S.A.C. Celebrates International Women’s Day: Bonnie Dobson

It took a chunk of her lifetime, but Bonnie Dobson is pleased to finally receive recognition for the brilliant song “Morning Dew” which she wrote, but failed to protect at the time. In 2017, she found her way to the Canadian Songwriters’ Hall of Fame, The following year, she returned to Mariposa – the festival where she debuted the song in its inaugural run in 1961. By then, Dobson was a seasoned performer but still “new” to the world of publishing. She’d played multiple stints at Ash Grove, the legendary L.A. folk and blues spot. During one stay in L.A. she saw the film “On The Beach” which inspired here to write about life after a nuclear holocaust. “I had never written anything in my life,” she said in Jason Schneider’s book “Whispering Pines”.

Playing traditional folks songs was more exciting than returning to the University of Toronto, and Dobson slowly found her way to New York City. There, she recorded two albums of folk songs, a children’s record, and her third effort, a 1962 live album featuring her show stopper “Morning Dew,” recorded at Folk City in Manhattan. Dobson knew it was a great song, but had yet to publish the track.

Born November 13, 1940 in a union activist household, and an older sister immersed in the nascent Canadian folk revival inspired Bonnie to try her hand at performing.

Dobson recorded a self-titled album for Nimbus 9 in Toronto in 1969, featuring a re-recording of “Morning Dew,” before leaving for England, marriage and a career in post graduate academia. After a few more records, including another self-titled effort, she walked away from music until 2013, when she returned to the stage.

“Morning Dew”’s merits were obvious to a few people who covered the song in a folk style, but Fred Neil’s version was the first to rock harder. Tim Rose covered the Fred Neil arrangement and connived his way into a co-writer’s credit for the song which was virtually in the public domain when he decided to record it.

“The worst part was when I came to England in 1969 and I gave my debut concert at Queen Elizabeth Hall. Everybody had thought that Tim Rose had written “Morning Dew,” because he had never mentioned me at any time, having anything to do with that song. I still get my royalty cheque, but I still consider it quite a grievous injury.” After a half century, Bonnie has been more widely appreciated for not only “Morning Dew” but her singing career overall. Her 2018 Mariposa return re-affirmed her spot in Canadian women songwriters.

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