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Donovan Says There Is Indeed A Mountain

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 12, 2005 4:00PM

Call it a case of Joni Mitchell’s Disease.

Imagine you’re a folkie singer-songwriter from the 60s. In your genre, Bob Dylan is the standard-bearer and is the first name spoken when discussing those who’ve left their mark on it. But you’ve made great contributions too and can hear the influence of your work even today. After 30 years of waiting to be recognized and lauded for your contributions, what do you do? You do it yourself.

2005_12_12_donovan.jpgSuch is the case in Greg Kot’s interview with Donovan in the Tribune last Friday. Donovan proclaims himself to be “more creative and influential” than Dylan and a progenitor of every musical style that involves a tabla or sitar.

How much of Donovan’s influence can be heard today? Chicagoist will go out on a limb and say that without the Hurdy Gurdy Man there would be no Dandy Warhols, no Nick Drake, and no Ani DiFranco. Dylan had the lyrics but the best of Donovan’s work hints at something dark or trippy going on deep beneath the surface (sort of like his website with all the Stonehenge music and breathy voices).

Mitchell’s gambit paid off with a critical re-examination of her work that counteracted early industry sexism. Whether Donovan’s legacy-building has similar results remains to be seen. At the very least, it will move a few more copies of his autobiography and boxed set.

Donovan plays the Park West tomorrow at 7:30 as part of WXRT’s Holiday Concert for the Kids. Tickets are $40 and attendees should bring a new toy or book for the kids at Children’s Memorial Hospital. If that’s a bit too rich for your bohemian lifestyle, show up at the Border’s on State St. for a reading and book signing tomorrow at 12:30.