TrackAlbum / Single
Catch The Wind What's Been Did And What's Been Hid
Legend Of A Girl Child LindaSunshine Superman
Celeste Sunshine Superman
Epistle To Dippy Epic Records 5-10127
Wear Your Love Like HeavenA Gift From A Flower To A Garden
Atlantis Barabajagal
Hurdy Gurdy Man The Hurdy Gurdy Man
Clara Clairvoyant Open Road
The Voyage Of The MoonHMS Donovan
I Am The ShamanRitual Groove


Donovan playlist



Contributor: Lakshmi Hutchinson

I vividly remember the first time I heard a Donovan song. It was the early 80s in San Francisco, and my mom was watching If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969) on the TV. In the movie, Donovan performs Lord Of The Reedy River in a youth hostel. Even as a child I felt there was something captivating about his voice and the haunting melody. Little did I know that several decades later I’d have the pleasure of meeting him in NYC at a film screening of another film he starred in, The Pied Piper (1972). Happily, I can report that he was one of the friendliest artists I’ve ever spoken with.

In the intervening years I really delved into his music, which both drew from and influenced so many genres including folk, psych pop, and even glam rock. My favorite years of his output are definitely 1966-1971. I could have easily chosen all ten songs from Sunshine Superman – and each one would absolutely deserve its spot – but I enjoyed revisiting some of the other records and including a wider range of albums. So, after a lot of deliberation and many rewrites, here (in chronological order) are my ten Toppermost Donovan songs.


Catch The Wind, from 1965’s What’s Been Did And What’s Been Hid, was the one that started it all for Donovan. He’s in full troubadour mode complete with cap, guitar, and harmonica. Of course, there’s a Dylan influence in the very early recordings, but it doesn’t last long. For me, Donovan’s poetry and voice really set him apart.


I’ve skipped forward to Sunshine Superman from 1966 for my next two selections. The first of many collaborations with producer Mickie Most, it’s a complete departure from his earlier two folk albums. The music is ornate psych pop, and the vocals now sound uniquely … Donovan. Legend Of A Girl Child Linda is one of many songs inspired by Donovan’s muse and future wife, Linda Lawrence. It’s a nearly seven-minute epic consisting solely of verses – no chorus and no bridge – about fairy children catching a flight on the back of a gull to a jade palace. If you like this vibe, you’ll probably also enjoy The Sky Children by Kaleidoscope (UK).


Not only is Celeste my absolute favorite Donovan song, but it’s in my top five songs by any artist. The pulsing beat drives the song along while a sitar, electric violin, harpsichord, and glockenspiel create a gorgeous baroque backdrop to Donovan’s lyrics.

My songs are merely dreams visiting my mind
We talk a while by a crooked stile,
You’re lucky to catch a few.
There’s no magic wand in a perfumed hand,
It’s a pleasure to be true.
In my crystal halls a feather falls
Being beautiful just for you
But that might not be quite true, that’s up to you.

If you listen to just one song from this list, it should be Celeste.


I finally got to see Donovan in concert in 2005, and my next pick was one of the highlights of the show. Epistle To Dippy was released as a single in the US in1967, and it’s a fast-paced and kind of bonkers song featuring strings and lots of psychedelic imagery: Elevator in the brain hotel / is broken down but just as well. The story goes that he wrote it as a message to his friend to convince him to leave the military. I’m not sure how that message was conveyed with the lyrics, but apparently it worked!

A Gift From A Flower To A Garden was a 1967 double album that included one record for adults and one for children. I love both (they’re really not all that different), but I went with the blissed-out title track Wear Your Love Like Heaven from the first disc. A song about love, peace, and the divine. Donovan often plays with the pronunciations of words, and once you hear him stretch out the syllables of “alizarin crimson” you won’t have it any other way.


Who but Donovan could start a song by giving a gentle lecture about a lost civilization? A lecture that makes you want to keep listening to the whole thing? Hail Atlantis! From the album Barabajagal, this classic builds up to a great crescendo and is probably the only rock song with “antideluvian” in the lyrics.

I’m moving along to 1968 and Hurdy Gurdy Man (the title track from the album) for my next choice. Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham supposedly all play on this track although there are varying accounts. Either way, it’s a rocker. I love the contrast of the gentle, tremolo vocals with the harder rock sound.

