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Donovan (Donovan Phillips Leitch, born 10 May 1946, in Maryhillmarker, Glasgowmarker), is a Scottishmarker singer-songwriter and guitarist. Emerging from the British folk scene, he developed an eclectic and distinctive style that blended folk, jazz, pop, psychedelia, and world music. Donovan came to fame in the United Kingdom in early 1965 with a series of live performances on the pop TV series, Ready Steady Go!, and his popularity spread to the USA and other countries. After signing with the British label, Pye Records in 1965, he recorded a handful of singles and two albums in the folk music vein. After extricating himself from his original management contract, he began a long and successful collaboration with leading independent record producer Mickie Most, scoring a string of hits in the UK, the USA, Australia and other countries, including several British and American #1 hits and million-selling records. Donovan was the first artist to be signed to CBS/Epic Records by then-new Administrative Vice President Clive Davis, who later became head of the CBS Record empire.

Donovan was one of the leading British recording artists of his day. He produced a series of hit albums and singles between 1965 and 1970. He became a friend of leading pop musicians including Joan Baez, Brian Jones, Bruce Springsteen, and The Beatles. He influenced both John Lennon and Paul McCartney when he taught them his finger-picking guitar style in 1968. Donovan's commercial fortunes waned after he parted ways with Mickie Most in 1969, and he left the music industry for a time.

He continued to perform and record sporadically in the 1970s and 1980s, but gradually fell from favour. His gentle musical style and hippie image was scorned by critics, especially after the advent of punk rock. Donovan withdrew from performing and recording several times during his career, but he underwent a revival in the 1990s with the emergence of the rave scene in Britain. Late in the decade, he recorded an album with producer and long-time fan Rick Rubin and released a new album, Beat Cafe, in 2004.

Early life and career

Donovan was born and raised until the age of 10 in Maryhillmarker, Glasgowmarker, Scotlandmarker. He contracted polio as a child and the disease, and subsequent treatment, left him with a limp. In 1956, his family moved to Little Berkhamsted near Hertfordmarker, Englandmarker.
"We left Glasgow when I was ten, we were in the slums there. My father was afraid for his children. We moved to England where it was green and grassy." - Interview in Look Magazine
Influenced by his family's love for Scottishmarker and Englishmarker folk music, he began playing guitar at 14. He enrolled in art school but dropped out soon afterwards, determined to live out his beatnik aspirations by going out on the road. In 1963 he took a trip to St Ivesmarker with Gypsy Dave and other friends from Hertfordshire.

Returning to Hatfieldmarker, he spent several months playing in local clubs, absorbing the music of the British folk scene around his home in St Albansmarker, learning the cross-picking guitar technique from local players like Mac MacLeod and Mick Softley, and writing his first songs.

In 1964 he travelled to Manchestermarker with Gypsy Dave, then spent the summer in Torquaymarker, Devonmarker. In Torquay he stayed with his old friend and guitar mentor from St Albans, Mac MacLeod, and took up busking (street performing), studying guitar and learning traditional folk and blues songs.

In late 1964, he was offered a management and publishing contract by Peter Eden and Geoff Stephens of Pye Records in London, where he recorded a 10-track demo tape (recently rediscovered and released on iTunes), which included the original recording of "Catch the Wind", his first single, and "Josie". The first song revealed the influence of Woody Guthrie and Ramblin' Jack Elliott, who had also influenced Bob Dylan. Dylan comparisons followed him for some time. In an interview with KFOK radio in the USA on 14 June 2005, MacLeod stated: "The press were fond of calling Donovan a 'Dylan Clone' as they had both been influenced by the same sources: Ramblin' Jack, Jesse Fuller, Woody Guthrie, and many more."

While recording the demo, Donovan befriended Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones, who was recording in a nearby studio. Coincidentally, he had also recently met Jones's ex-girlfriend Linda Lawrence, and they became close friends, and their relationship lasted until Jones's death in 1969. The meeting between Linda and Donovan was pivotal as they began an on-off romantic relationship for the next five years. She exerted a huge influence on Donovan's music but refused to marry him and moved to America for several years in the late 1960s. Although he had other relationships — one of which resulted in the birth of his first two children, Donovan Leitch, Jr., and Ione Skye Leitch — he remained strongly drawn to Linda, and she became his muse. His confused feelings about her inspired dozens of songs, including "Legend Of A Girl Child Linda", "Sunshine Superman" and many others.

