Here’s a link to a page which contains a short flash movie clip of 60s British folk-pop singer Donovan talking about songwriting, myth, and the creative process. Once you get to the page, click the play button to view. Filmmaker David Lynch is also interviewed on the same subject in an attached clip, so be sure to watch that one too, good people. Thanks to The Atlantic.com for directing me to this clip.
Donovan had a several hits in Britain in the mid-to-late 60s – “Sunshine Superman”, “Mellow Yellow”, and “Hurdy Gurdy Man”, among others. He welcomed Bob Dylan during Bob’s 1965 UK tour (captured for posterity in D.A Pennebaker’s Bob Dylan – Don’t Look Back), and went to the same “summer camp” as the Beatles when the Fabs went to India to learn how to meditate with the Maharishi Mehesh Yogi in 1968.
Before then, Donovan was hailed as Britain’s answer to Bob Dylan. Donovan’s initial interest in Woody Guthrie, the Beat poets, and the itinerant lifestyle they led is an obvious parallel to Dylan. And like Dylan, he took a stylistic turn for more commercial music when he teamed with producer Mickey Most in 1966. But otherwise, the two artists were world’s apart in terms of approach, attitude, and range. Donovan’s oeuvre isn’t quite as ambiguous in its subject matter, and a bit more on the side of tweeness by which the hippy counterculture is often characterized.
His fascination with nature, and with mythical tales are revealed both in his songs (‘Atlantis’, for instance) and in this interview. In this, he was an important figure in the celebration of British folk traditions as presented in the popular culture of the 60s, and one of the artists which can be credited for burgeoning interest in Britain’s mythical past. His optimism tied him inextricably to the decade, meaning that the next few decades were a little rough going for him. By the 90s, he’d mounted somewhat of a comeback, putting out a new record and touring the folk festival circuit for the benefit of a new audience who had come to be fascinated with the era out of which Donovan had come.
All of this aside, if Donovan can be credited for only one thing in his long career, it might be his instruction to John Lennon in the art of the clawhammer fingerpicking style, which Donovan taught John while both men were in India. This allowed Lennon to write “Julia”, so that’s no small accomplishment. Thanks, Donovan!
Enjoy the clip!