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Bonnie Dobson

A minor performer of the 1960s folk revival, Bonnie Dobson will be forever known (if she's even known at all) as the author of "Morning Dew," a moving ballad about the threat of nuclear devastation. Also titled as "Take Me for a Walk" -- that is how it's titled on the previously unreleased 1962 recording that came out on the 2000 The Best of Broadside 1962-1988 box set, anyway -- it was inspired by On the Beach, the film about the aftermath of nuclear war. It was covered about as often as any folk-rock standard that never became a hit, with versions released by Tim Rose, the Grateful Dead, Lulu, the Jeff Beck Group, Episode Six (with future members of Deep Purple), Clannad, Dave Edmunds, Nazareth, the Allman Brothers, and others. It is not well known that Dobson recorded a few albums of acoustic folk music herself for Prestige in the first half of the 1960s and also moved into singer/songwriter pop-folk-rock with full band arrangements on albums for RCA in 1969 and 1970. She never came up with another song as memorable as "Morning Dew," though, and her electric albums were disappointing, both for the unmemorable material and unsuitably mainstream arrangements. "Morning Dew" was actually the first song Dobson wrote. The first person to cover it was Fred Neil, who put it on an Elektra album he did in the mid-'60s as part of a duo with Vince Martin and made some changes to the lyrics. There has been some confusion about the songwriting credit, not only because Neil changed some words, but also because Tim Rose (who recorded it on his 1967 debut album) appears as the co-writer in some credits. In a 1993 interview with Randy Jackson, Dobson said, "If anyone is going to be credited as co-writer or co-lyricist it should have been Fred Neil because all Tim Rose did was take Freddie Neil's changes." Unfortunately Dobson herself didn't capitalize on the song's growing popularity with her own electric version, and the one she put on her self-titled 1969 album for RCA did not live up to the song's full potential. Dobson had a pleasant, high voice and some good judgement in cover material (interpreting songs by obscure singer/songwriter Jackson Frank and the then little-known Ralph McTell). However, she didn't have talents, as a vocalist or composer, special enough to make her more than a decent also-ran in the 1960s folk scene. When RCA pushed her toward more countrified MOR pop on 1970's Good Morning Rain, the results bordered on anonymity, diminishing the singer's art without any compensating commercial success. In 1969 Dobson moved to England, and in the 1970s, she virtually retired from the music business, eventually becoming the head administrator for the Philosophy Department at the Berwick College of the University of London. ~ Richie Unterberger
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