In the first week of May 1965 Donovan met Bob Dylan, then touring the UK, in Dylan's suite at the Savoy Hotelmarker in London. The music press had made much of Donovan's alleged aping of Dylan and the supposed rivalry between the two, but the meeting went well and Dylan later told Melody Maker: "He played some songs to me ... I like him ... He's a nice guy."

The Melody Maker report also noted that Dylan had mentioned Donovan in his song "Talking World War Three Blues" but that the crowd had jeered when Donovan's name was mentioned, to which Dylan had responded backstage: "I didn't mean to put the guy down in my songs. I just did it for a joke, that's all."

The meeting was captured by documentarist D.A. Pennebaker, who was filming Dylan's Spring 1965 tour, and part of the event was included in the documentary Don't Look Back, although Donovan's management reportedly refused to allow journalists to be present, stating that they didn't want "any stunt on the lines of the disciple meeting the messiah"..

In an interview for the BBC in 2001 to mark Dylan's 60th birthday, Donovan acknowledged Dylan as an important influence early in his career whilst distancing himself from the "Dylan clone" allegations:
The one who really taught us to play and learn all the traditional songs was Martin Carthy - who incidentally was contacted by Dylan when Bob first came to the UK. Bob was influenced, as all American folk artists are, by the Celtic music of Ireland, Scotland and England. But in 1962 we folk Brits were also being influenced by some folk Blues and the American folk-exponents of our Celtic Heritage...Dylan appeared after Woodie [Guthrie], Pete [Seeger] and Joanie [Baez] had conquered our hearts, and he sounded like a cowboy at first but I knew where he got his stuff - it was Woodie at first, then it was Jack Kerouac and the stream-of-consciousness poetry which moved him along. But when I heard Blowing In The Wind it was the clarion call to the new generation - and we artists were encouraged to be as brave in writing our thoughts in music...We were not captured by his influence, we were encouraged to mimic him - and remember every British band from the Stones to the Beatles were copying note for note, lick for lick, all the American pop and blues artists - this is the way young artists learn. There's no shame in mimicking a hero or two - it flexes the creative muscles and tones the quality of our composition and technique. It was not only Dylan who influenced us - for me he was a spearhead into protest, and we all had a go at his style. I sounded like him for five minutes - others made a career of his sound. Like troubadours, Bob and I can write about any facet of the human condition. To be compared was natural, but I am not a copyist.

Collaboration with Mickie Most

In late 1965, Donovan split with his original management and signed with Ashley Kozak, who was working for Brian Epstein's NEMS Enterprises. Kozak introduced Donovan to American impresario Allen Klein (who would later take over management of The Rolling Stones and The Beatles). Klein in turn introduced Donovan to producer Mickie Most, who was riding high on the success of his chart-topping productions with The Animals, Lulu, and Herman's Hermits.

Mickie Most was the nominal producer of all Donovan's recordings in this period, although Donovan asserts in his autobiography that some of the recordings were self-produced, with little or no input from Most. Their collaboration produced a string of successful singles and albums, recorded with leading London session players including Big Jim Sullivan, Jack Bruce, Danny Thompson and future Led Zeppelin members John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page.

Many of Donovan's late Sixties recordings featured a core group of musicians who regularly recorded and/or toured with him, including his key musical collaborator John Cameron on piano, Danny Thompson (from Pentangle) or Spike Heatley on upright bass, Tony Carr on drums and congas and Harold McNair on saxophone and flute. Carr's conga style and McNair's distinctive flute playing are an intrinsic feature of many of these recordings. Cameron, McNair and Carr also accompanied Donovan on several major concert tours and can be heard on his 1968 live album Donovan In Concert.

"Sunshine Superman"

By 1966, Donovan had shed the overt Dylan/Guthrie influences and become one of the first British pop musicians to adopt a "flower power" image. More importantly, his music was developing and changing rapidly as he immersed himself in jazz, blues, Eastern music, and the new generation of US West Coast bands such as Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead. He was now entering his most creative and original phase as a songwriter and recording artist, working in close collaboration with Mickie Most and especially with arranger, musician, and jazz fan John Cameron.

