During the past week or so I noticed a television commercial for the new Windows Phone featuring some brilliant blues-influenced guitar licks, along with a prominent bassline, in the opening. There was a familiarity to it that I could not place. The song immediately grabbed my attention, because I knew it wasn’t a contemporary sound, but something from the mid-to-late ’60s.
When I heard the vocals it did sound like Donovan. Yet I wasn’t really sure. After seeing the TV ad a number of times afterwards I had to find out what was the title of the song. As it turned out I was correct. It was a song by Donovan from the mid-1960s. The song was never released as a single, but I knew I had heard it before way back when.
Recently Donovan was one of the nominees to be considered for the 2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions. He is a British folk-style singer who incorporates a lot of other genres into his very unique sound and vocals. In 1966 Donovan achieved his first number one hit in the U.S. His close friends in the music business included Paul McCartney and John Lennon.
Donovan even taught McCartney/Lennon his finger-picking technique on the guitar. In 2007 one of Donovan’s top ten hits was featured as an opening song in the film about a real-life serial killer during the early 70s. One of the stars was Robert Downey, Jr. Donovan’s daughter, Ione Skye, had a small role in the film too. Throughout his music career he had a number of hit songs. Here now are my personal five favorite songs by Donovan Philips Leitch or simply known as “Donovan.”
5.) Season of the Witch
This is the song now used in the television commercial for an upcoming Windows Phone 7. As mentioned earlier it was not released as a single yet it is a popular track. It comes from the “Sunshine Superman” album released in 1966. In this album track it is one of the first to be classified as the “psychedelic” genre. You can hear his exaggerated enunciation of words, especially in the beginning of the song, he is sometimes known for.
4.) Jennifer Juniper
We now come to a softer and more romantic side to Donovan’s music and lyrics. He was inspired to write a song about George Harrison’s sister-in-law, Jennifer Boyd. Jennifer also owned a boutique named Juniper. This is a very pretty song.
3.) Mellow Yellow
When I was a kid there was a soft drink called “Mello Yellow” that featured this song in the TV commercial. The drink was a knock-off of Mountain Dew, one of my favorite drinks. When they played this song on the radio I use to love singing along to the chorus. There are a lot of urban legends attached to this song. One of which is you can hear Paul McCartney’s voice saying “Mellow Yellow.” According to Donovan he was never there in the studio. He did all the vocals himself. Another myth is the song is about drugs or smoking bananas which is also not true. However, the song is about a certain vibrating apparatus.
2.) Hurdy Gurdy Man
If you have seen the film “Zodiac” starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey, Jr. as reporters for the San Francisco Chronicle. It is based on the serial killings that took place in the late ’60s and early ’70s that have yet to be solved. The serial killer is known as “Zodiac.”
In the film’s opening you hear Indian-inspired music by Donovan that epitomes the psychedelic era to a “T”. There is a lot of sitar sounds throughout, along with Donovan’s reverberated vocals in the beginning. Almost sounds like a precursor to autotune. My favorite part is the humming right into the microphone.
He wrote this song after he went to India for a transcendental meditation retreat with the Beatles. The song represents the numerous sounds he heard there. In the film “Zodiac” Donovan’s daughter, who is an actress, had a small role in this film as a hitchhiker with an infant. Her character gets picked up by the Zodiac, but manages to escape.
1.) Sunshine Superman
His only number one hit single in the U.S. it was written for his future wife, Linda Lawrence. Here is another example of one of the first recorded psychedelic songs from 1966. In the lyrics Donovan does reference the DC Comics characters of Superman and Green Lantern. “Sunshine Superman” is Donovan’s most popular song to date.
If you enjoy any of these songs you can download them at www.iTunes.com or at www.amazon.com Sometime in December 2010 the Inductees will be announced for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Perhaps Donovan will be one of them. One thing that can’t be denied his music is definitely timeless, even if it’s used for a high-tech cell phone commercial.
New Windows Phone 7 Smart Phone, TV Commercial Music
List of songs by Donovan, Songfacts