Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan Leitch is one of 11 being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 2012 class. Donovan, who was Britain’s answer to America’s Bob Dylan, had 12 top-40 hits between 1965 and 1969 in the United States; his style appealed to the counterculture and beatnik era.
The List this week looks at Donovan’s best top-10 songs.
- 10. Turquoise (1965) — This song was one of 40 songs on a portable jukebox owned by John Lennon. Donovan said he wrote the song about folk singer Joan Baez, who later recorded a version. The song bombed on the charts in the United Kingdom and the United States but has become a favorite among Donovan fans.
Your smile beams like sunlight, On a gull’s wing; and the leaves, Dance and play after you.
- 9. Atlantis (1968) — This idealistic song about the mythological Atlantis was a huge hit in Europe. Even though much of the song is spoken prose and not necessarily radio-friendly, the tune reached No. 7 in the U.S. It was on the B-side of “To Susan on the West Coast, Waiting.”
And as the elders of our time choose to remain blind, Let us rejoice and let us sing and dance and ring in the new, Hail Atlantis!
- 8. Mellow Yellow (1966) — This Beatle-type song was Donovan’s second-biggest hit, reaching No. 2 in the U.S. and No. 8 the following year on the British charts. Ironically, Donovan helped with the lyrics of the Beatles song “Yellow Submarine,” also released in 1966.
I’m just mad about Saffron, Saffron’s mad about me, I’m just mad about Saffron, She’s just mad about me.
- 7. Sunshine Superman (1966) — At the height of the hippie subculture, Donovan scored his first and only No. 1 hit in the U.S. with this jaunty, and likely drug-induced, song, which later reached No. 2 on the British charts. It was the title track of Donovan’s third album, “Sunshine Superman.” The song was written for Donovan’s future wife Linda Lawrence. Jimmy Page played guitar on it.
Sunshine came softly through my a-window today, Could’ve tripped out easy a-but I’ve a-changed my ways.
- 6. To Try for the Sun (1966) — This delightful folk song was released as a single in the United States in January 1966. The song is about Donovan’s early days, when he traveled to Ives in Cornwall with his road buddy Gypsy Dave.
And who’s going to be the one, To say it was no good what we done? I dare a man to say I’m too young, For I’m going to try for the sun.
- 5. Hurdy Gurdy Man (1968) — This psychedelic rock song with an Indian influence reached No. 5 in the U.S. and No. 4 on the U.K. charts. On several concert recordings, Donovan tells the audience there is an additional verse written by Beatle George Harrison that was not part of the original single.
Down through all eternity, The crying of humanity. ‘Tis then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man, Comes singing songs of love.
- 4. Jennifer Juniper (1968) — This flower-power song was written about Jenny Boyd, the sister of Pattie Boyd, who married Beatle George Harrison. Donovan was dating Ms. Boyd when he and the Beatles visited the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh, India. The last verse of the song is sung in French.
Jennifer Juniper lives upon the hill, Jennifer Juniper, sitting very still, Is she sleeping? I don’t think so.
- 3. Brother Son, Sister Moon (1972) — This enchanting song was the title song for Franco Zeffirelli’s film on the life of St. Francis of Assisi, “Brother Son, Sister Moon.” Donovan wrote and sang all the songs in the film, but none of Donovan’s original recordings appeared on the soundtrack. In 2004, Donovan rerecorded all the songs exclusively for iTunes from the long out-of-print soundtrack with just his guitar.
Brother Sun and Sister Moon, I seldom see you seldom hear your tune, Preoccupied with selfish misery.
- 2. Universal Soldier (1965) — This anti-war folk song was written and recorded by Canadian singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie in 1964. Donovan recorded the song as part of an extended play album. It was never released as a single, but the EP reached No. 5 in the United Kingdom and later No. 23 on the Billboard charts.
He’s five foot-two, and he’s six feet-four, He fights with missiles and with spears. He’s all of thirty-one, and he’s only seventeen, He’s been a soldier for a thousand years.
- 1. Catch the Wind (1965) — This was Donovan’s first hit. It reached No. 4 in the United Kingdom and No. 23 in the United States. The song was rerecorded for Donovan’s first album, “What’s Bin Did and What’s Bin Hid,” without the vocal echo and strings. The song has been used in many commercials and covered by numerous recording artists.
In the chilly hours and minutes, Of uncertainty, I want to be, In the warm hold of your loving mind.
- Bonus track: To Sing for You (1965) — This delightful folk ballad is featured in a memorable scene in D.A. Pennebaker’s 1967 documentary “Don’t Look Back” about Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour of England. Donovan sings the song for Mr. Dylan in a hotel room. “That’s a great song,” Mr. Dylan says. Donovan then asks Mr. Dylan to sing “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” which the American legend does in emphatic fashion, almost spitting it out.
When you’re feeling kind of lonesome in your mind, With a heartache following you so close behind, Call out to me as I ramble by, I’ll sing a song for you.
Sources: donovan-unofficial.com and musicomh.com
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