Their first collaboration was "Sunshine Superman". One of the first overtly psychedelic pop records, it was an innovative and eclectic blend of folk, rock, pop and jazz. The arrangement was augmented by prominent harpsichord and sitar, and set against a funky conga-driven backbeat. It also contained subtle but unmistakable references to LSD — notably, the line, "I could've tripped out easy, but I've changed my ways".

Donovan's rapid rise stalled temporarily in December 1965, when Billboard broke news of the impending production deal between Klein, Most, and Donovan, and then reported that Donovan was about to sign with Epic Records in the U.S. Despite Kozak's strenuous denials, Pye Records dropped the new single from their release schedule, and a contractual dispute ensued. As a result of this dispute, Donovan's UK and US record releases differed markedly, three of his LPs not being released in the U.K. and Sunshine Superman being released in a completely different form. Several significant album tracks from the late sixties were not released in the UK for many years.

The legal dispute continued into early 1966. During the hiatus, Donovan holidayed in Greecemarker, where he wrote the wistful "Writer in the Sun", which was inspired by the rumours that his recording career was over. He also toured the USA, playing some lightly attended gigs; it was probably during this visit that he appeared on as a guest on episode 23 of the Pete Seeger TV series Rainbow Quest with Shawn Phillips and Rev. Gary Davis. After his return to London, he developed his friendship with Paul McCartney and reportedly contributed the line "sky of blue and sea of green" to the song "Yellow Submarine"

By late 1966, the American contractual problems had been resolved, and Donovan signed a $100,000 deal with Epic Records. Donovan and Most went to CBS Studios in Los Angeles, where they recorded tracks for a new LP, much of which had been formulated and composed during the preceding year. Although folk elements were still prominent, the album showed the increasing influence of jazz, American west coast psychedelia, and folk rock, especially The Byrds, whose records Donovan had been listening to constantly throughout 1965.

The LP sessions were completed in May, and "Sunshine Superman" was released in the US as a single in June. It was a success, providing Donovan with an American chart breakthrough, selling 800,000 copies in six weeks and reaching #1. The LP followed in August, preceded by advance orders of 250,000 copies, and reached 11 on the US album charts.

The US version of the Sunshine Superman LP is set in chamber-style folk-jazz arrangements, and features an eclectic range of instruments including acoustic bass, sitar, saxophone, tablas and congas, harpsichord, strings and oboe. Highlights include the swinging "The Fat Angel", which (Donovan's book confirms) was written for "Mama" Cass Elliott of The Mamas & the Papas. The song is also notable for name checking the cult San Franciscomarker acid rock band Jefferson Airplane, well before they became known internationally and before Grace Slick joined. Other tracks include "Bert's Blues" (a tribute to guitar hero Bert Jansch), the stately "Guinevere", and "Legend of a Girl Child Linda", a track featuring voice, acoustic guitar and a small orchestra, and which runs for over six minutes.

The album also features extensive use of the sitar, which was played by American folk singer Shawn Phillips. Donovan had met Phillips in London in 1965, and he became a close friend and an important early collaborator, playing acoustic guitar and sitar on several major recordings including the Sunshine Superman album, as well as accompanying Donovan at numerous concerts, as well as their TV appearance on Pete Seeger's TV show.

In contrast to the pastoral tone of the rest of the album, several songs, including the title track, had a harder edge. The driving, jazzy "The Trip" was titled after the L.A. club of the same name; chronicling an LSD trip he took during his time in L.A., it was loaded with references to his sojourn on the West Coast, and name-checked both Dylan and Baez. The third "heavy" song, destined to become one of his most enduring recordings, was a number called "Season of the Witch". Recorded with American and British session players, it features Donovan's first recorded performance on electric guitar. The song was covered by Brian Auger on his first LP in 1967, and Al Kooper and Stephen Stills recorded an 11-minute version on the 1968 album, Super Session. Donovan's version is also heard in the closing sequence of the Gus Van Sant film, To Die For.

