on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2021 24 Sep

The Hurdy Gurdy Man

von: Michael Engelbrecht Filed under: Blog | TB | 4 Comments

My first Donovan memory is equally down to earth and unreal and leads me back to the old schoolyard at the „Gebrüder Grimm Volksschule“ (no kidding) in the southwest of Dortmund. I got the ball from the left side, and a quick sharp shot let me score a nice, quite cool goal, Reinhold Wosab-style. Afterwards we were sitting on a bench near an old church, my blood brother Mathias turned on his transistor radio… and there it was, Donovan‘s long, long song „Atlantis“. I really don‘t know how these two memories can sit so close to one another, and I doubt it all happened on that same afternoon, but it is true anyways.

In the times thereafter (no other magic involved than young lads with a football and listening to music that kept more promises of worlds to come than the priest‘s sermon in Sunday‘s church) I was always wondering how much I loved the opening spoken word passage of the track, even more so than the melodic counterpoint with its invocation („wayyyy downnnnn…“) of a distant sunken planet. The whipper-snapper greenhorn critic in early action, and for sure, Donovan Leitch kept his place in my heart in the years (and decades) to come.



Some said he was just a kind of  Dylan for the poor, or just a soft hippie with a guitar, but they could say what they fucking wanted, I loved that guy, being a soft young hippie without a guitar myself. His hits and some of his early albums from the 70‘s kept company, and in recent years, the wonderfully remastered „Wear Your Love Like Heaven“ is a regular guest on my turntable. The songs there are all so beautiful and always too short, but that‘s probably part of the trick of their never ending attraction.

In my early years as a music journalist, I was often sitting in Thomas Köner‘s home studio in Dortmund, and was a bit surprised when the „drone master“  one day put on „Sutras“ with a big smile on his face, a Donovan album from the 90‘s, produced by Rick Rubin. Thomas was impressed by the beautiful recording of the voice – and the heartfelt elementary impact of the music. There he was again, my hero from schoolyard days. And, no wonder, I‘m now, after all these years, in my recluse in the Black Forest,  slowly rushing through the pages of his wonderfully written autobiography. Makes me revisit so many places of my life, catching voices, vistas, faces, kisses, sounds, feelings, and, well,  the wind. The book just had to find me. Awesome.

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  1. Michael Engelbrecht:


    13. April 2018

    On an island like Amrum, in a remote forest area (you can always find quiet places in the biggest holiday resorts), it’s easy to complete your desert island collection. Some time ago, I found a Speakers Corner reissue of an album from the summer of love, and, to my own surprise, though not containing any of his great hits, it immediately turned to my favourite Donovan album.

    And I really own some of his lovingly eccentric deliveries of hope, peace and shangrilas. Helas! When the album came out, our folkie from the Scottish hinterland stopped drugs and turned to meditation. Someone who got similarly impressed by this album, „could almost smell the patchouli incense wafting from his flower-draped recording studio.“ He had a real band playing behind him, harpsicord, B3 organ, bongos, acoustic guitar, flutes – and strings carefully dosed.

    What really catches me, draws me in everytime, above everything else, is the nonchalance of his singing style, all heartfelt, smiling, with an unashamed sense of optimism. Fucking genius. He‘s „there“, in the moment, no cliche, and the songs are so painfully short, I always feel a shade of sadness when the fade-out is mercilessly ending an atmosphere. I would like so much immersing myself into endless jams of every single song and their stunning variety of moods of naivety, innocence and yearning.

    But, this way, they never wear out their beauty and make you think: in a life where we will all turn to dust and ashes in the end, leaving the ones we love shattered in tears and pain: love is the first, and shortness the second essence of life.

  2. Norbert Ennen:

    In 2002 he briefly lost his way and recorded his most popular song „Atlantis“ again with the then popular „No Angels“.

  3. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Ha! I think i lost my way a bit more often😅

  4. Martina Weber:

    What a coincidence! I also attended a primary school named after – it was several time later, so they let it sound a slightly bit more modern: „Brüder Grimm“.

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