Eight Cool Things About The Mellow Yellow Singer Donovan

At a child’s birthday party last weekend, a relative described a freshly opened garment as mellow yellow. The remark reminded me of the singer Donovan Leitch, who scored a huge hit with a song with that rhyming two word title.

That name evoked recollections of the years I spent listening to all of Donovan’s stuff, ranging from his folk-rock onset to his psychedelic late Sixties material to his more down to earth recordings of the following decade. Nearly as interesting as his great music, however, is the list of details about his relationships with other musicians and his family

Here are eight cool things about the artist who gave us the “Sunshine Superman” and the “Hurdy Gurdy Man.”

1. He sang on the long refrain in the last half of “Hey Jude” by The Beatles, which in 1968 was a number one hit for the band. Paul McCartney returned the favor by providing the classic background vocal on Donovan’s smash single “Mellow Yellow”, allegedly whispering the phrase “quite rightly” between the repetitions of the two rhyming title words.

2. In the early Seventies Donovan provided the backing vocal on the title track of Billion Dollar Baby by Alice Cooper, repeating the refrain beginning “We go dancing nightly in the attic while the moon is rising in the sky.” When the refrain reappears toward the end of the song, Donovan sings the lead while Alice Cooper provides the backing vocal.

3. He appeared in the 1967 Bob Dylan film Don’t Look Back, performing the tune “To Sing For You” before Dylan himself plays “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” from the Bringing It All Back Home album.

4. Future Led Zeppelin members John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page played on all of the Donovan albums produced by Mickie Most, classic LPS such as Sunshine Superman, Mellow Yellow and Hurdy Gurdy Man.

5. Donovan wrote a satirical version of his Top Ten single “Atlantis” to use on the animated sitcom Futurama in an episode titled “The Deep South.” Instead of the mythical town described in the original hit of the late Sixties, however, the parody mentions the Lost City of Atlanta.

6. His son of the same name and daughter Ione Skye Leitch are both well-known Hollywood stars. Leitch, Jr. gained his first fame as a lead role in the 1989 movie The In Crowd, and Skye scored her first big part in the classic film Say Anything with John Cusack.

7. He is the stepfather of the Julian Jones Leitch, the son of Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones. Donovan began a romantic relationship with the former girlfriend of Jones, Linda Lawrence, whom he later married in 1970.

8. For the album Wear Your Love Like Heaven, the folk-rock artist composed psychedelic music to the William Shakespeare poem “Under the Greenwood Tree.”