Because of contractual problems, an album bearing the same title was not released in the UK for nine months. This was a compilation of tracks from the already released U.S. albums Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow. Donovan had no input into the track selection for this release.

On 24 October 1966, Epic released the single "Mellow Yellow", arranged by John Paul Jones and purportedly featuring Paul McCartney on uncredited backing vocals. It was rumoured that the phrase "electrical banana" referred to smoking banana peels to get high but in his autobiography Donovan explains that the phrase was simply a reference to a yellow-colored vibrator. Another line that caused speculation is "I'm just mad about Fourteen; she's just mad about me", and in the version heard on the 1968 In Concert album, he makes this clearer, singing "I'm just mad about fourteen-year-old girls; they're just mad about me." The song became Donovan's signature tune and was a commercial success — it reached #2 in Billboard, #3 in Cash Box and earned a gold record award for sales of more than one million in the US.

Through the first half of 1967, Donovan worked on an ambitious double-album studio project, which he produced himself. In January he gave a concert at the Royal Albert Hallmarker accompanied by a ballerina who danced during a 12-minute performance of "Golden Apples". On 14 January, New Musical Express reported he was to write incidental music for a National Theatre production of As You Like It, but this did not come to fruition. His version of "Under the Greenwood Tree" did appear on "A Gift from a Flower to a Garden".

Later that month Epic released the Mellow Yellow LP (not released in the U.K.), which reached #14 in the album charts, plus a new non-album single, "Epistle to Dippy", a Top 20 hit in the US. Written in the form of an open letter to an old school friend, the song had a strong pacifist message in addition to its psychedelic imagery. The real "Dippy" was at the time serving in the British Army in Malaysiamarker. According to Brian Hogg, who wrote the liner notes for the Donovan boxed set, Troubadour, Dippy heard the song, contacted Donovan and left the army as a result.

On 9 February 1967, Donovan was among the select group of guests invited by The Beatles to join them at Abbey Road Studios for the final orchestral overdub session for the Lennon-McCartney collaboration "A Day in the Life", the grand finale to their new opus Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Drug bust

In mid-1966, Donovan became the first high-profile British pop star to be arrested for possession of marijuana. Donovan's drug use appears to have been moderate, and was mostly restricted to cannabis — with occasional use of LSD and mescaline, although he was not indulging on the scale of friends like John Lennon and Brian Jones. Donovan's use of LSD is referred to in many of his lyrics, including "The Trip", "Sunshine Superman", "Wear Your Love Like Heaven", and "Epistle To Dippy".

Public attention was drawn to his marijuana use by the TV documentary, A Boy Called Donovan, broadcast in early 1966, which showed the singer and friends smoking cannabis at a party thrown by the film crew. However, it now appears that the Drug Squad were already planning to target many British pop stars, and Donovan's arrest proved to be the first in a long series of busts involving members of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. The arrest garnered a great deal of publicity, and in early 1967, Donovan was the subject of an exposé by the British newspaper, the News of the World.

According to Donovan's autobiography, the article was based on an unauthorized interview given by an ex-girlfriend of his closest friend, Gypsy Dave. It was the first installment of a three-part series, "Drugs & Pop Stars - Facts That Will Shock You". Although some claims may have been true, others were false. The most notorious instance was that of the News Of The World reporter's claiming to have spent an evening with Mick Jagger, who (he alleged) discussed his drug use and offered drugs to companions. Only after publication was it discovered that the reporter had mistaken Brian Jones for Jagger, who sued the newspaper.

Among other supposed revelations were claims that Donovan and other stars including members of The Who, Cream, The Rolling Stones, and The Moody Blues regularly smoked marijuana, used other illicit drugs, and held parties where the recently banned hallucinogen LSD was used, specifically naming The Who's Pete Townshend and Cream's Ginger Baker as LSD users.

It emerged later that the News Of The World reporters were using their access to pop stars to gather information and pass it to the police. In the late 1990s, an article in The Guardian asserted that it was News Of The World reporters who alerted the police about the party at Keith Richards's house, "Redlands", which was raided in the early hours of 12 February 1967, just after George Harrison and his wife Pattie had left.

