Donovan Phillips Leitch was born in Scotland in 1946 and moved with his family to the outskirts of London when he was ten. With Scotish and English folk music as his early influences, he dropped out of art school to pursue life on the road as a musician. His early success with the acoustic based songs “Catch the Wind”, “Colours” and “Universal Soldier” had some calling him the British Bob Dylan. Joan Baez and Pete Seeger introduced him to American audiences at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.
Teaming up with successful pop producer Mickie Most, Donovan’s records took on a new sound and he had his first #1 hit with “Sunshine Superman” in 1966. It was the same year that he became the first well known British pop star to be busted for possession of marijuana. With the follow-up hit “Mellow Yellow” and it’s line “electrical banana is gonna be a sudden craze” fueling the myth that smoking dried banana skins could make you high, Donovan was labeled as a poster child for the hippie drug culture that had emerged. Though he would eventually move past that image, it did serve as part of the inspiration for one of his most memorable songs “Season of the Witch”. We talked about it when I interviewed him in July 2004 promoting his latest album Beat Café.