Song writing with dead poets

For those of you with kids, who’s the one performer from your youth that your children cannot bear to listen to?

This mild mannered Scot drove my two children bonkers. His name is Donovan Leitch but in the mid sixties and early seventies he was known merely as Donovan. His song, “The Tinker and the Crab” gave me the idea for this blog’s tagline “Saying Nothing in Particular.”

On the windy beach the sun is shining through with
Weather fair
White horses riding on the seas pasture onto the
Over the Dunes came a travelling man
Sack on back
Wild flowers in his hand
Old rusty cans, pebbles ‘bedded in the sand stand
And stare
Scratching his beard through the grass he steered
His sandy shoe
Disappearing in the dips pondering and wandering
Nice as you please comes the travelling man
Drinking a bottle of milk in his hand
Speaking to no one in particular but happily

Down where young gulls dance driftwood lying drying
For the fire
Yellow beak and sleek now the gulls are crying
Flying higher
Out from the sea came a little green Crab
Taking the Sun the morning being very drab

Old rusty cans, pebbles ‘bedded in the sand stand
And stare

The Tinker and the Crab

In the days of superstar rock performers with their entourages and groupies, Donovan seemed downright approachable. The shy boy in class who wrote poetry and played the flute. Indeed, he once stopped a concert to kiss a shy, awkward teen who was a friend of mine. It was the thrill of her lifetime.

His songs often didn’t make a lot of sense. They were strings of images which many critics felt contained an undercurrent of weirdness. Ancient civilizations rising from the bottom of the ocean, witches taking over the streets, hurdy gurdy men selling their deadly wares. Perhaps that’s why my children threatened to jump from the back seat of the car to their deaths if I played one of his CDs.

But I loved the other worlds he created on his self-described quest. Especially when he teamed up with another writer of weirdness, Edgar Allan Poe.

Enjoy! Unless, like my children, you find Donovan a bit too weird!

37 thoughts on “Song writing with dead poets

  1. Somewhere in the 1990s, when he wasn’t a star anymore, he appeared at a bookstore somewhere in or near Philadelphia, I forget where exactly. He was there to promote a new album. He sang a few songs and then signed autographs, said hello, etc. to the people lined up to meet him. My wife and I were there. He signed the jacket of my copy of his Mellow Yellow album.

    1. He does – I could (and have) listened to him all day which is probably why my children can’t stand him! I love the flute – my friend (who met Donovan) was an excellent flutist so his music always reminds me of hanging out with her when we were young and silly girls.

    1. I started listening to Donovan at the same time as I read Lord of the Rings and Stranger in a Strange Land – he belongs to that time for me. But I was happy to see that he’s led a happy life. Apparently.

  2. If there was and there must have been I can’t recall. Though our son had a fried called Saffron at whose house he’d hang when he was 12 or 13 and if I dropped him off I’d hum that tune, that drove him a bit bonkers.

  3. Love this…. for me…and in honor of my daughter’s disdain 😉 I’d have to say Amy Grant’s “Baby, Baby”. When our girl was a cranky newborn, it was the only song that I could rock her to – to soothe her back to sleep. Years later I enjoyed listening when it popped on the radio while driving and she lamented “I’ve always hated that song!”. Fun convo in the car about why that might be….it was a mother’s salvation for a babe with colic! Thank for prompting a fun memory, Jan!

  4. I remember Donovan’s music very well. I also like Poe’s writing and poetry very much. While we’re on a roll of stuff I like, I love the Move Eldorado (John Wayne, James Caan). Thanks for touching all the bases for me today.

  5. I’d forgotten all the songs he did that were mentioned here except for “Mellow Yellow” which is on a “Best of Whatever Year” CD I have. 🙂 Not sure who the girls wouldn’t listen to that I do but you brought back some enjoyable memories.

    1. I thought it was interesting that Donovan refers to Poe as a fellow song writer. Annabelle Lee I believe has been put to music many times. Poe, the rock star! He probably would have loved it.

  6. LOVE Donovan!
    I know all his music.
    I played Janis Joplin for some 20 year olds. They hated it. They could not get past the old production values and actually listen to the song and performance. Same with Jimi Hendrix.
    Thanks Jan!

    1. Interesting about Janis – I think she really paved the way for a lot of modern day female performers – before her, they were a lot more demure and ladylike on stage.

  7. I happened upon a Christian Bale movie a few days ago, The Pale Blue Eye (hm… only got a 6.6 rating at IMDb), which included one Edgar Allan Poe. I don’t regret watching it.

    I’ve liked Donovan. I don’t listen to him often (in a full album form), probably because of the nonsense aspect. But he is associated with good memories as my dad enjoyed him.

    Come to think of it, I know of Edgar Alan Poe because of my dad as well. Dad was like me — I’m like my dad — in keeping up interest for newer music and everything old to boot.

  8. I had the privilege of catching Donovan
    in concert. It was just after he’d released
    the Cosmic Wheels album, and just like
    the photo on the record cover he sat cross
    legged on a cushion for most of the
    performance dressed like a Jeanie
    who’d just escaped from a bottle 🧞😎

      1. Long before David Bowie
        or even Harry Styles
        in an evening gown
        there was the ever so slightly
        androgynous Donovan
        dressed like a jean genie
        riding the wind of change
        with the Hurdy Gurdy Man

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