Although Donovan's was not as sensational as the later arrests of Jagger and Richards, because of the charges he was refused entry to the U.S. until late 1967 and was therefore unable to perform at the Monterey International Pop Festivalmarker in June that year.

International success, 1967–69

In July, Epic released the single, "There Is a Mountain", which just missed the top ten in the US and was later used as the basis for The Allman Brothers's Mountain Jam. In September, Donovan embarked on a tour of the US, backed by a small jazz group and accompanied by his father, who introduced the show.

Later that month, Epic released Donovan's fifth album, a two-disc set entitled, A Gift from a Flower to a Garden, the first rock music box set, and only the third pop-rock double album released. It was split thematically into halves. The first, subtitled "Wear Your Love Like Heaven", was written for the people of his generation that would one day be parents; the second, subtitled "For Little Ones", was a collection of songs Donovan had written for the coming generation. Worried it might be a poor seller, Epic boss Clive Davis insisted the albums be split and sold separately in the USA (the "Wear Your Love Like Heaven" album cover was photographed at Bodiam Castlemarker), but his fears were unfounded - although it took time, the boxed set sold steadily, eventually peaking at 19 on US album chart and achieving gold record status in the US in early 1970.

The psychedelic and mystical overtones of the work were unmistakable -- the front cover featured an infra-red photograph by photographer Karl Ferris showing Donovan dressed in a robe holding flowers and peacock feathers, while the back cover photo showed him holding hands with Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Surprisingly, the liner notes for the album included an appeal from Donovan for young people to give up the use of all drugs — a notable stance for a rock musician at the height of the Summer of Love. His public disavowal of drugs came after his time with the Maharishi in Rishikesh when he told Allan Parrichini of the Detroit News:

I've done all drugs, and what it's led me to believe is that there's no high like a natural high.... Meditation is the only way to find what you're looking for when you get stoned.

In late 1967, Donovan contributed several songs to the soundtrack of the Ken Loach film, Poor Cow. The title track (originally called "Poor Love") was released as the B-side of his next single, "Jennifer Juniper", a song inspired by Jenny Boyd, sister of George Harrison's wife, Pattie Boyd. It was another top 40 hit in the USA.

Donovan developed a strong interest in eastern mysticism and claims to have played a significant role in awakening the interest of The Beatles in trancendental meditation. In early 1968 he was part of the group that travelled to Indiamarker to spend several weeks at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikeshmarker. The visit gained worldwide attention thanks to the presence of (for a time) all four Beatles as well as Beach Boys lead singer Mike Love and actress Mia Farrow and her sister Prudence (who inspired John Lennon to write "Dear Prudence").

According to a 1968 Paul McCartney interview with Radio Luxembourg, it was during this time that Donovan taught Lennon and McCartney various finger-picking styles such as clawhammer (known to American folk guitarists as "Travis picking") which he had learned from his St Albans friend, Mac MacLeod. Lennon went on to use the technique on songs including "Dear Prudence" and "Julia" and McCartney with "Blackbird" and "Mother Nature's Son".

Donovan's next single, released in May 1968, was the swirling psychedelic "Hurdy Gurdy Man". In the liner notes from EMI's reissues, it is revealed that the song was intended for Donovan's old friend and guitar mentor Mac MacLeod, who had a heavy rock band called Hurdy Gurdy. After hearing MacLeod's power trio version, Donovan considered giving it to Jimi Hendrix, but when Mickie Most heard it, he convinced Donovan that the song was a sure single that he should record himself.

Donovan tried to get Hendrix to play on the recording, but he was on tour and unavailable, as was Jimmy Page who was out of the country touring with The Yardbirds. Instead the job went to a young British guitarist, Alan Parker. It is possible Jimmy Page did play on other tracking sessions for The Hurdy Gurdy Man LP, although this is unlikely, as the remaining guitar parts were acoustic only and played by Donovan except on "Tangier", which features Bert Jansch. John Paul Jones played bass with Clem Cattini on drums.

