Online Archive  
Issue 6 - June 1972
Donovan - Interview
After a lay-off of almost two years, 'Minstrel' Donovan Leitch is back with us again, with a new series of concerts and a promised new album. He made his debut at a UCS benefit gig at Glasgow's Greens Playhouse, backed by a brand new Irish band and his long-standing friend Derrol Adams, the legendary bangoist.

At a press conference of one, Donovan told Black Box, "it was not really a political motivation doing this gig, it was the thought that I could really help some people of the street, after all it wasn't me who made any sacrifice, it was the audience, they paid the money to get in."

BB: Do you think it is a good thing that many artists are now giving their services free in order to help certain groups of people?

Donovan: Yeah, it's great, but the problems develop afterwards. Look at the Aberfan Disaster Fund for instance. They are still fighting over the distribution of the money. But it really is great seeing musicians and actors lending their names to fund raising schemes, for it's only when we recognise in ourselves that we all belong to the human race that things can start to happen, but the problem is in recognising it in ourselves.

BB: How much of an obligation should an artist have towards his audience?

Donovan: I don't really think he has any. They should act as one for you can't have one without the other. Personally I only enjoy performing if I think the audience is enjoying the music. I like to do songs which I think the audience would like to hear and which will, maybe, touch their emotions. Just now, I am adding songs which the audience can join in. I suppose it's just my folk upbringing. Anyway, I really enjoy the type of gig where we can all relax. I try to be as relaxed as possible so that the audience can relax too. I think that only human emotions can reach a person's soul, and if a song can reach out and touch that soul, the singer is only the means of communicating it to the other people.

BB: Do you think that music itself can become a religion?

Donovan: Yeah, this happens. But if you go above the level of hero worship it comes back to the people associating certain songs with specific events. Ideally, I would like to have a song for every individual at one of my shows. You know musicians are really indirectly very religious people, for through their music they can reach out to several generations of people and touch their hearts, although they should never use their positions to push their beliefs on people. They should only try and help both spiritually and materialistically.

BB: Like George Harrison and the Radha Krishna Temple?

Donovan: Yeah, George is telling people about his beliefs in an indirect fashion, whereas John (Lennon) tries to help people in a more physical way. I have my own ideas on things like meditation but I would never try to tell people that they are wrong and I am right. Primarily I am just an entertainer, although I would like to be considered more a friend of the audience rather than a guy standing on stage singing.

BB: Do you find it hard striking a balance between being labelled a 'superstar' and being yourself?

Donovan: Yes very. On the one hand I love my wife and son and on the other hand I like travelling around and singing to people and making albums. I really have to work at it twenty four hours a day. But living up in Skye helps a lot. We are really beginning to get things together now. The difficulties are mainly physical, like getting builders etc and when I am down south I live outside in the country so it's not so bad. I am learning from past experience.

BB: In what respect?

Donovan: Like being the first rock star to be bust on drugs, so I did a sleeve note on 'Gift from a Flower to a Garden' asking kids to try and give up the use of synthetic drugs.

BB: Is there a difference in your mind?

Donovan: Of course, pot, for example, is a gift from nature and should be used, not only for getting high but for medicinal purposes, as opium is. You know there is even a natural form of aspirin, but I can't remember what it is.

Thanks to Black Box for this interview.