My next pick is from the fantastic Open Road album from 1970. This is an album that I had overlooked for a long time, but it has a really wide range of styles and a more raw and immediate sound. Donovan produced the album himself after putting together his own band. Clara Clairvoyant is a funky, funny song that (like a few songs on the album) pokes fun at religion. It sounds like proto-glam with hints of Marc Bolan in the vocals.

1971’s HMS Donovan was the second album of children’s songs that Donovan recorded. About half the album consists of poems or folk songs that he set to original music, and the other half he penned himself. When my twins were newborns, we played a lot of music to help soothe them and nothing worked like Donovan. Needless to say, I got to know this album very well after about 6 months! The Voyage Of The Moon is just a beautiful acoustic lullaby.

The moon is like a boat, my love
Of lemon peel afloat, my love
And with a sail of gauze, my love
She seems to slightly pause
Upon her silent way, all on her silent way

It still makes me tear up when I listen to it now.

Donovan continued to put out albums from the mid 70s to 2000s, but the final track to make my top 10 is from 2021 (although first heard on the 2010 album Ritual Groove). I Am The Shaman is a collaboration between Donovan and his longtime friend and fellow Transcendental Meditation practitioner, David Lynch. I love this song because the verses are done in a typical Donovan folk song style, but then the chorus kicks in and you get the Lynchian, reversed music and vocals. The accompanying video is a little creepy, but in a good way. If you’re a Twin Peaks fan, you might think it was recorded in the Black Lodge.


So there you have it. There were so many more that could have been on the list, like Colours, Sand And Foam, Jennifer Juniper, Season Of The Witch, Poor Cow, Roots Of Oak. But I did my best to find the Toppermost out of an incredible discography.















Donovan official website

Donovan Discography

“The Hurdy Gurdy Man” – Donovan (Autobiography)

Donovan page/photos at Rocks Off (with 800+ cover versions listed)

Donovan biography (AllMusic)

Lakshmi Hutchinson is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. Many years ago she was a college radio DJ, and she once worked at Tower Records in Piccadilly Circus. She loves going to gigs, making playlists, buying too many books, and hanging with her family and tuxedo cat. Follow Lakshmi on Bluesky and Instagram.

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  1. David Lewis
    Nov 18, 2023

    Donovan is a much more significant artist than Mellow Yellow would suggest. This list really does show his versatility and talent. I think my favourite thing about him is that he was, apparently, the one who showed Lennon how to fingerpick, leading to Dear Prudence.
    As a massive Jeff Beck fan I’d have added Barabajagal but I really can’t complain about this list.
    Also, in the tasty covers, I’d have Dr John’s version of Season of the Witch, which I first heard on the Blues Brothers 2000 soundtrack.

  2. Steve Paine
    Nov 22, 2023

    Thank you for covering this unique performer. I was an original fan in the ’60s, and was genuinely pleased to be reintroduced to his repertoire. David Lewis mentioned (above) Dr. John’s version of “Season of the Witch”. Al Kooper, Steven Stills, and Mike Bloomfield did an equally compelling version on the 1968 album “Super Session”.

    • Dave Stephens
      Nov 24, 2023

      … not to mention the more than respectable version from Richard Thompson (but then, has Richard made any bad records?). I have to add that I strongly empathise with Lakshmi regarding Sunshine Superman which is head and shoulders above Don’s other albums. That’s not to dismiss the merit of certain individual tracks and Lakshmi has performed a valuable job in identifying several of those. I would have found space for Writer In The Sun (from the Mellow Yellow album and a take was included in the Live Set) plus Mellow Yellow itself which I find very hard to ignore but, hey, we all have different tastes.

      • Lakshmi Hutchinson
        Jun 6, 2024

        Only just seeing these comments…agree with you that Writer in the Sun really does deserve to be included, it was really a struggle to pick just 10!

  3. Andrew Shields
    Nov 25, 2023

    Thanks for this great list. I might have to have ‘The House of Jansch’ in my Top 10 though – as it is an important tribute to a key early influence.
    Like Dave, I would probably have ‘Mellow Yellow’ in there too and maybe his cover of ‘Universal Soldier’.
    Very few artists captured that 60s optimism better than he did.

    • Lakshmi Hutchinson
      Jun 6, 2024

      Glad you enjoyed it! I feel like he still has that optimism, even today!

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