Galway Advertiser 1990/1990_05_10/GA_10051990_E1_010.pdf
Singer/songwriter Donovan shot to fame in the sixties with hit songs like " Mellow Yellow" "Hurdy Gurdy Man" O' Connor talks to him about his life, his music and his plans for the future.
and "Jennifer Juniper". Mary
HURDY CURDY MAN LOOKS WEST
"He can be very serious but at times can be quite silly" - bis school report read. Donovan Leitch was 15 and a student at Welwyn Garden College of Further Education. He bad a flair for literature and art and wanted to be a printer. Music was the last thing on his mind. " I was a serious young man then. A bit melancho ly. But I had a lot of fun too,"he adds with a twinkle." Chatty, boyish and rigged out in black, Donovan is smaller and slighter man you would expect. He has a crop of raven hair and dark soulful eyes. He sips a glass of white wine. It was at Welwyn College that Donovan became in volved w i t h bohemia. Long hair, sandals, rollneck jumpers, and deep and meaningful discussions on the state of the world occupied his time. Writers like J.D. Salinger and Ginsberg and musicians from Joan Baez and Pete Seeger to Buffy St. Marie influenced him. "I was exposed to bohemia, jazz and folk music. I became a thinking man." war. Although I didn't get as badly damaged as others, I never got involved in sport." He talks about Glascow Rangers and Celtic and comfesses football never captured his imagination. "The nearest I got to getting excited was the World Cup in 1966!" His first taste of school was bitter. The teachers at the local Protestant primary didn't believe in spar ing the rod and he recalls getting beaten frequently from ages four to nine." It got better when we mov ed to England when I was ten. The facilities were bet ter and school became more attractive. I rose up through social skills to become House Captain. I remember reading the bible at morning assembly." Reflecting on that exalted position amuses him im mensely. "Music wasn't happening to me. But I had a way with people." He grins and his whole face lights up. LOVE OF NATURE Moving to the North of London from the greyness of Glascow was a milestone in the life of Donovan. "It was such a change to move from the greyness of Glascow to this explosive green countryside in Hat field. I suddenly became aware of the greenness, the birds, and the rivers. I was attracted to nature." At 16, he wanted to go to Art College. This was go ing to become his Real Job. But the lure of the road was too strong. "I caused my parents some difficul ty. I had itchy feet. I was like a gypsy. At 15 and 16 I kept running away from home but had to return soon after as the money ran out. " He sang Woody Gutherie and Buffy St. Marie songs in little known English clubs. Some folk clubs dismissed him as "too American." One day he hitched to Southend-on-Sea to cheer on a local Rhythm and Blues band who were playing in a coffee bar. "I sang in the interval. Two managers were watching and they asked me to go to Tin Pan Alley. One week I was sleeping on the floor, the next I was recording demos and appearing on "Ready Steady Go" television show. The third week "Catch The Wind" was released and went to No. 3." In four months, late in 1965, Donovan had releas ed two LPs and five singles. "I started commenting. I experimented first by by recording "Sunshine Superman". In the same year, people began to fight over me. There was litigation and I went to Greece to retire for nine months and write another album." The following year, 1966 "Sunshine Superman" topped the charts in Europe. The song was a turn ing point for Don, the single and album of the same name being hailed as a musical masterpiece. A Donovan concert in Los Angeles attracted 18,000 fans. He held the record at Madison Square Gardens for the greatest amount of money grossed for a single show. The thinking man from Glascow was a god, and everybody loved him. TAX EXILE In the mid seventies, Donovan came to live in Ireland where he teamed up with Irish guitarist, Philip Donnelly. "I spent a year in tax exile here and decided to buy a house near Tuam. I was going to do it up but I was too young and too busy. During our years in England and America, my wife, Linda and I always planned to buy something smaller. We've returned from California now and are looking to the West again." He has been frequently compared with Bob Dylan. "Britain's answer to D y l a n " the newspaper headlines screamed when Donovan first surfaced in 1965. "Three months before Dylan came to England to promote his first single, "Blowin' In The Wind", I was explaining to the media the similarities between us. We came from the same poor, working class backrounds and wrote poetic lyrics. When Bob and I met there was no difficulty. He wouldn't have walk ed into a press battle. He knew I was encouraged rather than influenced by him. The comparison worked to both our advantages. There was nobody like Dylan." He states Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and himself introduced lyrical lines into popular records and went on to influence dance and rhythm and blues bands. How does modern music compare with that of the 60's? "There are great similarities. Look at it as a tree. The roots of the 1940's and 1950's music influenc ed the '60's and created a Renaissance, a peace ex plosion in music and the Arts. The children of my generation are looking back to then and are being in fluenced." His new album, the first in eight years, entitled "One night in time" is due for release on Polygram in June. It will feature musicians from the Water boys and Clannad. "Jim Keltner - he worked with John Lennon, Dylan and J . J . Cale - assisted me on some tracks. But all the other musicians are of a younger generation. I'm not interested in forming a bunch of oldies. I like young attitudes."
He wrote Mellow Yellow and Sunshine Superman for
his wife Linda. FINE MUSICIANS He plans to form a band with some "fine Irish musicians". "I'd love to get Anthony (Thistlewaite) and Colin (Fairley) but they are with the Waterboys. "Why don't you poach them?" the Advertiser sug gested wickedly. For a second, Donovan drooled deliriously over the idea, then with all the propriety he could muster said "No, I couldn't. They wouldn't want to leave anyway." The love of his life is Linda Lawrence, an attrac tive brunette with waist-length hair. He met her 25 years ago and wrote "Mwllow Yellow" and "Sun shine Superman" for her. They have two daughters - Astrella (19) and Oriole (18). Linda also has a son, Julian by Rolling Stone, Brian Jones. Don and Linda have formed a company called Clan Presentations. "This will be a base company to spring my new album and work on my daughter, Astrella's album too. I feel the company can be en couraged tremendously in Ireland. Regrets? "During my thirties I used to think there were parts of my music I wished to expand into theatre and film. I didn't pursue it for the obvious reasons - fast fame and world acclaim. But I did regret it. Those ideas are still there on the shelf and are beginning to be realised now."
Exposed to jazz and folk music "I became a think Man" -- Donovan Donovan Leitch was born in Glascow in 1947. His father Donald, a Scottish Protestant, worked as a lathe operator on Rolls Royce engines at an aircraft factory. He was a self-taught man and loved to recite poems and monologues. His mother, Winifred was a Catholic and second generation Irish. In a way, it was a musical family, he says. "My uncle Bill - my father's brother - was a figure of renown. He was called "Postie" and was a strik ingly handsome man with a tache. He reminded me of Billy Connolly. He used to sing and wear a kilt. I'll always remember the lilting Scottish tunes and the sad Irish songs." 18 months the young Donovan contracted polio in his left leg. "The war damage was producing disease in Glascow - sewage was pouring into the street, the gas and electricity were destroyed by the