Donovan Sixties icon being mellow yellow again 50 years later with US tour

EUGENE, Ore. -- He was mellow yellow in the Sixties, and now Donovan jokes about being more rusted than mellow 50 years later as he prepares to tour the U.S. this summer.

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Donovan, dubbed the British Bob Dylan back in the Sixties - when this Scottish singer-songwriter and guitarist emerged from the British folk scene - is now set to return to his Sixties roots here in Eugene. It was back 50 years ago when Donovan "hooked-up" with Eugene legend Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters. Now, this world famous troubadour returns nearly 50 years later to headline at “Faeriewords,” July 27, 28 and 29. In turn, Donovan’s website promises “more U.S. concert dates will be announced soon” for what’s dubbed as Donovan’s “Living Crystal Faery Realm” tour that kicks off at “BluesFest Australia” April 7. Here in the Eugene area, July’s annual “Oregon Country Fair” attracts those old “Hippies” and New Agers in the tens of thousands for a Woodstock-feeling return to the peace and love of the Sixties. Moreover, the end of July brings this same group of alternative lifestyle fans to the wooded meadows atop Mount Pisgah in Eugene where the legendary Eugene writer Ken Kesey once mused about life, and where the late, great University of Oregon track legend Steve "Pre" Prefontaine would run in these deep woods where “Faerie’s” are said to live.

Donovan returns to Eugene as Sixties headliner

Thus, say Faerieworlds fans, “who else but Donovan should return to Eugene to celebrate in this magical realm” with its legendary “connections” to the spirit of the Sixties that was born here on the West Coast with the Hippies “Summer of Love” moving up from the San Francisco bay area to this cultural melting pot in Eugene.

Born Donovan Philips Leitch on May 10, 1946, this 65-year-old pop superstar is probably best known by today’s younger generation as being the father of popular singers Donovan Leitch and Ione Skye.

In his 2005 autobiography “The Hurdy Gurdy Man,” Donovan explains that he drew inspiration for his Sixties music from the underground Hippie movement that included friends such as Ken Kesey, the Grateful Dead, Wavy Gravy, Paul Krassner and other musicians such as his close-friend Bob Dylan.

Donovan also writes about being friends with members of many top Sixties bands; including The Who, Cream, The Rolling Stones, The Moody Blues and the Beatles. Donovan admitted in his autobiography and various interviews with Rolling Stone magazine that he regularly smoked marijuana and went to parties here in Eugene and other West Coast enclaves where LSD was being used before the drug was banned as an illegal hallucinogen.

From those and other experiences, Donovan said he wrote many of his classic tunes, including “Mellow Yellow.” Donovan’s use of LSD is also referred to in many of his lyrics, including “The Trip,” and “Sunshine Superman,” and “Wear Your Love Like Heaven,” and also “Epistle to Dippy.”

Donovan on Bob Dylan

In an interview for the BBC News in 2001 to mark Bob Dylan's 60th birthday, Donovan acknowledged Dylan as an important influence early in his career while distancing himself from the "Dylan clone" allegations.

For instance, Donovan told BBC News that: “Bob was influenced, as all American folk artists are, by the Celtic music of Ireland, Scotland and England. But in 1962 we folk Brits were also being influenced by some folk Blues and the American folk-exponents of our Celtic Heritage...Dylan appeared after Woodie [Guthrie], Pete [Seeger] and Joanie [Baez] had conquered our hearts, and he sounded like a cowboy at first but I knew where he got his stuff - it was Woodie at first, then it was Jack Kerouac and the stream-of-consciousness poetry which moved him along. But when I heard Blowing In The Wind it was the clarion call to the new generation - and we artists were encouraged to be as brave in writing our thoughts in music...We were not captured by his influence, we were encouraged to mimic him - and remember every British band from the Stones to the Beatles were copying note for note, lick for lick, all the American pop and blues artists – this is the way young artists learn.”

