Donovan revisits his psych-folk legacy 


click to enlarge 'It was a sting,' says Donovan of his seminal rock bust, 'and we took the rap.' - MICHAEL COLLOPY
  • Michael Collopy
  • 'It was a sting,' says Donovan of his seminal rock bust, 'and we took the rap.'

Legendary folk-rock icon Donovan has been racking up a lot of awards these past few years, including a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction as well as a Mojo Maverick Award that was presented by none other than Jimmy Page. But what's more surprising is his decision to hit the road with an American tour.

Possibly one of the longest tour titles in show biz, "Donovan's Retrospective Tour: The 50th Celebration of Sunshine Superman" will draw upon the half-century career of a psychedelic-folk artist whose hits like "Mellow Yellow," "Hurdy Gurdy Man" and, yes, "Sunshine Superman" cemented his place in rock 'n' roll history. The Scottish-born singer credits his wife Linda for inspiring the idea of an anniversary tour.

"I said, 'I want to thank the fans, but what is it that I really did?'" he recalls. "And she's so smart — she said, 'You offered as many people as possible an alternative. An alternative to everything.'"

Donovan's incredible journey began several years before his 1964 Pye Records debut "Catch the Wind" and its flipside "Josie." Born Donovan Leitch in Glasgow, he moved to England at age 10, then spent his post-art-school teenage years traveling with his sculptor friend Gypsy Dave on a series of Kerouac-inspired road trips around the country.

"The ideal was not just to hang with the Beats," he explains, "but to actually put the Bohemian Manifesto into practice, and invade pop culture with its ideas. So we slept on the beaches in those summers of '63 and '64, and I got my act together with the guitar. And it was Dave who said, 'We've got to get you in front of a microphone — soon!'"

Like many of his peers, Donovan rhapsodized in song about his alternative lifestyle — including hashish smoking — which led to his 1966 arrest for cannabis possession, the first such incident in the British rock community.

Donovan can laugh about it now, but he still believes he was specifically targeted by the drug squad. "Because we didn't have any that night," the singer insists. "We'd just smoked our last joint, so they came in and brought their own, two ounces of the best Lebanese yellow hashish that you'd ever seen. It was a sting, and we took the rap."

These days, Donovan has other concerns. On his sleekly modern website, he sells VIP tour packages as well as T-shirts designed by his daughter Astrella Celeste. He also promotes his Donovan's Children's Fund (in association with the David Lynch Foundation), and markets several deep-cuts MP3 downloads of his "Buried Treasures" series.

"One day 700 master tapes arrived at my door," he explains, "and there were 150 songs that I discovered that I couldn't remember I wrote. They'd been sitting in storage somewhere."

And so the revolution continues, if a bit more slowly. "It wasn't easy kicking that door open, but now the door is wide open, and you call it the internet," says Donovan. "But you've got to do something with it, so figure it out!"

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