However, in the three-hour 2008 documentary DVD movie about Donovan's life and music directed by Hannes Rossacher, also titled "Sunshine Superman", Donovan states that Jimmy Page did indeed record guitar on the "Hurdy Gurdy Man" song, with John Paul Jones on bass and John Bonham on drums, with virtually all of Led Zeppelin performing on that song except for lead singer Robert Plant. Jones and Page have both stated that Led Zeppelin was formed during "The Hurdy Gurdy Man" sessions.

The heavier sound of "Hurdy Gurdy Man" was a deliberate attempt by Most and Donovan to reach a wider audience in the US, where new hard-rock groups like Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience were having a major impact. In this case Most's commercial instincts were spot-on, and the song became one of Donovan's biggest hits, making the Top 5 in both the UK and the US, and the Top 10 in Australia.

In July 1968, Epic released Donovan in Concert, the recording of his Anaheim concert in September 1967. The front cover featured only a painting by Fleur Cowles (with neither the artist's name nor the title). The album only contained two of his big hits and several other songs which would have been new to the audience. The expanded double CD release from 2006 contained "Epistle To Derroll", a tribute to one of his formative influences, Derroll Adams. The album also includes extended group arrangements of "Young Girl Blues" and "The Pebble And The Man", a song later reworked and retitled as "Happiness Runs".

During the summer of 1968 Donovan worked on a second LP of children's songs, eventually released in 1971 as the double album, HMS Donovan. In September, Epic released a new single, "Laleña", a subdued acoustic ballad which reached the low 30s in the US charts. The album The Hurdy Gurdy Man followed (not released in the U.K.), continuing the style of the Mellow Yellow LP and reached #20 in America, despite containing two earlier hits, the title track and "Jennifer Juniper".

After another US tour in the autumn he again collaborated with Paul McCartney, who was producing Post Card, the debut LP by the Welsh singer Mary Hopkin. Hopkin covered three Donovan songs: "Lord Of The Reedy River", "Happiness Runs" and "Voyage of the Moon". McCartney returned the favour by playing tambourine and singing backing vocals on Donovan's next single, "Atlantis", which was released in Britain (with "I Love My Shirt" as the B-side) in late November and reached 23.

Early in 1969, the comedy film If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium featured music by Donovan. On 20 January, Epic released the single, "To Susan On The West Coast Waiting", with "Atlantis" as the B-side. The A-side, a gentle calypso-styled song, contained yet another pointed anti-war message, and became a moderate Top 40 US hit. However, when DJs in America and Australia flipped it and began playing "Atlantis" heavily, that song became a major hit, achieving top ten in both countries in spite of its subject matter, its lengthy spoken introduction, and its running time of five minutes. Ironically, the gentle "Atlantis" formed the musical backdrop to a very violent scene in Martin Scorsese's film "GoodFellas". "Atlantis" was revived in 2000 for an episode of Futurama titled "The Deep South" (2ACV12) which first aired on 16 April of that year. For this episode Donovan recorded a satirical version of the song describing the Lost City of Atlantamarker which featured in the episode.

In March 1969 (too soon to include "Atlantis"), Epic and Pye released Donovan's Greatest Hits, which included several songs previously only available as singles — "Epistle To Dippy", "There is a Mountain" and "Laleña", as well as rerecorded versions of "Colours" and "Catch The Wind", which had been unavailable to Epic because of Donovan's contractual problems. It became the most successful album of his career; it reached #4 in the US, became a million-selling gold record, and stayed on the Billboard album chart for more than a year.

On 26 June 1969 the track "Barabajagal " (recorded May 1969),a song which gained him an avid following on the rave scene decades later, was released, reaching #12 in the UK but charting less strongly in the US. This time he was backed by the original incarnation of The Jeff Beck Group, featuring Beck on lead guitar, Ronnie Wood on bass, Nicky Hopkins on piano, and Micky Waller on drums.

The Beck group was under contract to Most and it was Most's idea to team them with Donovan in an attempt to bring a heavier sound to Donovan's work, while also introducing a more lyrical edge to Beck's.

In July, Donovan performed at The Rolling Stones' free concert in Hyde Parkmarker, Londonmarker, which was in part a memorial to Brian Jones, who had died only days before.

In September the Barabajagal album was released (not in the U.K.), reaching #23 in America. Only the recent "Barabajagal" /"Trudi" single and "Superlungs My Supergirl" were 1969 recordings, the remaining tracks were from sessions in London May 1968 and L.A. November 1968.

