The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s induction of Donovan is a well-deserved acknowledgement of the iconic Scottish troubadour’s unique and enduring body of work, which continues to shine bright half a century after he began his musical career.
When he first emerged as an acoustic folkie in the early 1960s, Donovan Leitch was widely regarded as Britain’s answer to Bob Dylan. But the iconoclastic singer-songwriter-guitarist quickly proved himself to be a one-of-a-kind artist, with a singular musical persona and a vivid, visionary songwriting style that meshed perfectly with the adventurous spirit of the psychedelic age. Donovan’s ethereal songcraft and idealistic, optimistic spirit captured the hearts of fans on both sides of the Atlantic, with Donovan emerging as one of a small handful of best-selling ’60s album artists who was also a regular presence on the pop singles charts.
Donovan made his artistic and commercial breakthrough with his 1966 LP Sunshine Superman (available from Sundazed in a meticulously restored mono vinyl edition). It was on that album that he unveiled the exotic, inventive instrumental arrangements and playfully phantasmagorical lyrical imagery that would provide the foundation for his output over the next five years. That remarkable period produced such classic albums as Mellow Yellow, The Hurdy Gurdy Man, Barabajagal and the ambitious double LP A Gift from a Flower to a Garden, which spawned such hits as “Mellow Yellow,” “There Is a Mountain,” “Wear Your Love Like Heaven,” “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” “Jennifer Juniper,” “Season of the Witch” and “Atlantis.”
That series of albums—recorded with legendary producer Mickie Most and such stellar players as Jeff Beck, Jack Bruce, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones—saw Donovan evolve and develop at a dizzying pace, becoming one of the first British artists to embrace the experimental attitude of the emerging generation of American psychedelic bands, while also exploring elements of jazz, blues and Eastern music and spirituality.
Although his chart momentum slowed in the ’70s, Donovan has continued to make distinctive, deeply felt music that lives up to his stature as one of the most respected and beloved artists of his era.