Tim Rose – Morning Dew

17th September 2023 · 1960s, 1967, Music

You’ve got to feel sorry for Fred Neil. The obscure Canadian folkie recorded definitive versions of three great songs that went on to become standards – and all three were made famous in better versions by three other artists.

Here is one: Tim Rose’s version of Morning Dew, a song whose gently mellifluous vibe disguises a dark lyric – a conversation between the last man and woman left on earth after a nuclear apocalypse.

Tim’s version (like Harry Nilsson’s take on Everybody’s Talkin’ and Tim Buckley’s classic version of Dolphins) was clearly superior to Fred’s slightly dull duet with Vince Martin, though the song has a rich history of cover versions, which you can read about below.

Anyway, Fred was not the writer or original performer of Morning Dew – it was written and first recorded by an even more obscure Canadian folkie called Bonnie Dobson.

Bonnie’s original came out on her live 1962 album Bonnie Dobson At Folk City, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar, followed by a studio version by a long-forgotten folk group called The Goldenbriars in 1964. Deservedly forgotten, too, since they didn’t give Bonnie her songwriting credit – and even changed the title in an attempt to disguise their plagiarism.

A month later Fred Neil recorded it as an acoustic duet with Vince Martin for an album called Tear Down The Walls, followed by this version by Tim Rose, recorded in an electric arrangement with a full band in 1967, pausing only to add his name to Dobson’s songwriting credit (much as he had done when claiming co-authorship of Hey Joe when he released it as a single the previous year).

That same year – the first Summer of Love – The Grateful Dead covered it in a more electrified fashion on their self-titled debut album – and countless subsequent live albums – followed by The Jeff Beck Group with Rod Stewart on vocals in 1968.

Bonnie finally recorded a studio version for her own self-titled album in 1969 but her song had already acquired a life of its own, with Scottish rockers Nazareth covering it on their 1970 debut album before brothers Duane and Greg Allman gave it the Southern boogie treatment on their self titled album of 1972.

The following year Irish group Clannad included a much quieter version on their 1973 self-titled debut and Rod’s old chum Long John Baldry had a crack at it in 1980, while the US band Blackfoot covered it on their 1984 album Vertical Smiles.

Things then got weird, with the German experimentalists Einstürzende Neubauten including a version on their 1987 album Fünf Auf Der Nach Oben Offenen Richterskala and Devo covered it on Smooth Noodle Maps in 1990.

Robert Plant covered it on his 2002 album Dreamland, apparently unaware of who wrote and performed it first until Bonnie Dobson knocked on his door – and the pair sang it onstage together at the Royal Albert Hall in 2013.

Fun fact: Tim Rose was taught how to play guitar by Scott McKenzie (of San Francisco fame) as a teenager in Washington D.C. and played in a band with him before teaming up with Mama Cass Elliott in a trio called The Big 3.