Catching the wind with Donovan

Scottish folk hero to promote transcendental meditation at April makeup date for canceled January show.

1960s FOLK-ROCKPOP troubadour Donovan will perform a special fund-raising concert in Tel Aviv in support of the Transcendental Meditation movement in Israel. (photo credit: MICHAEL COLLOPY: DONOVAN DISCS 2015)
1960s FOLK-ROCKPOP troubadour Donovan will perform a special fund-raising concert in Tel Aviv in support of the Transcendental Meditation movement in Israel.
They say the third time is a charm. After two aborted dates in recent months, Scottish folk/rock legend Donovan seems intent on really showing up in Israel, this time for a show on April 2 at Wohl Amphitheater in Tel Aviv.
With his flowing locks, wispy voice and toothy smile, Donovan helped define the ‘60s sense of unrestrained freedom and unbridled hope, and the goofy clothing and fads that came along with it. He epitomized flower power and hippie independence with songs like “Catch the Wind,” “Wear Your Love Like Heaven,” and novelty drug culture hits like “Mellow Yellow.”
That’s why it makes perfect sense that his Tel Aviv show will be a fundraiser for that counterculture staple, transcendental meditation.
“I was always going to benefit Israel’s TM Work with Jewish and Arabic children,” said the 69-year-old singer and longtime TM enthusiast in a recent email exchange with The Jerusalem Post.
“I am following up David Lynch’s TM visit last October. I was going to make my concert a surprise for TM and its banner ‘Peace Begins Within,’ but now I decided it’s public.”
He was referring to the famous film director and fellow meditation advocate who stopped in Israel to promote his 2014 documentary on the subject and to set up “peace groups” to meditate and effect change in the world.
The reason for Donovan’s previous two postponements of shows at Jaffa’s Gesher Theater and Noga Theater respectively in January remain unclear. The original date was said to have been moved due to the Simta pub shooting and the resulting search for fugitive terrorist Nashat Milhem. When the makeup date later that month was also canceled, Donovan’s official Twitter feed noted that “The contract arrangements for a Donovan concert have not been completed,” a statement disputed by promoters Progstage Productions.
“There were some initial difficulties in bringing Donovan to Israel but they are now resolved and Donovan’s original wish to play in Israel to help the Israeli and Arab children to meditate, can now be achieved,” said Progstage director Patrick Losinsky.
When asked if the cancellations had anything to do with BDS or threats over performing in Israel, Donovan preferred to focus on the fact that the show had been rescheduled.
“I would prefer not to mention such things for the sake of privacy and a safe and peaceful concert to help the children of both sides in Israel,” he said.
“I have worked in Belfast for the children of both sides. I am ‘Poet Singer for Peace,’ and David [Lynch] and my wife and I have traveled to cities of trauma for children.”
To sweeten the pot this time, Donovan has invited a local musical coexistence group to join him for two songs at the show. Youth band Ukuleles for Peace, consisting of Jewish and Arab students and led by veteran British immigrant Paul Moore, will perform “Colors” and “Happiness Runs” with the bard.
Donovan Leitch was never quite taken as seriously as Bob Dylan because he was just lighter. Nostalgic trifles like “Mellow Yellow,” and “Sunshine Superman” may seem like Austin Powers-era Carnaby Street satire today, but his scope was broader than dated novelty tunes.
Heady rockers like “Season of the Witch” and “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” featuring a rosy-cheeked Jimmy Page in one of his first studio sessions, capture ‘60s psychedelia in all its paisley glory, and clear-eyed folk songs like “Catch The Wind,” “There is a Mountain,” and his version of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Universal Soldier” represent the wide-eyed innocence of the Woodstock generation as succinctly as any other works of the time.
Donovan bristled when asked if comparisons to Dylan or being called “the Scottish Dylan” bothered him.
“I am a Gaelic Bard of the highest order. Such questions are beneath my skills,” he responded.
However, unlike some of his ‘60s contemporaries like Dylan who constantly reinvented themselves for the cold dark ‘70s and beyond, Donovan was a creature of his era. And try as he may, having recorded new music and performed regularly in the ensuing decades, he remains a human time capsule from a bygone period.
Donovan: Retrospective, a boxed set released last year to mark his 50th anniversary of recording, demonstrated that there’s plenty life left in those old war horses and that Donovan is a multi-faceted writer and performer.
When asked what advice he would give a young songwriter/ performer starting out today, Donovan gave an answer that holds special weight given his accomplishments: “Study my work and my acoustic guitar.”