Legendary musician appears in film, concert and panel
By Steve Israel
October 03, 2008
First came the poets Shelley and Wordsworth, says the '60s star who
brought the world such pop song poetry as "Mellow Yellow," "Sunshine
Superman" and "Hurdy Gurdy Man." Then came Woody Guthrie, Allen
Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, the Beatles and ...
The pop song poet himself, Donovan.
So proclaims the curly-haired singer songwriter, who also gave the
world such folksy, flowery songs as "Catch the Wind," "Atlantis" and
"There Is a Mountain" songs he plans to sing in Woodstock this
weekend when he appears at the Woodstock Film Festival, which also
shows a new film about him, "Sunshine Superman: The Journey of
Donovan," and features him in a panel discussion.
"All of these poets wrote of great change coming to the
industrialized world," says Donovan, talking by cell phone from his
mountain villa in Majorca, just off Spain. "When I heard Guthrie,
Pete Seeger, Dylan, I knew there was revolution in the air and I knew
I would have to part of it. It was very clear to me."
And there's no better place to be part of it today than Woodstock, he
says, before taking off on one of the many rambling tangents that
characterize his lilting conversation.
"There was the Left Bank in Paris," he says. "Greenwich Village, San
Francisco, Chelsea in London and Woodstock. Those places are
bohemian, and they're all connected."
Just like, he says, he and his fellow bohemians are connected.
"Dylan, Joan Baez, Ginsberg, we're all attracted to these bohemian
places like Woodstock. There's a synergy there, a resonance. Amazing
things happen when the consciousness of poetry and the lyrics of pop
Donovan may not really rank with contemporaries like Dylan or the
Beatles, who appear in the film about him. But when you speak to the
man who long ago switched from the jean jackets of earnest folk music
to the flowing robes of gentle hippiedom, he certainly tries to
convince you of his lofty stature.
In fact, talk to him long enough and Donovan also will tell you he's
a pioneer of world music and bringing meditation to the West.
"In a way, I galvanized world music," he says, without being too
specific. "I brought together Celtic influences with pop."
And after he studied meditation in India with the Beatles, Mike Love
(of the Beach Boys) and the Maharishi some 40 years ago, he says he
helped introduce that inner Indian way to the West.
So how is that meditation he still practices connected with his Bohemianism?
To explain, the "Hurdy Gurdy Man" launches into another tangent as
deep as, well, "Atlantis."
Cubism, surrealism and Dadaism topics discussed in those bohemian
Paris cafes were all about changing the way you looked at the
world, he begins.
But, he explains, the only real way to change the world is by
changing consciousness. You don't do that through cafe conversation,
but through meditation.
"I mean, we can't just all get high," says the man who switched from
the haze of drugs to the bliss of meditation some 40 years ago. "The
whole path, Shelley, Wordsworth, Dylan, Donovan, it's all a journey
to discovery that will never end."
A journey, he says, that now includes a stop in our center of