happy birthday sunshine superman...

So it is the 50th anniversary of Donovan's "Sunshine Superman."  In the summer of 1966 I played that album over and over until I feared my parents were going to steal and smash it. After being turned on to his first two LPs - Catch the Wind and Fairytale - the year before, and riding with the culture into the swinging London groove generated by the Beatles, Stones and Yardbirds, I was ready to obsess on the joyful optimism of "Sunshine Superman." But the opening tune and single was merely a teaser for me for the remainder included "Guinevere," "Fat Angel" and my favorite, "Season of the Witch."  (The UK album had three of my other rav ups, too:  "Sand and Foam," "Bert's Blues" and "Young Girl Blues.")

For the cynics and aesthetes among us, Donovan is easily characterized as a hippy, dippy folkie blissed out on too much acid, meditation, flower power and electric guitars. But the cognoscenti know he captured the true heart of a more innocent moment in time with verve and accuracy. He was not a cynical copycat nor a sad wannabe: he was the real deal, filled with tenderness and sweet, sweet music, always more about fun and hope than making money. (Not that he didn't make a ton of cash, of course, but that's another story.) Over the next three years of his career, his chart-topping songs included "Atlantis," "Mellow Yellow," "Wear Your Love Like Heaven," Jennifer, Juniper," "There Is a Mountain," "Barabagal" and "Happiness Runs." He worked with session players like Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Danny Thompson, Shawn Phillips and Tony Carr. He hung with the Beatles and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi..And when the counter culture came crashing down in a tidal wave of drugs, violence and stupidity, Donovan just took stock of reality and kept on making music. 

His collaboration with the Jeff Beck Group in 1969 was great - but then things went downhill. He gave the 70s a shot, but with Mickey Most producing (and editing) Donovan started to become a shadow of his former self - sometimes too shrill and other time just foolish. His attempt at 21st century hipness - recasting himself as a West Coast Beatnik a la Ginsberg - was a disaster.. It was clear that his time had come and gone. Repackaging his best material kept the light shining, however, and awakened a new generation's interest in the magic that once was. He is a trooper who, despite late career fumbles and missteps, is still a gas. 

Today I give thanks for the 50th anniversary of "Sunshine Superman." 


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