Born in Scotland and raised as a teenager in St Albans, Donovan began playing the folk clubs in the area and taking to the road with his sidekick, Gypsy Dave, famously hitch-hiking to St Ives. A romantic inspiration for many young guitar players: talking to the road, guitar on back writing songs and poetry. Buddy Holly was one of his early influences;

He was also influenced by the likes of folk legends Woody Guthrie, Jessie Fuller, Pete Seeger, Martin Carthy, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, novelist Jack Kerouac and Celtic folk music, Don soon had a record deal. His first single, Catch the Wind was a big hit and won an Ivor Novello Award. With Brian Jones former wife, Linda Lawrence as his muse, Donovan followed his debut success with a string of hits, including Colours, Jennifer Juniper, There is a Mountain and Sunshine Superman, the latter song going to No.1 in the States and selling over a million copies. The album that followed was also a big hit in the US, as was the single Mellow Yellow, which also got to No.2 in the US and sold a million. Produced by Mickie Most since late 1965, Donovan’s sessions included many top musicians, including Jimmy Page, Big Jim Sullivan, Jack Bruce, Danny Thompson, and John Paul Jones.

Don moved with ease from folk to psychedelia before progressing to slightly heavier material. His Season of the Witch was covered by such artists as Al Kooper and Stephen Stills and Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger, with Don’s own version featuring in the film To Die For. Don famously travelled to India and was with the Beatles to meet the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, where he taught Lennon and McCartney how to play finger-picking on their guitars. Donovan among the Beatles’ guests at Abbey Road for the global screening of All You Need is Love. He released many albums, including the excellent A Gift from a Flower to a Garden and Sunshine Superman and his 1968 song Hurdy Gurdy Man, he initially considered giving to Jimi Hendrix to record. The song made the top five in the UK and the US. As well as concerts and recording, Don was always writing, Mary Hopkin including three of his songs on her debut album, returning the favour by singing backing vocals on his next single, Atlantis. For the single, Barabajagal (Love is Hot) he was backed by the Jeff Beck Group, featuring Jeff, Ronnie Wood, Nicky Hopkins and Micky Waller. The early seventies saw Donovan releasing albums like Cosmic Wheels, Open Road and HMS Donovan, as well as writing for the films The Pied Piper and Brother Sun, Sister Moon.

Don, who continues to write and tour, was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Hertfordshire in 2003. In 2012 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and two years later inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Richard Thompson
Don McLean