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Donovan Biography

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Donovan In-depth Biography

Upon his emergence during the mid-'60s, Donovan} was anointed "Britain's answer to Bob Dylan," a facile but largely unfounded comparison which compromised the Scottish folk-pop troubadour's own unique vision. Where the thrust of Dylan}'s music remains its bleak introspection and bitter realism, Donovan} fully embraced the wide-eyed optimism of the flower-power movement, his ethereal, ornate songs radiating a mystical beauty and childlike wonder; for better or worse, his recordings remain quintessential artifacts of the psychedelic era, capturing the peace-and-love idealism of their time to perfection. Donovan Leitch was born May 10, 1946 in Glasgow and raised outside of London; at 18 he recorded his first demo, and in 1965 was tapped as a regular on the television pop showcase Ready, Steady, Go!} He soon issued his debut single "Catch the Wind," earning the first round of Dylan} comparisons with his ramshackle folk sound and ragamuffin look; the single nevertheless reached the UK Top Five, with a subsequent meeting between the two singer/songwriters captured in the classic D.A. Pennebaker} documentary Don't Look Back}.

Donovan}'s follow-up single, "Colours," was also a hit, and after making his American debut at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, he issued Fairytale}, his second and last LP for the Hickory label. Signing with Epic in 1966, he released his breakthrough album, Sunshine Superman}, which in its exotic arrangements and pointedly psychedelic lyrical outlook heralded a major shift from his previous work; the title track topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, with the enigmatic "Mellow Yellow" reaching the number two spot a few months later. Donovan} remained a chart fixture throughout 1967, generating a series of hits including "Epistle to Dippy," "There Is a Mountain," and "Wear Your Love Like Heaven"; that year he traveled to India alongside the Beatles} to study with the {%Maharishi Mahesh Yogi}, a journey which inspired him to renounce drug use and encourage his listeners to turn to meditation. The ambitious double album A Gift from a Flower to a Garden} followed, and in 1968 Donovan} resurfaced with The Hurdy Gurdy Man}, scoring a Top Five smash with the hallucinatory title cut; the record also yielded the hit "Jennifer Juniper."

Barabajagal} from 1969 generated Donovan's final Top 40 hit, "Atlantis"; for the title track, he collaborated with the Jeff Beck Group}, with whom he also worked on 1970's Open Road}. He then retreated to Ireland, emerging from a period of seclusion by starring in and scoring the 1972 film The Pied Piper}; a pair of new LPs, Cosmic Wheels} and Essence to Essence}, appeared the following year to disappointing reviews and little commercial interest. Following 1974's 7-Tease}, he spent the next years living quietly in California's Joshua Tree desert, mounting only a small club tour to promote 1976's Slow Down}; a self-titled LP appeared a year later, and in the wake of 1983's Jerry Wexler-produced Lady of the Stars}, he essentially retired from writing and recording altogether. The Donovan} revival began in earnest in 1991 when Happy Mondays} titled a song in his honor for their groundbreaking Pills 'n' Thrills & Bellyaches}; he later toured with the group as well. Five years later, Donovan} released his comeback LP, Sutras}, helmed by producer-du-jour Rick Rubin}. ther album had the misfiortune to be released after Rubin's landmark Johnny Cash} record, American Recordings} and was virtually ignored or misunderstood by critics. Donovan} toured briefly to support Sutras} and then went missing once again, playing out only sporadically. In 2004, however, he reappeared with the intimate and stylish Beat Cafe}, a collection of nearly all-original songs produced by keyboardist John Chelew}. Donovan} also enlisted bassist Danny Thompson} and drummer Jim Keltner} to round out his quartet. The album also featured a pair of covers, a spoken-word rendition of poet Dylan Thomas}' "Do Not Go Gentle,"} and a startling rendition of the traditional tune, "The Cuckoo."} Sony} released the double-disc CD/DVD Try for the Sun: The Journey of Donovan}, the following year. ~ Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide

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