Monday, November 28, 2005

Donovan's Autobiography

The choice bits, from the New York Times:

Donovan has spent decades hiding in plain sight. He never entirely stopped performing or recording, but he has not been part of the 1960's-nostalgia boom. Only now, with a memoir, a reissued collection of his music and a big hit ("Catch the Wind") used in a car commercial, has he come back into view.

...The overall language of this book is...peculiar. It starts in the heavy Scottish dialect of his early years ("I used to sleep wi' ma mammy"). It can take a lofty, didactic tone, even when explicating the effects of marijuana ("Giggles and uncontrolled laughter are often signs of the natural relief that comes from letting go of the conditioning society forces on us"). It adopts the kinds of romantic euphemisms used in his song lyrics; "My Lady of the Lemon Tree" is Donovanese for hostile. And at times it even grasps for the hype that he once disdained. There's something desperate about a memoir that quotes ad copy about its subject's exciting talents.

...Donovan has indicated that the "The Hurdy Gurdy Man" describes the Maharishi. So why is "The Hurdy Gurdy Man" the subtitle of this book? His autobiography is similarly cavalier about a number of things, not least of them spelling. "Jennifer Juniper," written to woo the sister-in-law of George Harrison, qualifies as one of the most successful musical seductions on record, but Donovan changes the spelling of his own song's title. Mr. Dylan becomes "Bobbie." But he also becomes "the Hebrew shaman with the Celtic name." And Donovan, in gloves-off mode, contends that while Mr. Dylan is the better lyricist, "musically I am more creative and influential."
Donovan doesn't quite qualify as Advanced, but I like that statement (about being more influential). The thing is, because Bob Dylan is Advanced, he might say today that Donovan is correct. Advanced artists usually say that their latest work is amazing but they also compare themselves unfavorably with lesser (according to most) artists. They especially like to say another band's version of their music is better than their original recording. Anyway, I hope new generations will get to appreciate the glories of "Atlantis."


talktostantonandorchard said...

Holy cow, don't fall for Donovan's 2005 blather in which he uses his own name in sentences that include Dylan and the Beatles. He is trying to muscle in on pop music history by aligning himself with them. No No No! Hurdy Gurdy Man, cute song. Wear your Love, sweet, yeah, I bought the perfume. It goes on, it was cute run, he had a unique sound, but he is no icon. You don't emerge after 35 years of nothing consequential to musical culture, go in front of the cameras and claim yourself to be an icon. Please, folks, don't believe it. Give him his due, but don't give him icon or legend status. None such here.

Anonymous said...

Well, the previous commentator merely displays his/her obvious lack of knowledge and (IMO) lack of taste. Donovan *was* close friends with all of the big pop names of his day including Dylan, Brian Jones and The Beatles; he collaborated with The Beatles, taught John, Paul and George the cross-picking guitar technique in Rishikesh, yadda yadda. You have a perfect right to express your own personal taste in regard to his music, but don't try and rewrite history, pal. As for his achievements -- well, when you've had as many #1 hits and million-selling albums and singles as Donovan, I'll start paying attention. Otherwise, shut the hell up.

Anonymous said...

Anyone with music as unique and deceptively simple as Donovan's has advanced far beyond the 'norm', in my opinion.

I do wonder if his best work had to occur in a state of longing, though, as domesticity lulls most of us into a less than perfect frame of mind for creative work?