1/31/18: Donovan “Catch The Wind”

He’s Scottish and his name is Donovan P. Leitch, but most everybody these days knows him as just “Donovan!”

Donovan came out of the British folk scene, and he had some great success in the UK before anybody over here in The States knew who he has. His first hit across the pond is actually the song I can’t get out of my head today – but before we get there, let’s take a look at a little history.

It was the middle of the ‘60s, the days of mellow music, of artists getting their start by playing intimate gigs at coffee houses, and Donovan was one of the best in the business. He was cool and collected, relaxed and relatable, getting in front of folks to sing, play guitar – and occasionally harmonica – and talk to an audience. He was the perfect guy for his time, and his fame grew steadily until he started booking appearances on “Ready, Steady, Go,” a popular London television show at the time. It was his TV appearances that propelled him past local notoriety into stardom.

He played soft an mellow, with some thought-provoking and downright psychedelic stuff thrown in for good measure. In ’65, he was playing songs like “Catch The Wind,” “Colours,” and “Universal Soldier.” The following year, he found success in the United States, and those songs caught on, along with “Sunshine Superman” and “Mellow Yellow” the following year. In the summer of ’68, Donovan came out with a song called “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” which you probably know even if you have no idea what the song itself means! He found himself a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, and as he became a part of the scene he developed friendships with other high-profile musicians of the time.

Donovan hung out with Joan Baez, spent time with Brian Jones, but he most famously became close friends with John Lennon. He even taught Lennon a finger-picking guitar style that John would later use on “Dear Prudence” and “Julia,” a couple songs off the famous “White Album.”

Some people referred to him as “a poor man’s Bob Dylan,” and I don’t agree with that at all. It’s tough to be a singer/songwriter and avoid comparisons to Bob Dylan, and I think if we’re honest we can recognize that Donovan had a better singing voice than Dylan, even if he wasn’t as prolific a songwriter. I mean, who is, compared to Dylan? Donovan’s voice is incredible, his lyrics genuine, and he’s a consummate storytelling and musician.

I mentioned before that Donovan is of Scottish ancestry. At times, he’s lived in England, in the United States, and in Ireland. In the last few years, he’s been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, both well-deserved honors, for sure. Today, Donovan is 71 years old, and residing in Ireland. The song I can’t get out of my head today is the extraordinary love song that connected first with those audiences back in the mid-60s. It’s “Catch The Wind!”