Donovan may not get as much airplay as the other 60s geniuses, but he has every bit as much talent. Every song of Donovan's is a masterpiece of both psychedelic weirdness and a sweet simplicity. The 60s, a complex time of rebellion and revolution, was also a much simpler time. That duality is evident in Donovan’s work, which remains just as much a collection of treasures today.
The best known songs from Donovan are likely Hurdy Gurdy Man, Sunshine Superman, and the Season of the Witch. All have the qualities of a ballad but feature an obsessively-catchy refrain. The music was usually guitar based, and Donovan himself was a talented with the guitar, piano and harmonica. The music had a simple sound, though it was often made with a collection of exotic instruments. Donovan was one of the first classic rockers to use a sitar in his music- something later made famous by George Harrison and the Beatles' Eastern influences. The harpsichord also contributed to the unique sound that was Donovan's.
Donovan was also one of the first to be a vocal pacifist concerning the Vietnam War. Many of the other artists in the mid-60s were using sly references to the war in order to keep audiences, and record labels, from being offended. Donovan’s songwriting was greatly influenced by the war. Some songs, including An Epistle to Dippy, were about his pacifist leanings and opposition to the war. An Epistle to Dippy, Donavan admitted, was about a friend who was in the military, stationed in Malaysia, and was written to persuade him to come home.
The music of Donovan was always been a little ahead of its time. Its use of the sitar influenced the Beatles, as did his skill with a guitar. Donovan was said to have taught a few guitar tricks to members of the Beatles, as well as contributing vocals to some of their songs. His outspoken attitude toward the war influenced others to speak out and create music that reflected their pacifism.
Though Donovan is associated with the 60s and flower power rock, he also released several albums in the 70s and 80s. Though those weren’t as successful as the albums of his heyday, it may be because the era had moved away from folk-pop and hippie music, rather than a refection of the music itself. He continues to perform regularly, playing his greatest hits in small venues.
Donovan's Greatest Hits