T.G.I.F. – Ten Definitive Donovans

I don’t know what came over me, but I just got in the mood to listen to Donovan, and with urgency. Funny how sometimes months or longer can go by without a thought taking traction, and then one day listening to a certain artist feels almost like a mission.

I grew up in the Donovan era, although the “British Bob Dylan” comments never resonated with me at the time. Bob Dylan was wordy and symbolic; his songs were poetic to the degree that his voice didn’t detract from the impact the songs made. He was making some singles but this was an album artist from day one, no matter the marketing scheme or the culture at the time.

Donovan, on the other hand, struck me as a psychedelic hippie, the imagery in his songs more of a visual trip than a social challenge. Of course, in retrospect, he was preaching communication and peace and love, but maybe it didn’t seem as important because that’s what the whole generation was focused upon every single day. His voice was pretty, his tunes had sing along choruses, and it was all about the singles for me.

Donovan maintained his career for decades, just like Dylan did, but where the latter became a global icon and mystic figure, Donovan pretty much slipped off my radar. When I pulled out the greatest hits album I started surfing around to see what else was available and was pleasantly surprised by the variety of live shows and the expanded collections of songs. And as one hit after another spun off that first album, I couldn’t help wondering how I forgot how prolific he was.

Here are Ten Definitive Donovans so we can enjoy his legacy together.

(01) Mellow Yellow – Ringo brushwork and great horns

(02) Catch The Wind – maybe my favorite, a beautiful song.

(03) Colors – guitar and harmonica, sure – but not Dylanesque

(04) Season Of The Witch – Stills, Kooper and Bloomfield knew it was cool.

(05) Hurdy Gurdy Man – live version has unreleased Harrison verse.

(06) Atlantis – a hit despite burying the hook at the end of a long intro.

(07) Jennifer Juniper – always attracted to alliteration…

(08) Wear Your Love Like Heaven – a shampoo commercial can’t ruin it.

(09) The Universal Soldier – pretty prescient.

(10) Sunshine Superman – I know a beach where baby, it never ends.



Filed under Editorials, Film/TV, Music, Reviews

4 responses to “T.G.I.F. – Ten Definitive Donovans

  1. Paul Sikorski

    Two nights’ worth (four cents, please):
    Yesterday: I had a chance to see Paul Kelley do a solo acoustic show at McCabe’s in the early 90’s. I was greatly looking forward to it, and….ws not rewarded. Suffice it to say his guitar was rarely in tune and made Jason Ringenberg look like Hendrix. Also, his best song was lifted directly from a Raymond Carver short story, which he never acknowledged. (I noticed it’s *not* included in the A-Z unless he’s retitled it.)

    Today: OTOH, I saw Donovan in the late 80’s in Boulder (cosmic enough for you?). Not only did he play and sing impeccably, he’s quite the comedian. Although I love every song on your list, I’d trade Jennifer Juniper for “There is a Mountain,” based on mainly on his monologue that night. The gist of it was, “What in God’s name was I thinking, and can you believe I actually made a living doing this?” I can, and I’d see him again in a minute!

  2. drbristol

    I thought of including Stealin’, Mountain, For Susan and several others at one point or another; if I did drop one it would have been Universal Soldier…if for no other reason that the title reminds me of Kurt Russell’s horrific Rambo/Terminator movie.

    I always thought Donovanwas kind of a lightweight, and many of the songs are so simple that even *I* can play them, but it’s hard to listen to them without getting a smile on your face and a flashback to a simpler time. It didn’t melt the snow, but it helped.

  3. Paul Sikorski

    Your lightweight comment is well taken, but I may have misled unintentially. If I remember correctly, there’s actually some heavy duty philosophy behind “mountain,” and part of what he was saying was more along the lines of “can you believe I got this on the radio? Obviously, nobody understood what I was saying!” I’m from the school that especially admires his melodies. I think he may have done himself a disservice by making it look easier than it is. Our mutual hero Ray Davies often seems to have points deducted for the same reason.

    But regarding the smile, we’re in sync. In fact, it’s fair to day that everybody left the Chatauqua with sore cheeks from *grinning* so much that night!

  4. drbristol

    By lightweight I meant in comparison to who I thought was heavy and meaningful…and by simple I mean chord progressions (at least Fake Book versions!).

    Plus…remember how old I was (and you were!) when I was making these snap judgements. Hindsight is 20/20 once again!

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