The Autobiography of Donovan
Donovan Leitch
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Buy *The Autobiography of Donovan: The Hurdy Gurdy Man* by Donovan Leitch online

The Autobiography of Donovan: The Hurdy Gurdy Man
Donovan Leitch
St. Martin's Griffin
320 pages
January 2007
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

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He was the incense-burning, flower-giving (the term "Flower Power" was conjured by a staff member of Time magazine after witnessing the troubadour in concert) Scottish hippie with a voice like melted butterscotch and lyrics that must have been written with a headful of acid. He was a psychedelic folkie who managed to cross borders from the straight-up acoustic crowd (Dylan; Joan Baez) to the electric set (The Beatles).

The story revealed here is really the tale of England in the '60s, the mods and the growing fusion of art and aural elements. Voted the "Brightest Hope" by British fans in 1965, he was being regaled and embraced by the luminaries of the day - The Beatles, Dylan, and many others. He met up with producer Mickie Most (Lulu; Jeff Beck; Herman's Hermits) and churned out a string of hits that would become classics: "Sunshine Superman," "Mellow Yellow," and many others.

In his poetic way, he talks about working with Most; coming to America and experiencing the music of the West Coast; keeping company with The Beatles; and being arrested for drugs. Leitch tells us about Jimmy Page and Allan Holdsworth playing the huge metal guitars on "Hurdy Gurdy Man" (though he spells Allan's last name as Hollsworth), and the Jeff Beck Group's presence on "Barabajagal":

"Mickie [Most, producing the Donovan/Beck session] asked Jeff to break out his guitar. Jeff was gazing around the studio, then he walked into the hall, then the control room. No guitar."
The book is full of these types of marvelous anecdotes. He was truly one of the most original voices/writers around. Certainly, no one can explain Donovan better than Donovan, and he does so wonderfully here.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Steven Rosen, 2008

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