Donovan revealed he mentored George Harrison after "years in the shadow" of his Beatles bandmates
8 January 2024, 17:06 | Updated: 9 January 2024, 09:54
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It's no secret who The Beatles' primary songwriters were.
Not only that, the pair became the musical voice of a generation, transforming people's opinions of what pop music could achieve in terms of its cultural impact.
So, for George Harrison and his songwriting talents, that meant waiting in the wings for an opportunity to get his songs featured on one of the band's records.
Historically, George's efforts were scarcely included in any of The Beatles' albums, generally only squeezing a couple of his creations on at a time, when Lennon and McCartney's works took priority.
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That's despite penning timeless songs such as 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps', 'If I Needed Someone', 'Here Comes The Sun' and the gorgeous 'Something', all of which have rightly become song of the band's most beloved.
Harrison's work got more of a look in the more fractured The Beatles' creative relationship became over the years, but it still wasn't enough to keep him contented with life as second (well, third) best.
In a new interview, psychedelic folk favourite Donovan revealed that he was in fact George Harrison's songwriting mentor in those early days and encouraged him to pursue his songwriting talents.
The Scottish artist rose to prominence during the 'flower power' period of British pop music in the sixties, and befriended The Beatles who were on top of the world at that time themselves.
Donovan - real name Donovan Phillips Leitch - would hang out with the Fab Four frequently, and would teach George "a few tricks" to inspire his own songwriting path and "years in the shadow" of Lennon and McCartney.
Talking to Record Collector recently, Donovan revealed: "I became George's mentor for songwriting."
"He was in the shadow of John and Paul for so many years and I said, 'Look, I'll show you a few tricks, how to encourage the songs.'"
"There's a way to encourage the song to come. You can tease it, like fishing. I told him how to play a chord then put your ear on the guitar, listen to the open chord and try a tempo."
"You can hear melodies, believe it or not. Melodies appear, but you've got to be quick to catch them."
The 'Hurdy Gurdy Man' folk star's connection with The Beatles went beyond influencing George's own creativity.
He recalled the trappings of fame that both he and the Fab Four experienced during the height of their popularity, saying that performing live was "dangerous" due to the scant security between them and their rabid fans.
"Running down the street like The Beatles in A Hard Day's Night was part of it, too. And there was nil security, even for The Beatles. It was horrible," Donovan admitted.
"During the big shows in America, the DJs would come on halfway through - in puce lemon green and bright red costumes - and ask if people were enjoying themselves."
"Then as soon as the last song was over, they'd turn the lights on, say goodnight, and get in their cars. And what would happen? The whole audience would swarm towards the stage. That became a big problem."
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"So, did I enjoy fame? It was dangerous at times, but at least I was solo. It was harder for four or five guys to get into a van than it was for me," he added.
"But the whole point was that it was working: the music was getting out there. And nobody could say a blind bit against us, because it was successful."
"So, whatever we wanted to do was OK. As long as there was a hit single sneaking around, then the game was on."
With his own classic songs like 'Catch The Wind', 'Mellow Yellow', 'Sunshine Superman' and 'Season Of The Witch', Donovan had plenty of hit singles sneaking around.