Introduced and narrated by Donovan himself this is the story of a man who has lived several incredible lives. His spiritual journey will no doubt take him on many more. This two disc DVD set, Sunshine Superman, The Story Of Donovan, has been released by SPV. Directed by Hannes Rossacher, it sets a standard for such releases that will prove hard to better.
This three hour auto-biographical documentary opens with the bleak, greyness of a Scotland just after the Second World War where many children, Donovan Leitch included, contracted polio from playing on the bomb sites. It follows in great detail his journey to St. Ives, the epicentre of the British beat movement, and from there to becoming the pied piper of a generation.
Donovan Leitch is a poet. That isn’t my statement, it came from John Lennon. John of course spent several weeks with him in seclusion in India learning from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It was a time that has influenced everything Donovan has done subsequently. His spirituality radiates from every frame of this inspirational film.
He takes us back through the books that provided his inspiration and made him realize that there could be a world beyond the greyness, the grime, and the gloom of post war Britain. He followed his heart and gave life to the gypsy in his Celtic blood. Always a traveller, the film takes us to just about every continent in the world. It is a story that is well told and most of all well lived.
His songs, of course, tell the story but are enriched by the words Donovan adds from his lovely house in Ireland. How he found a post war generation hungry for freedom, ready to fight a cause, ready to change the world. How he set about doing precisely that and how his journey took him alongside the great and the good of that generation.
Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, The Stones, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, Gram Parsons, The Doors, David Crosby, Graham Nash, and three quarters of Led Zeppelin all rubbed shoulders with Donovan. He tells with disarming honesty and modesty how seeing The Beatles changed his life. He would, of course, get to know them closely, embarking on a spiritual adventure with them.
The film is beautifully constructed and presented. This man has crammed a thousand lives into one journey and the film never loses sight of that acknowledgment. Seeing him at his spiritual home of Vesuvio’s in San Francisco, re-buying the books, that inspired a whole generation, is worth the purchase price alone. It is a theme dear to the heart of the man and one he returned to for his exceptional 2004 album Beat Café.