American singer-songwriter, author, musician, poet, and arti …
Donovan Leitch was born in Maryhill, Glasgow, Scotland, on the 10th of May 1946 under the sign of Taurus the Bull. His Celtic roots and his father Donald's love of poetry and literature have been a constant influence on his life and his music. The family moved from the tough, rough and bomb scarred city of Glasgow to the green and lush countryside of Hertfordshire, England when Donovan was ten years old.
The move to Hatfield had a profound effect on Donovan and greatly influenced his understanding of beauty and nature, themes he sought to express in his early songs. His music would eventually reach a whole generation during the revolutionary Sixties and continues to influence the poetry and lyrics of subsequent decades.
Donovan went to college and discovered a world of Bohemian ideas, Buddhism, poetry, art and radical thought. He went to Art school but dropped out.
In 1963, having worked a string of labouring and factory jobs, Donovan heard the call of the open road. He hitchhiked down to St. Ives, Cornwall, where he slept on the beaches. For Donovan this was a turning point. He became a wandering minstrel, writing his own unique lyrics.
Returning to his parents' home in Hatfield after the summer ended, he continued his self education in writing and learning acoustic guitar. Most of his time was spent in local clubs around St. Albans. Donovan's influences during this period were musicians like Martin Carthy, Woody Guthrie, Alex Campbell, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and a mixed bag of blues, jazz and folk songs.
His first professional break came when his managers, Geoff Stevens and Peter Eden, introduced him to Elkan Allan, the producer of the innovative T.V. show "Ready Steady Go," who took the unprecedented step of booking Donovan for three consecutive shows. At eighteen, Donovan suddenly found himself at Number Three in the UK singles charts with his first record, "Catch the Wind." In March of 1965 this song won the Ivor Novello award for the best contemporary folk song of the year. Pete Seeger invited him to play at the Newport Folk Festival and he sang on stage with Joan Baez.
He followed this success with such Top Ten hits as "Colours," "Turquoise," and "Universal Soldier," along with his first album, 'What's Bin Did and What's Bin Hid'. Throughout the sixties Donovan expanded his following with such songs as "Sunshine Superman," "Mellow Yellow," "Hurdy Gurdy Man," "Atlantis," "There Is A Mountain," and "Season of the Witch."
In contrast to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, Donovan stood alone as a solo performer in capturing the hearts and minds of a new audience, able to hold a huge crowds' attention with his guitar and his repertoire of original songs based on his love and respect for nature and his belief in peace and harmony. He marched against nuclear disarmament with the CND movement and wrote songs that railed against injustice in a materialistic and violent world. His concern for the environment was expressed in many of his compositions and continues to appeal to a new and young audience searching for some deeper meaning in their lives.
In 1965, almost single handed, Donovan introduced millions of his fans to spiritual truths, the time honoured path of Eurasian yoga. He realised the change for a better world can only come through the nurturing of love and compassion. His music carried this message of peace. Already a friend (and occasional uncredited musical guest) of the Beatles, Donovan was one of the high-profile British musicians who, with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and actress Mia Farrow, among others, were attracted to the philosophical teachings of the Indian guru, the Mahareshi Mahesh Yogi, in the late sixties and journeyed to India to study with him.
During the seventies and early eighties Donovan continued to perform and release albums that expressed his passionate concern for the environment and his search for spiritual awareness and knowledge. For contrast, he also appeared as a guest vocalist on early shock-rockers Alice Cooper's "Billion Dollar Babies" hit song. His albums 'Cosmic Wheels' and 'Neutronica' encouraged a resurgence of the peace movement in the early eighties. This period was a time for retreat and living quietly with his family in Joshua Tree, California, still continuing to write and work on various projects that are now beginning to bear fruit.
In 1990, Donovan and his wife Linda returned to live in Southern Ireland. He travelled the UK with the 'Hurdy Gurdy Tour' and spent a few years writing his autobiography and composing new songs.
In the summer of 1994, Donovan got together with a number of musician friends, including Noel Redding (ex-Jimi Hendrix Experience), Marianne Faithfull, Phil May (Pretty Things), Paul Jones (Blues Band) and stepson Julian Jones to present a tribute concert to Brian Jones at London's Marquee Club.
In 1995, Donovan presented a two part radio documentary on Joan Baez, produced by Kevin Howlett for BBC Radio 2, and completed a BBC radio documentary of his own life's work, which was aired in the summer of 1995. Donovan also starred in a staged production of an Irish legend, 'The Children of Lir', which played to rave notices in Ireland.
In 1996, Donovan began working on a new album ('Sutras') with 1995's producer of the year, Rick Rubin. A long time fan of Donovan's, Rubin has also produced the highly acclaimed comeback albums of Johnny Cash, and top selling CDs by artists as diverse as Run-DMC, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Mick Jagger, and Macy Gray.
Donovan's album on Rubin's American Recordings label is rich with Donovan's unique flavours and colours. The enchanting "Please Don't Bend," particularly, reaffirms a song- writing touch that is still golden.
For Donovan, this was more than an auspicious return to the public eye, it was a resumption of his journey: "Whenever I am asked where I've been all these years, my answer is that I was never an entertainer. I had to have a meaning and I had to be connected to an impulse. And now, today, I hear renewed acceptance of acoustic music with a consciousness of the planet, the environment," he says, "The very things I've tried to incorporate into my lyrics from the beginning."
The successes continue. Donovan's latest recording of his sixties song "Atlantis" with German girl band No Angels produced by the talented Leslie Manoki of Red Rock Studios, went to number 5 in the German charts, selling over 500,000 copies and going earning a gold record. The single was released as part of the Disney launch of the movie 'Atlantis the Lost Empire'. It is now selling very well on the 'Best of No Angels' album.
Current releases also include a new children's album, 'The Pied Piper', by the major USA record label Music for Little People (MFLP).
A film of Donovan's life and work by the award winning documentary maker Hannes Rossacher of DoRo Productions, Vienna, is currently in production.
As 2003 drew to a close, Donovan's huge contributions to song and poetry were given recognition by the University of Hertfordshire. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters at St. Albans Cathedral on the 19th November. Donovan returned to Hatfield and St. Albans to receive the honour, revisiting with his family the places that so influenced his life and songs.
It has been a long road from 1964 to the present but Donovan is in fine voice and writing better than ever. Following the sell-out concerts Donovan gave in Manchester and London in January of this year, he returned to the town of his birth, Glasgow, on in May 2004 for another concert celebrating 'Sixty Four,' the year which saw him set out on his remarkable career and also the title of previously unreleased CD of recordings from that year.
His current project is 'beat café,' a new CD album of 12 cool new recordings licensed for worldwide distribution to the independent Appleseed Recordings label.
A true survivor of Rock and Roll super-fame, Donovan represents the finest level of songwriter / performer. He continues to present his unique vision of peace, awareness and understanding in his songs.
Donovan now has his own website at www.donovan.ie where more information about his life, performances and current activities can be found.
Issued July 2004 by Singsong Entertainment Publicity