About Donovan Leitch

Written by Steve Barratt in May 2006

Donovan Leitch was born on May 10th 1946

Donovan Philips Leitch was born on May the 10th 1946 in Maryhill Glasgow. Music was part of his life at home with established Scottish songs at family celebrations, and of course more popular music through radio. His family moved to Hatfield St Albans in 1956.He bought his first guitar when he was 14.

In common with other top performers Donovan has certainly done his apprenticeship in his earlier days by travelling around different parts of the country flat broke notably his visit to St Ives in 1963 with his friend Gypsy Dave where they would sleep on the beach. He also visited Torquay in 1964 where he started busking. The new Folk music scene was sweeping across Britain in the 1960’s and One of Donovans main influences was Woody Guthrie. Donovans music genre is often described as Folk Rock and Psychedelic Folk.

His first major success was ‘Catch The Wind’ which was influenced by Woody Guthrie and Ramblin' Jack Elliott.

Donovan is often referred to as the English Bob Dylan, and the press would often say that they did not get on with each other, but this was press hype and it was in fact Bob Dylan who introduced Donovan to the Beatles in a London hotel room.

Donovan at the wheel of the classic Mercedes JMO 9K Donovan at the wheel of JMO 9K

It is often overlooked especially in today’s fast moving world of digital downloads and many different music genres just how influential and talented Donovan was and is. Donovan was one of the most popular British recording artists of his day, and had a very rapid rise to success at a young age, recording a series of hit records between 1965 and 1970, selling millions of records both here in the UK and USA.

He became friends with many top artists of his day such as, The Yardbirds, Rolling Stones, The Beatles especially George Harrison, Bruce Springsteen, and Bobby Whitlock to mention just a few. He was one of the few artists to collaborate on songs with the Beatles. The Beatles song Yellow Submarine features Donovan Lyrics ‘Sky of blue, sea of Green’ It is said that he introduced both John Lennon and Paul McCartney to his own finger picking guitar style which he had picked up a while before. Donovan also appeared and had the lead role in the 1972 film ‘The Pied Piper’.

His main fame started in 1965 when he left his original management set up and joined forces with the independent record producer Mickey Most who at the time was on the crest of a wave producing other stars such as Lulu, Herman's Hermits, and The Animals.

With a series of live performances on the British pop TV series, ‘Ready Steady Go’ Donovans talent soon spread overseas to the USA where his song Sunshine superman became No 1 and was followed by ‘Mellow Yellow’ in 1966 which reached No 2, in which Paul McCartney sang backing vocals. Donovan had cracked the USA market and was still only 19 at this stage!.

The Hurdy Gurdy Man and George Harrison

Working with Mickey Most Donovan enjoyed success on both sides of the Atlantic, as a performer and with appearances on the Television. Donovan also enjoyed success with Mickey Most with his songs ‘The Hurdy Gurdy Man’ and ‘’Atlantis, to mention just a few. He enjoyed main stream success from 1965-1970.

As a matter of interest he wrote ‘Jennifer Juniper’ while he was with the Beatles, Brian Wilson (beach boys), Mia Farrow, Jane Asher ,Patti Boyd (George Harrisons wife) and Cynthia Lennon in the Himalayas to visit the Maharishi to learn about transcendental meditation for three months, and escape the western world. The song was inspired by George Harrisons wife’s sister Jenny.

It is often very interesting to hear how some songs were influenced, for instance Donovan once lived next door to Mia Farrow and her sister Prudence, and it was Prudence who inspired John Lennon to write ‘Dear Prudence’. Likewise Donovans ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’ was inspired by sounds that he heard there. His USA No 1 Sunshine Superman it is said was dedicated to John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Donovan is married to Linda Lawrence

Donovan is married to Linda Lawrence who was once the girlfriend of Brian Jones from the Rolling Stones, both Donovan and Brian were good friends until Brians sad untimely and some say questionable death in 1969. Donovan is the step father to Julian who was Brians son.

After the days of innocence in the 1960’s and early 1970’s Donovan left the music scene for a while. Interestingly he went on tour with the Happy Mondays in the early 1990’s, and is still touring now.
Volvo cars have used his song ‘Catch the Wind’ for a series of commercials, and his music is often referred to with programs about the 1960’s era. The most recent English commercial to feature his music was Magners cider, which had the opening of ‘Sunshine Superman’.

Having met Donovan In 2005 I would say that he is a very decent person, someone who can make you feel at ease. He took time out from a busy concert schedule to see myself and the classic Mercedes JMO 9K, which for him brought back memory of this being the first expensive car he bought at the height of his fame. He enjoyed having a drive and to cast his mind back to the early 1970's when he purchased the car.

Donovan with JMO 9K Classic Mercedes Donovan with JMO 9K

Both Donovan and his Manager, Stewart (Donovans brother in law) were both very friendly, and interesting to talk to, in a nut shell they have both seen, mixed with, and were/are friends of some of the most influential singer songwriters and icons of the 20th Century. They both still have the get up and go spirit to tour, and if you visit Dononvan’s website below, you will see details of his concert tours. The classic Mercedes wedding car JMO 9K will always be known as 'Donovans' Mercedes.....which is great.

Facebook Donovan

For those of you interested Donovan has an Autobiography ‘The Hurdy Gurdy Man’ by Arrow which was released in 2006.