“Morning Dew” is an iconic folk song made famous by the Grateful Dead and its history is rich and full of renditions you’re probably not aware of. Before we dive into its origin and cover all its versions on vinyl, let’s talk basics. “Morning Dew” tells the beautifully haunting story of the morning after the apocalypse as dialogued between the last man and woman on earth. Lyrics in the song’s third stanza reflect their horrifying moment of realization:
Where have all the people gone my honey?
Where have all the people gone today?
Well there's no need for you to be worryin' about all those people;
You never see those people anyway.
“Morning Dew” is an anti-nuclear war song written in 1962 by a Canadian teenager named Bonnie Dobson. Dobson wrote the song while staying with friends in Los Angeles, CA and it was the first song she had ever written. The song’s first appearance on vinyl is from Bonnie Dobson At Folk City. In this live rendition, the listener hears Dobson melodically strum her acoustic guitar as her vocals soar through the crowd at the 2nd annual Mariposa Folk Festival in Oval Park, Ovilla, Canada in 1962.
*Note – A variation of the same recording was also released as Hootenanny with Bonnie Dobson in 1963. The outer sleeve, front cover of Hootenanny is depicted below.
The first studio version of “Morning Dew” was released in 1964 by the Goldebriars on their self-titled album under the song title, “Come Walk Me Out.” The Goldebriars failed to give credit to Dobson as the song’s author, which catalyzed nearly three decades of legal battles (also see Tim Rose’s self-titled release below for more info) over the song’s lyrical credit. An hour-long podcast available on Dobson’s website details this story and more.
About a month after the Goldebriars’ rip-off was released and also in 1964, singer and guitarist Fred Neil with Vince Martin came out with Tear Down the Walls, which returned the song to its original title and gave credit to its writer, Bonnie Dobson. In relation to the Grateful Dead, who we’ll get to later for obvious reasons in context of “Morning Dew,” song 1 of side A form Tear Down the Walls is another good ole Grateful Dead classic cover, “I Know You Rider.”
A few years later in 1967, Tim Rose added a few new lyrics to the song and included “Morning Dew” on his self-titled album. Through some music business machinations, Rose became accredited as co-writer of the song, which for decades and to this day, still renders partial loyalties from the song to his estate. Resultantly, most recordings of “Morning Dew” released after Tim Rose’s album credit Dobson and Rose. A true crime.
In 1968, Ralph McTell released the album Eight Frames A Second with “Morning Dew” on its side A. This was the first point in history where “Morning Dew” was solely accredited to Tim Rose but certainly not the last.
In 1967, the short-lived band called Group Therapy released the album titled, People Get Ready for Group Therapy which included a 2:41 version on side A. Their sound was Vanilla Fudge-esque and laden with psych riffs plus drums and bass. Their version of Dew had these elements, but didn’t quite fall into this realm; nevertheless, the song made it on their album.
The Grateful Dead and the band that made “Morning Dew” infamous first included the track on side B of their self-titled debut album released in March 1967. As the story goes, Dead front man Jerry Garcia was introduced to “Morning Dew” by the band’s roadie, Laird Grant in 1966 when the two listened to the Martin and Neil recording on Tear Down the Walls. The Dead first played the song as their opening number at the revolutionary late 1960s counterculture event, the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park as a prelude to San Francisco's Summer of Love which made the Haight-Ashbury district a symbol of American counterculture and introduced the word "psychedelic" into America suburbia. The Grateful Dead’s rendition marked a pivotal point in the song’s history as the first recording on an album that diverted from its acoustic roots and into the realm of the electric guitar.
In January 2016, Rhino Records pressed a limited release vinyl of the Grateful Dead's live show from November 10th, 1967 at Shrine Exposition Hall in Los Angeles, CA. The album showcases the coveted early years of live Dead with an outstanding recording that harnesses their rawness in 1967. The Morning Dew is no exception finding itself sandwiched in between a Bobby ballad, Beat It On Down The Line, and a 10+ minute Good Morning Little Schoolgirl with Pigpen doing what he does best, rapping on the mic. Side 2 has never sounded so good.
The following year and in summer of 1968, Scottish-American pop singer Lulu included “Morning Dew” on her album titled, Lulu Sings to Sir With Love. Lulu was mainstream enough to be given the opportunity to perform the song live and on a TV broadcast too.
Later in 1968, “Morning Dew” made its way across the Atlantic and was recorded by the Irish band, Sugar Shack who released the song on side A of a 7” vinyl. Sugar Shack’s rendition of the song was also captured on a folk/country compilation, titled The Showband Special released in 1969. Here’s a fun fact; Sugar Shack’s drummer, Brian Downey, left the band to join Orphanage which later became Thin Lizzy after adding guitarist, Eric Bell.
