MELLOW FELLOW; Crowned a musical icon, Donovan has other priorities…: such as introducing Scotland to transcendental meditation
By JOHN DINGWALL
He is the singer-songwriter who helped out The Beatles.
And his music is still enjoyed four decades after he found fame thanks to a brilliant back catalogue that includes hits such as Mellow Yellow and Hurdy Gurdy Man.
Donovan, 63, has recently been recognised as a legend with a BMI Awards Icon Award but talking to the singer there are none of the airs and graces you might expect from someone who can regard himself as being right up there with the legends of pop and rock royalty.
Instead, Donovan is down to earth. And right now he is more concerned with saving Ayrshire’s River Doon from environmental catastrophe than bragging about his own career highs.
To help the river, Donovan has put a new melody to the famous Burns poem The Banks O’ Doon in the year of Homecoming Live.
His rendition of the Burns poem aims to highlight the plight of the Doon, which is under threat from new power company plans to divert the famous river, which inspired many of Burns’ famous poems.
Donovan revealed: “Everything that can be done to save it is so important. I’ve even recorded a song to raise awareness called Save The Doon, which is available on iTunes.”
Instead of trying to plug his music, Donovan wants Scots to get behind a petition to save the river, insisting I mention http://www.savethedoon.com.
Clearly a man with a conscience, Donovan is finally being recognised for his influence on pop and rock despite starting out as a folk musician.
His BMI award recognises the UK and European songwriters and publishers of the past year’s most played BMI songs on US radio and television. The Icon designation is given to BMI songwriters who have bestowed “a unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers.”
He has joined an elite list of past honorees that includes Bryan Ferry, Peter Gabriel, Ray Davies, Van Morrison, the Bee Gees, Isaac Hayes, Dolly Parton, James Brown, Willie Nelson, Hall & Oates, Paul Simon, Steve Winwood and many more.
It’s a fitting tribute to the singer who transformed popular music in the 1960s and went on to build a legendary career. In the 1960s, he enjoyed 11 consecutive Top 40 hits, including Mellow Yellow, Sunshine Superman, Wear Your Love Like Heaven, There Is a Mountain, Lalena, Epistle to Dippy, Atlantis, Hurdy Gurdy Man, and Jennifer Juniper, all of which he wrote.
His songs have contributed to the soundtracks of films and TV series including Goodfellas, Election, Dumb and Dumber, Rushmore, The Simpsons, Nip/Tuck, Ugly Betty and Clueless.
A huge influence on The Beatles, Donovan became one of an elite handful of artists who collaborated on songs with the band.
He recalled: “I was a friend of The Beatles and I remember being at my place in London one Sunday morning and there was a knock on the door. It was Paul McCartney standing there with his guitar.
“He said, ‘I’ve got this song but I’m having trouble with the lyrics.’ So I told him to come in and he sang a bit of Yellow Submarine. I went into the other room and worked on it for a bit then came back out and sang him a line for the song.
“He said, ‘That’ll do.’ It was funny because The Beatles were really famous and almost to prove the point a policeman came to the door and said, ‘Mr. McCartney, is that your car parked there?’ In those days on a Sunday morning, the streets would be deserted. There was Paul’s sports car badly parked. Instead of giving him a ticket, the policeman asked if he could have the car keys to move it for him. That was the way it was in those days. Even then The Beatles were like royalty.”
Donovan was just 18 years old when he made his first records in 1964, immediately drawing comparisons with Bob Dylan.
He said: “Every British band from the Stones to the Beatles were copying all the American pop and blues artists – this is the way young artists learn. There’s no shame in mimicking a hero or two – it flexes the creative muscles and tones the quality of our composition and technique. I sounded like him for five minutes – others made a career of his sound.”
While Beatlemania was gripping the UK and the US, in 1965, Donovan’s song Catch the Wind earned an Ivor Novello Award for best contemporary folk song. It was the first time the honor was bestowed on an artist’s debut single. Hard at work on a new album entitled Ritual Groove, Donovan is planning to tour throughout 2010, giving him a chance to return to his roots.
Born and brought up in Maryhill, Glasgow, he is hoping to establish Scotland’s first university in Transcendental Meditation.
Donovan said: “During the past two years myself and my wife Linda and David Lynch have traveled the world, presenting the meditation technique of Maharishi Mahesh, Yogi and attracting mass media attention. The technique is now transforming education and students wellbeing wherever it has been introduced.”
It was in 1968 that Donovan, The Beatles, Paul Horn and other seekers of enlightenment went to India to study with their teacher Maharishi. On his return Donovan was at the forefront in promoting meditation to the West.
He said: “The Beatles and I had searched for a teacher of meditation, as we knew from our studies of the books that this was the way truly to make humankind aware of what we were doing to each other and to bring peace to the world .We found Maharishi and he found us.”
In April of this year, the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace, of which Donovan is the musical wing, put together an incredible line-up of Donovan, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr, for a concert at Radio City Music Hall, New York City.
Lynch, best known for films such as Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive, has acknowledged the important role that Donovan’s example gave in bringing him to meditation 39 years ago.
Donovan said: “We had earmarked some land just outside Edinburgh and planned to name it the Donovan University of Transcendental Meditation or the Transcendental Meditation University but there are some hoops that we’d have to go through.
“David Lynch and I have introduced it to schools all over America and it has done wonders for the children’s self-esteem. If they could introduce it here it might give a lot of kids self respect they need to go on and make something of their lives.”
(c) 2009 Sunday Mail; Glasgow (UK). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.
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