Jim Dawson is one of the great singer/songwriters of our generation. With a recording career that has continued to grow since the 1970s, Jim's songs have been recorded by artists as diverse as Mary Travers and Elmo (from Sesame Street)
Jim lived his early years in the Midwest towns of Joplin, MO and Coffeeville, KS but spent his adolescence in Colorado. It was there in 1958 that he discovered the music that would become his life. That's when he and many other future musicians first heard the Kingston Trio. Their music and exuberance inspired him. In later years, Jim would remark, “The Kingston Trio is the reason that I picked up a guitar. They are the reason that I do what I do.”
Jim joined the Navy in 1963. After a tour of duty on the USS Independence in the South China Sea, Jim returned from active duty in 1966 with a deep sadness about the war in Vietnam. As he did in his youth and his time in the Navy, Jim turned to music to find peace and reflection. He started writing and performing songs in and around Virginia Beach, VA.
In 1968, JD moved to New York City and started playing the coffeehouse circuit. He joined a band called The Good Earth that started to get some notice from producers. Jim’s partner in The Good Earth was Bill Swofford who would later call himself Oliver and have hits with "Good Morning Starshine" and "Jean". After some disagreements on the musical direction of the band, Jim left to peruse a solo career.
When Kama Sutra/Buddha records released "Songman" in 1971, Jim’s solo career was finally on its way. The songs from "Songman" got steady airplay on New York’s underground FM stations like WNEW-FM and DJs like Pete Fornatale gave Jim a huge boost. "Simple Song" became an anthem for many listeners looking for some healing and gentleness after a decade of war and protest.
Jim’s second album "You'll Never Be Lonely with Me" followed the same year and produced some of Jim's most memorable songs. Soon after, Terry Cashman and Tommy West were brought in to produce Jim’s third album. Cashman and West had recently been very successful producing Jim Croce’s hit records. Jim got a new record deal with RCA and they were off and running.
The resulting album, simply titled "Jim Dawson", is one of the classic albums in pop music history. Great songs, great singing, great production. The songs from this album still bring cheers at Jim's shows and you can always see lot's of fans singing along.
During this time, Jim's popularity continued to grow and he sold out shows at the Bitter End, My Father’s Place and the Schaefer Music Festival in the NYC area.
"Elephants in the Rain" was Jim’s fourth album (second on RCA) and was again produced by Cashman and West. A worthy follow up to the "Jim Dawson" album, "Elephants" introduced great new JD songs like "Rainy Sunday" that fans still request today.
Jim’s took a break from the music business after that but returned to the NYC clubs in 1978 with some great new songs. Jim’s friend and bass player, Steven Donaghey produced an EP of five new songs that was appropriately called, "New Product". Issued on a private label, Jim sold copies at his shows and found that fans were waiting for him to return with new songs. An interesting note about a few of the songs on "New Product". The female voice that can be heard singing backup was a young Lucy Kaplansky in what was one of her first recording sessions. Now well known for her solo albums and wonderful singing, Kaplansky was a friend of Donaghey’s who was just starting out. A cassette of new songs called "Hand of Fate" followed shortly afterwards.
In 1988, a German soap opera wanted Jim to write and record the opening theme song for the show. A CD, "Secrets of the Heart", followed. There are great songs on this CD although the German techno/disco production on some tracks doesn’t seem to fit the feeling of the Dawson songs. But the money from the German recording allowed Jim to set up his own recording studio in his NYC apartment. Now he could record his songs the way he wanted and take control of his music.
Jim started a series of “studio concerts” in his apartment. Inviting fans to come by for a night of live music. Everything was carefully recorded with the studio equipment resulting in a “live” show with excellent sound. Jim was working now with Donaghey on bass and Seth David Walter on keyboards. These sessions produced, "Therapy in Session: The Studio Concerts" that featured new versions of Dawson favorites and many new songs as well. Billboard magazine ran an article about this innovative approach to making CDs without involvement by the big music companies.
Dawson started a website at this point and began marketing his CDs and music using the Internet. Jim’s fans had not forgotten him and like so many artists, he reconnected with many of them over the Internet. Jim’s site gets about 2,000 visitors a month from all over the world.
One huge frustration for Jim has been his inability to gain control of his original recordings. The master tapes are owned by the huge music conglomerates that have no interest in releasing Jim’s early albums on CD. But, they won’t let Jim release them either without some fairly hefty fees. In 2000, indie label Contender Records addressed the problem in a unique way by letting Jim record and produce new versions of the songs from "Songman". Jim completely reinterpreted the songs giving many an entirely new sound and feel. The new CD was called "Songman - Recorded Winter 2000".
The tragedies of 9/11 affected Jim deeply and he considered never performing again saying, “It just seemed so pointless”. Luckily for his fans, he had one solo scheduled appearance to fulfill and the energy between Jim and the audience that night gave him a new perspective on his music. “This is what I do. I was put here on this earth to sing my songs. It’s all I can do. Somehow this music helps people to heal and that helps me to heal.”
Today, Jim is performing regularly in the NYC area. He just finished a new CD called "Little Off the Road Motel". He is one of those rare songwriters that can successfully interpret our feelings as we continue to grow and grow older. His new songs are wonderful with the usual great melodies and perceptive lyrics.