Also in 1968, guitar legend Jeff Beck recorded “Morning Dew” on his album titled, Truth. This version was the 2nd time the song had been recorded using an electric guitar and the first time since the Grateful Dead’s self-titled debut album.
The next release was by the song’s original lyricist, Bonnie Dobson who recorded “Morning Dew” on her first, self-titled studio album in 1969 where it tracked at song 2 of side A. Dobson’s new sound on Dew and throughout this album, while still folky, is much more psychedelic with vocals sounding similar to Jefferson Airplane’s, Grace Slick, but somehow sweeter and less haunting. The whole album is a psychedelic nugget from the late 60s and worth adding to the collection of any vinyl enthusiast.
Another lesser known psychedelic nugget from 1969 that included “Morning Dew” was The Damnation of Adam Blessing, by a band with the same name. This acid rock band from Cleveland built off momentum from The Grateful Dead and Bonnie’s Dobson’s latest version of “Morning Dew” by voyaging into a more sensory-driven sound, which is worth checking out. The whole album is a gem and the band’s best.
In 1970, American blues rock band, Tongue released, Keep On Truckin' With Tongue, that included a 7:35 long “Morning Dew.” This version, includes some extra runs and added lyrics, as well as multiple bandmates taking turn singing and in harmony. Not bad, not great.
In 1971 on Nazareth’s self-titled, debut album, a 7-plus minute rendition of “Morning Dew” landed on its B side. This was the longest recording of Dew to date. The Scottish hard rock band was the 2nd European band to make the song their own following Sugar Shack’s single released four years prior.
In 1972, maybe the most iconic “Morning Dew” ever recorded was by the Grateful Dead on Europe ’72 as a compilation of live recordings from their legendary European tour earlier the same year. The magical moment occurred in London at The Strand Lyceum on May 26th when the Dead sandwiched the song in-between a Bob Weir classic and the first Dead song he ever wrote, “The Other One.” The Dead’s audio-technician who had been the sole person responsible for recording the live track had left the soundboard a few minutes before the band segued into the song leaving him left in no man’s land, but where he preferred to be, out on the dance floor with the audience pulsating with cosmic energy. While their sound guy wasn’t at the soundboard recording this version of “Morning Dew,” everything worked out since the song translated to vinyl perfectly.
Dick’s Picks 36 from 9/21/1972 at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, PA was released on vinyl in 2021 as a 7 LP box set. The prospect of all the Dick’s Picks being re-released on vinyl is galvanic and not out of the realm of possibility. This show and version of “Morning Dew” are reasons to get excited. Jerry’s patience, tenderness and power interweave perfectly into this epic version.
The next recording of “Morning Dew” wasn’t released until 12 years later in 1984 by American southern rock band, Blackfoot on their album titled, Vertical Smiles.
Two years later in 1987, “Morning Dew” surfaced in Europe again, but this time in Germany via Fuenf Auf Der Nach Oben Offenen Richterskala by the industrial/experimental rock band, Einstürzende Neubauten. This recording may be its most haunting as the lyrics are said versus sung before shit gets weird at the end of the song with glitchy, horrific noises substituting the lyrics.
In 1989, another American southern rock band took a stab at “Morning Dew” on the album titled, Dreams, by The Allman Brothers, which is a 6-sided box set and compilation of various live recordings.
A year later in 1990, possibly the most divergent path the song has ever taken found “Morning Dew” on Devo’s album titled, Smooth Noodle Maps with an electronic synth pop version that pops!
In 2002, the first “Morning Dew” recorded and released on vinyl in the 21st century was sung by no other than the legendary Robert Plant and was released on his solo album titled, Dreamland. When asked about his connection to the song, Plant recalled playing the song live back in the 1960s with Band of Joy, which pre-dated Led Zeppelin.
In 2012, the Grateful Dead released Spring 1990: Glad You Made It on vinyl which is comprised of curated songs from their previous 18 CD box set release. The songs on this live compilation were all recorded in March 1990, which includes “Morning Dew” from March 26th, the third night of a three-night run in Albany, NY at Knickerbocker Arena.
In 2013, the first “Morning Dew” pressed on vinyl via the classic Dead live series, Dick’s Picks, was released on Dick's Picks Volume Three: Pembroke Pines, Florida - 5/22/77. This recording and pressing has Dew as the set 2 closer concluding an epic never to be repeated ensemble of Dead classics, “Estimated Prophet” > “Eyes Of The World” > “Wharf Rat” > “Terrapin Station” > “Morning Dew.” In this version, the band is incredibly patient in playing the song and Jerry is almost passive in his approach singing the “Morning Dew.” This could and should be considered one of the best which stacks up since May 1977 is arguably the best month and year of the Grateful Dead’s career.
