Donovan has written many hit songs, none more famous than the legendary 'Hurdy Gurdy Man' which was covered by Howard's band, the Losers in 2001.
He stopped by the studio this morning with a guitar to talk about writing his hits, his unique musical career, and life in the swinging sixties.
Donovan attributes his musical education to the classical poems his family would read at parties, calling it a 'full course in the ballad forms.'
His mom also caught him masturbating and threatened to kill herself, but you have to take the rough with the smooth. 'I was wanking myself at alarming speed to hell.'
Donovan embarked on a bohemian life and career, more concerned about getting his music heard than becoming rich and famous. Though, of course, he became rich and famous.
"I WAS WANKING MYSELF AT ALARMING SPEEDS"
He was playing at a little club in England and was contacted to be on the hit BBC show 'Ready Steady Go!' before he had even put a record out. Not only did the show make him famous, but he met a cute chick named Jenny Boyd (sister of Patti Boyd-Harrison-Clapton) who would inspire his first hit, 'Catch the Wind' and 'Jennifer Juniper'.
DONOVAN SONG BY SONG
Catch the Wind - Brian Jones (who had suggested Ready Stead Go! Book an unkown Donovan) had just broken up with Jenny Boyd and Donovan longed for her. She wasn't ready for a new rock star romance, so she headed to California
Sunshine Superman – Probably Donovan's biggest hit, this song grew out of Donovan's love of comic books and philosophy. It's Superman the comic book hero and becoming a 'super human' through meditation and yoga. It's also a love song to his girlfriend Linda and about drugs, with 'sunshine' being a reference to LSD.
Jimmy Page, who was between 'The Yardbirds' and 'Led Zeppelin' played guitar as a session musician for which Donovan paid him about $6.
Donovan laughing on the show. You'd be laughing too if you hired Jimmy Page to play hte guitar for $6
Hurdy Gurdy Man – The classic made famous first by Donovan, then by the Losers. Donovan had met a new American kid named Jimi Hendrix and wanted him to play guitar on this song. By the time they were ready to record, Jimi had really taken off and he wasn't available.
Season of the Witch – Howard claimed this was the first song he heard that was over three minutes. During the recording, the bass was so loud that the needle was going into the red. The engineers demanded it be turned down and Mickey Most, Donovan's long-time producer, threatened to call Clive Davis (who counted Donovan as his first signed artist). Donovan got his bass.
WITH THE BEATLES
Donovan was in India with the Beatles and Mia and Prudence Farrow on that famous trip in the late sixties. He became very close to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, as well as the Beatles. When John Lennon became fascinated by Donovan's finger-picking technique, he taught the band how to do it – all except Paul McCartney, who is left handed and had to develop his own odd way of picking, which is heard on the Beatles' 'Blackbird'.
Donovan would go on to contribute a line in the Beatles' 'Yellow Submarine': Sky of blue and sea of green, in our yellow submarine.'
The first Gibson J-45 from Donovan's new line of guitars, modeled after the one he wrote all his songs on. He presented it to Howard as a birthday gift.
Donovan was once in his apartment with Paul McCartney and the cops came knocking asking whose care was illegally parked outside. The minute the cops saw Paul, not only did they salute him, the offered to go down and re-park his car themselves.
And, as George Harrison pointed out, 'Donovan is all over the White Album'.
Donovan admitted that he misses George Harrison, and only crosses paths with McCartney at various Transcendental Meditation events.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS FROM DONOVAN'S INTERVIEW
Donovan is still with Linda, and they're coming up fifty years.
Donovan was given too much of the polio vaccine and it actually ended up giving him polio. Thankfully, they cut his Achilles' tendon, otherwise he would've become club-footed.
Howard broke the news to Donovan that he was being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Donovan knew he had been nominated, but didn't know he was actually in.
For his birthday, Donovan presented Howard with the very first guitar in Gibson's line of J-45's, the same guitar Donovan wrote all his hits on.
Check out Donovan's new album 'Shadows of Blue' on iTunes.