In turn, Donovan also told BBC News that “it was not Dylan who influenced us – for me he was a spearhead into protest, and we all had a go at his style. I sounded like him for five minutes – others made a career of his sound. Like troubadours, Bob and I can write about any facet of the human condition. To be compared was natural, but I am not a copyist.”

Why Donovan still matters to fans today

According to a marketing overview for Eugene’s “Faeriewords” happening July 27, 28 and 29 with Donovan as the “spiritual headliner,” this artist has one of those voices “that instantaneously reveals their identity; with melodies that return you immediately to their source.”

For fans, Donovan’s songs of the Sixties and after seem to “spontaneously transport you to a specific time and place rich with memory and emotion. All of these qualities and more are embued in the songs and poetry of Donovan.”

In brief, "his music is legend," said a fan in Eugene who told Huliq during a recent interview "that I can't think of anyone I would want to hear live if this is truly 'the end' in 2012 with the state of the world today, and the Mayan prophecy and all."

For instance, the lyrics for his hit song “Atlantis” is “like taking a magic carpet ride somewhere free from this world of pain and strife.

"Atlantis" by Donovan

"The continent of Atlantis was an island
Which lay before the great flood
In the area we now call the Atlantic Ocean.
So great an area of land, that from her western shores
Those beautiful sailors journeyed to the South
And the North Americas with ease
In their ships with painted sails.
To the east, Africa was a neighbor,
Across a short strait of sea miles.

The great Egyptian age is but a remnant
Of the Atlantian culture.
The antediluvian kings colonized the world;
All the Gods who play in the mythological dramas
In all legends from all lands were from fair Atlantis.

Knowing her fate, Atlantis sent out ships to all corners of the Earth.
On board were the Twelve:
The poet, the physician, the farmer, the scientist, the magician,
And the other so-called Gods of our legends,
Though Gods they were.
And as the elders of our time choose to remain blind,
Let us rejoice and let us sing and dance and ring in the new
Hail Atlantis!

Way down below the ocean where I wanna be she may be…"

Donovan now in Rock N Roll Hall of Fame

Donovan said it was his friends and family were on hand when discovering that he is to be inducted into The Rock N Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.

In turn, Rolling Stone magazine noted how “Donovan fans probably think that the Scottish folk icon should have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame years ago. Thus, Rolling Stone checked in with “the Hurdy Gurdy Man himself while he was on vacation in Monaco – and he feels the timing is just perfect.”

“It’s a singular honor, and I’m pleased as punch, as they say in England and Scotland. It’s even more special because I’m going to be there with some of my favorite artists and musicians. The Faces are my old chums. We used to hang out. The Chilis, some of them appeared on my Rick Rubin album. Guns N’ Roses, who I’ve come to know in California and did a couple of things with. Of course, the Beastie Boys. A very touching part of this, for me, is the inclusion of the lovely Laura Nyro, who left us too soon, of course. When I was younger, I followed her rise and her extraordinary work. It will be great to see her honored too.”

Donovan added: “Oh, I’ve been honored from day one. Basically, as a young singer/songwriter/poet arriving at the time that I did – from out of the bohemian world and onto the popular stage – immediately I felt honored. Recognition of one’s work comes from the fans first, of course. My goodness, that’s been again and again recognized. Honors and awards are very interesting, and I truly accept them. I have very high regard for what they mean. What they mean is that they’re pointing to the work. For me, the work was always to show others, to lead others, to experiment, to break all the rules. I’ve had lots of recognition, and interestingly enough, within the past year, from the Mojo award that Jimmy Page gave me to the Lifetime Achievement Award that the BBC gave me for the folk world.”

Also, he said the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame honor “is singular. It is worldwide, and it’s very interesting because the other ones were quite local. So, no, I don’t feel that I should have had it earlier.”

Donovan currently lives with his family in County Cork in Ireland. His July visit to Eugene is said to be his return to America in 2012, with this popular Sixties singer as the headliner for Eugene’s “Faeriewords” event July 27, 28 and 29.