Split with Most and Later career

Growing tension between Mickie Most and Donovan came to a head in late 1969 when they argued about a recording session in Los Angeles. Most later explained that he had objected to "hangers-on" in the studio and "a lot of goings-on that I didn't like", and he gave Donovan an ultimatum — Donovan could do it his way or take a walk. Donovan declared that he wanted to record with someone else, and their partnership came to an end. They would not work together again until 1973's Cosmic Wheels.

After the rift, Donovan disappeared, apparently to Greece, re-emerging six months later to begin work on his next LP. The result, which was both titled and credited to Open Road, came out in late 1970 and was a marked departure from his earlier work. Stripping the sound back to a rock trio format, he dubbed the sound, "Celtic rock". The album was moderately successful, but it marked the start of a gradual decline in his popularity and commercial success, and his concert appearances became increasingly rare.

The largely self-produced children's album HMS Donovan was released in 1971, but failed to gain a wide audience (due mainly to it being a U.K. only release). It was followed in early 1973 by his reunion with Mickie Most, the LP Cosmic Wheels. It was his last chart success, reaching the top 40 in both America and Britain. Later in the year he released Essence To Essence, produced by Andrew Loog Oldham, and a live album recorded in Japan (and only released in Japan), which featured an extended version of "Hurdy Gurdy Man" that included an additional verse written by George Harrison in Rishikesh. He also performed vocals on the Alice Cooper song "Billion Dollar Babies". Donovan also provided songs for the 1972 film The Pied Piper in which he also played the title role, and for Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1973), Franco Zeffirelli's film about St Francis of Assisi. The title song from the Zeffirelli film provided him with an unexpected publishing windfall in 1974 when it was covered as the B-side of the million-selling US top 5 hit "The Lord's Prayer", by Australia's singing nun, Sister Janet Mead.

Donovan's later output included the albums 7-Tease (1974) and Slow Down World (1976). In 1977, he toured as the opening act for Yes during their summer tour of the USA following the release of their Going for the One album. The 1978 LP, Donovan, reunited him for the last time with Mickie Most but was not well received at the height of the New Wave period. It was followed by Neutronica (1980), Love Is Only Feeling (1981), Lady Of The Stars (1984), and a 1990 live album featuring new performances of his classic songs.

The punk era (1977-1980) had provoked a backlash in Britain against the optimism and whimsy of the hippie era, of which Donovan was considered a prime example. The word "hippie" became pejorative, and Donovan's fortunes with the public and the media suffered. In this period he guest-starred on Stars on Ice, a half-hour variety show on ice produced by CTV in Torontomarker, Canada.

There was a brief respite for Donovan when he appeared alongside many big artists including Sting, Phil Collins, Bob Geldof, and two 1960s stalwarts whose popularity had been sustained - Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck - in the Amnesty International benefit show The Secret Policeman's Other Ball. He was accompanied by favourite bass player Danny Thompson and performed several of his biggest hits including "Sunshine Superman", "Mellow Yellow", "Colours", " Universal Soldier", and "Catch the Wind". He also featured in the line-up of the all-star performance of Dylan's I Shall Be Released for the show's finale. Donovan's performances were seen and heard worldwide on the resulting album and movie, released in 1982. His initial appearance on the stage prompted one audience member to bellow, "I thought you were dead!", to which Donovan responded, "Not yet!".

A tribute album to Donovan, Island of Circles, was released by Nettwerk in 1991.

Sony's 2-CD boxed set Troubadour (1992) continued the restoration of his reputation, and was followed by the overdue 1994 release of Four Donovan Originals, which saw his four classic Epic LPs released on CD in their original form for the first time in the UK. He found a seemingly unlikely ally in rap producer and Def Jam label owner Rick Rubin, who was a long-time fan. Rubin financed and produced Donovan's critically acclaimed 1996 album, Sutras.


Donovan playing in Washington D.C.
January 2007

In November 2003, Donovan was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Hertfordshiremarker. He was nominated by Sara Loveridge (who was a student at the University and had interviewed and reviewed Donovan for the University paper in 2001-2002), Andrew Morris, Sara's partner and Donovan researcher/writer and co-nominated by Mac MacLeod.

