Psychedelic pioneer Donovan to visit F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre
WILKES-BARRE — As a songwriter, he carried on the American folk tradition of Woody Guthrie alongside Bob Dylan. As an innovator, he predated and influenced everyone in the psychedelic revolution, including The Beatles.
Donovan Leitch — more popularly known as, simply, Donovan — will perform at 7 p.m. Sunday at the F.M. Kirby Center as part of his continued campaign of celebrating a half-century in popular music.
The Scottish born musician, now 71, released his debut album in 1965, at age 19. “What’s Bin Din and What’s Bin Hid” introduced enduring folk hits like “Josie” and “Catch the Wind.”
His longstanding inspiration, he said, was “the poet of a lone stringed instrument and vocal, the ancient Gaelic root from which I spring.”
Donovan’s ability to fuse musical styles from around the world became a hallmark of his compositions.
“The Bohemian culture which I live has no borders, no fences, which leads me to fuse jazz, blues, Indian, Japanese, troubadour, Caribbean and classical to present unity to our broken, disjointed, nuclear, insane, modern world,” he said.
In 1966, Donovan released “Sunshine Superman.” The benchmark album is considered among the first in the psychedelic movement, features the popular title track and “Season of the Witch” and made use of a full rock band and world instruments like the sitar.
The record marked the beginning of a period where Donovan would lead the psychedelic revolution in music, releasing follow-ups like “Mellow Yellow” (1967) and “The Hurdy Gurdy Man” (1968), affecting the culture around him.
Rock ‘n’ roll lore credits Donovan for influencing The Beatles’ lauded release “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” and the finger-picking guitar style he taught John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison was showcased on “The White Album.”
Donovan was also a kind of spiritual tour kid for the Fab Four on their often referenced trip to India. As much philosopher as poet, he was a pioneer in mixing Eastern philosophy and meditation with modern lifestyle and songwriting.
“There is one inner truth on the planet, yet Western knowledge and access to our deeper selves had to go underground as new religions destroyed our nature worship and enacted genocide on our female and male shamans,” Donovan said.
“So when we Bohemian artists of the ’60s sought for the method to dive deep within, there were no Western methods available — yet, in the East, the teachings are not only alive, but seriously practiced today.”
Released in 2015, marking his 50 years in music, “Retrospective” takes a look back at Donovan’s place in the arts, “similar to a painter, writer or director,” he said.
Two years later, he expresses gratitude for the lifelong voyage.
“The tour is to thank my fans for following my journey and to say hello to the new fans who have just discovered me,” Donovan said.
Late into a storied career, and ever the innovator in the studio, Donovan continues to experiment with his music.
“I continue — on our own label, Donovan Discs — to develop the multi dual vocal recording, where the same sung line is repeated exactly, one or two times, then each recording is set in relationship to the other in experimental depths of echo placement in the soundscape,” he said.
This technique can be heard on several tracks in 2010’s “Ritual Groove.”
Donovan said he has “new work coming” to accompany a large, previously unreleased archive available on donovan.ie.
Fifty-two years into his craft, the iconic songwriter cares little about the names among which he is often mentioned.
“The achievements one feels are nothing to do with being on a list,” he said. … “Music is the invisible sound which releases the obscure emotions of the heart. We are healers.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.
IF YOU GO
Where: F.M. Kirby Center, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Additional information: Tickets range from $25 to $45 and are available at the Kirby Center box office, online at kirbycenter.org and by phone at 570-826-1100.