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Donovan - In the 1960's

  by Lisa Torem

published: 7 / 1 / 2023

Donovan - In the 1960's


Lisa Torem finds Jeff Fitzgerald’s new book about Donovan’s work in the 1960s an enjoyable read.

For the Sonicbond ‘Decades’ series, Canadian author, blogger and former DJ, Jeff Fitzgerald, analyses the Scottish troubadour’s body of work produced during the 1960s and more. Along the way, Fitzgerald makes pertinent remarks about the changing cultural perceptions which Donovan faced and which affected his album sales and legacy. The working relationship with British producer Mickie Most ebbs and flows. The press practically mocks Donovan by comparing him to American folk singer Bob Dylan, whose scratchy voice bore no resemblance to Donovan’s understated purr. Yes, they were both insightful songwriters, fingerstyle guitarists and harmonica players, but the comparisons end there. Fitzgerald also points out that, similarly to many other UK artists of his time, Donovan’s work was frequently taken for granted, as the author points out when citing a surprise B-side: ‘Despite not being a big hit in Donovan’s native UK, ‘Atlantis’ was a huge hit for him in the rest of the world.’ This unique arrangement was comprised of Donovan’s soft-spoken narrative about the mysterious ancient world spun over simple acoustic strums and piano, followed by a sonorous, repetitive chorus which ties it all together. The author discusses Donovan’s related stage antics when performing this hippy-centric song without standing on ceremony. ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ turns out to be a co-write with none other than the Bard and is the only song chronicled not entirely written by Donovan. ‘Wear Your Love Like Heaven’, one of my personal favourites (from ‘A Gift From a Flower to A Garden’) is also given fair shrift. The author claims that this is one of Donovan’s most joyous and celebratory songs, and that because of Canadian singer Sarah McLachlan’s cover, it went on to garner new audiences. Fitzgerald does a thorough and thoughtful job weighing various choices made vocally and instrumentally on behalf of landmark material. One of the most notable inclusions was in regard to the harmonium, ‘a variant on the pump organ’, for the production of ‘Peregrine’ and ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’. The ancient instrument utilised here creates a dreamy, ethereal effect. The colourful album covers and programmes located in the book’s centre are nicely arranged and allow the eye a break from the content. This is a fine read about an underrated musician.

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Interview (2015)
Donovan - Interview
Nick Dent-Robinson speaks to singer-songwriter and folk artist Donovan before a show in Oxford about his fiftieth anniversary tour and his continued love of music
Interview (2013)
Interview (2011)


Ten Songs That Made Me Love... (2016)
Donovan - Ten Songs That Made Me Love...
In 'Ten Songs That Made Me Love', our series, in which our writers write about ten songs that made them love a particular band or artist, Lisa Torem writes of some of her favourite songs by 60's folk artist Donovan

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