A new album, Beat Café, was released on Appleseed Records in 2004. It marked a return to the jazzy sound of some of his 1960s recordings and featured bassist Danny Thompson and drummer Jim Keltner, with production by John Chelew (Blind Boys Of Alabama).

In May 2004, Donovan played "Sunshine Superman" at the pre-wedding concert for the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Denmark.

Donovan has released his early demo tapes, Sixty Four, and a re-recording of the Brother Sun, Sister Moon soundtrack on iTunes.

A set of his Mickie Most albums was released on 9 May 2005. This EMI set has dozens of extra tracks including another song recorded with the Jeff Beck Group.

In 2005, his autobiography The Hurdy Gurdy Man was published.

In May/June 2005, Donovan toured the UK (Beat Cafe Tour) and Europe with Tom Mansi on double bass, former Damned drummer Rat Scabies and Flipron keyboard player, Joe Atkinson.

In spring/summer 2006, Donovan played a series of British festivals and two dates at Camden's Jazz Café, London.

In January 2007, Donovan played concerts at the Kennedy Centermarker, in Washington, DC, at Alice Tully Hallmarker, in New York City, and at the Kodak Theatremarker, in Los Angeles, California, in conjunction with a presentation by film maker David Lynch supporting the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace. The concert at the Kodak Theatremarker was filmed by Palm Springs production company Raven Productions and is currently broadcast on PBS networks as a pledge-drive special. Donovan's partnership with the David Lynch Foundation saw him performing additional concerts through October of 2007, as well as giving presentations about the benefits of Transcendental Meditation. He appeared at Maharishi University of Managementmarker in Fairfieldmarker, Iowamarker in May 2007, as well as touring the UK with David Lynch in October 2007.

In March 2007, Donovan played two shows at the South by Southwest music festival in Austinmarker, Texasmarker.

Donovan had planned a spring 2007 release of a new album, along with a UK tour. However, he subsequently announced on his website that the tour had been cancelled and the album release delayed. He indicated that he is in good health but gave no reason for the cancellation.

In April 2007, Donovan presented a three-part series on Ravi Shankar for BBC Radio 2.

In October 2007 Donovan announced plans for the "Invincible Donovan University" focusing on Transcendental Meditation. It will be near either Glasgow or Edinburgh.

In October 2007 the DVD, The Donovan Concert-Live in LA. Filmed at the Kodak Theatre Los Angeles earlier in the year was released in the UK.

Donovan is at work on a new album tentatively titled "Ritual Groove". He has mentioned this album in a few interviews. In a 2 June interview for The Desert Sun of Palm Springsmarker he described "Ritual Groove" as a multi-media album that is waiting for videos to be applied to it. He called the album a soundtrack to a movie not yet made and claimed that many directors have expressed interest in doing scenes.


Donovan and Linda have two children together, Astrella Celeste and Oriole Nebula. Donovan had two children with his 1960s American girlfriend Enid Stulberger, and both have entered the acting profession: his son, Donovan Leitch, Jr., and his daughter, Ione Skye.


Cover versions



As himself


Music and Documentary DVD

  • Festival (Directed by Murray Lerner, 1967. Footage from Newport Festival 1963-66. Also with Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Peter Paul and Mary)
  • Don't look back (Documentary film by D.A. Pennebaker, 1967)
  • Isle of Wight festival (1970, "Catch the Wind")
  • The Secret Policeman's Concert for Amnesty International ("Catch the Wind", :Universal Soldier" & "Colours".)
  • Donovan: The Donovan Concert Live in L.A. 21 January 2007
  • Sunshine Superman: The Journey of Donovan (Documentary directed by Hannes Rossacher, 2008.)


  1. Paul McCartney Interview 11/20/68
  3. Melody Maker, 5 May 1965
  5. Robert Fontenot: "Yellow Submarine: The history of this classic Beatles song",, retrieved 2 December 2008
  6. Donovan, Donovan in Concert, released on Atlantic July 1968, re-issued on BGO February 2002. ASIN B0000011LU.
  9. Astrella Celeste

External links

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