Another rare vinyl 5 LP box set released in 2014 is Live At The Cow Palace, New Year's Eve 1976 by the Grateful Dead. This is the first time Dew has its own side of an LP, and on side 9 which is amazing in and of itself. This version is poetic beautifully sung by Jerry and quite different than other live vinyl-pressed recordings by the Dead.
Arguably the best Grateful Dead show of all time, Cornell 5.8.77, was captured and pressed on vinyl in 2017. Everything about this show spews cosmic everlasting energy. This “Morning Dew” is no exception.
In 2015, Darwinism in the Falkland, a vinyl pressing company in Rome, Italy bootlegged the 1977 Cornell show with two separate releases, Dead in Cornell Volume I and Dead in Cornell Volume II. Since these are unofficial releases, they’re blocked on most moderated websites, but they can still be found at record shows, less strict websites, etc. Also, common on many unofficial releases pressed overseas, errors show up on labels—the Dead in Cornell Volume II has Dancin’ in the Streets following Scarlett Begonias but every knows Fire on the Mountain follows Scarlett in ’77. Apparently, the Italians don’t! Morning Dew is on Volume II and owns all of side C. The quality of the recording is equitable to the official Cornell RSD release having experienced both firsthand.
In July 2017, David Lemieux released a Grateful Dead compilation album titled, Smiling On A Cloudy Day, which included a re-release of tracks 1-3 (i.e., 1. The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion) 2. Cream Puff War 3. Morning Dew) uninterrupted from the Dead’s debut, self-titled album originally released in 1967. The pressing was done on neon purple vinyl with a rainbow label.
In August 2017, the Grateful Dead released the motion picture soundtrack, captured on 6 LPs, to the highly acclaimed documentary series and Amazon original called, A Long Strange Trip (The Untold Story of the Grateful Dead). The recording of “Morning Dew” on this release is fittingly the May 26, 1972 Strand Lyceum recording from London originally released on Europe ’72.
The next installment of Dick’s Picks that included “Morning Dew” was Dick's Picks Volume Eight: Harpur College, Binghamton, NY, 5/2/70 released on vinyl as a limited release in February 2018. In a 1993 poll of Grateful Dead tape traders, this show was ranked #6 on the list of all-time favorite Dead concert tapes. The “Morning Dew” followed by “Viola Lee Blues” > “And We Bid You Goodnight” as the show closers have a lot to do with that high praise.
In March 2018, the Dead released Best of the Grateful Dead Live: Volume 1 on vinyl, which includes the legendary Strand Lyceum recording of “Morning Dew” from May 26, 1972 previously released on Europe ’72.
In 2019, the Dead released another Cow Palace gem on vinyl titled, Dick's Picks Volume Twenty-Four (Cow Palace Daly City CA 3/23/74) as a 4 LP limited edition box set. The “Morning Dew” from this show is sandwiched in between “Uncle John’s Band,” which is a welcome divergence from previously released vinyl recordings of “Morning Dew” because Jerry’s lonesome, last man on earth lyrics in Dew are placed in middle of Uncle’s Johns Band with everyone singing together and in harmony—quite the contrast. Everyone, then no one, then everyone again. Maybe there is hope!
This version of “Morning Dew” on vinyl takes us back to 1969 and the Grateful Dead live from the Electric Theatre via Dick's Picks Twenty Six: Electric Theater, Chicago, IL - April 26 1969; Labor Temple, Minneapolis, MN - April 27 1969, a limited release 4 LP box set. This recording truly captures the youthful sound of Jerry Garcia, both vocally and instrumentally, and seems more primitive in comparison to the all-time classic, Europe ’72 live recording.
The next release of “Morning Dew” on vinyl was thanks to Rhino Records dishing up a legendary, inaugural sandwich. The first time the Dead ever started and ended Playing in the Band with songs played in between was in St. Louis, Missouri at the Fox Theatre on 10/18/1972. One of those songs was “Morning Dew”, which actually makes this version less important by itself because everything around it is incredible too. Right when the Dead got rolling in the 2nd set, they delivered a Playing in the Band > Drums > Dark Star > Morning Dew > Playing in the Band. It’s one of the Grateful Dead’s legendary moments and now it’s captured on super unique silver metallic vinyl that actually looks like medal was squeezed in between both sides of vinyl when it was pressed. For many reasons, this is a must have record.
The most recent release of “Morning Dew” was from Real Gone Music as part of the 6 LP Dick's Picks Volume 19 box set. The set includes the entire show from Fairgrounds Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on October 19th, 1973. This Morning Dew follows a solid Dark Star > Mind Left Body Jam, which may be the highlight of the 2nd set.