

Here’s Bonnie Dobson’s 1969 recording of “Morning Dew”:  

Click the link below to buy the 2010 version of "Morning Dew" from Amazon:

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