The Donovan Interview

In June of '97 I had an opportunity to meet up with the entrancing Hurdy-Gurdy man at a Mind Body Spirit Expo held in London. Donovan played a short set to an appreciative audience. and afterwards he was very gracious to do a short and spontaneous video interview. Here is the audio transcript.- Lawrence Gerald


Donovan- Let's see.....I was in San Francisco in '95.

Q- Sutras hadn't come out at that time.

D-: No, it only came out last year.('96)

Q: The songs you played from it were well received at the San Francisco show of October 96.

A: Well, I enjoyed my stay there. I have been there twice the last couple of years. One would imagine it would be received well in, the city of Saint Francis.. and it was. So what's new?

Q: One of the things that's going on in San Francisco, as well as New York and Amsterdam, it's happening on June 15th,('97) I don't know if you've heard about it, there's going to be the first Global Drug Peace rally and the idea is to return civil liberties to people so that people don't have to have their lives and families destroyed by the drug war; the long incarcerations due to drug possession. And so there's going to be an open rally, with even the district attorney(Terrence Hallinan) of San Francisco speaking out against the drug war.

D: Really.

Q: And I recall your concert at the Fillmore in San Francisco you had talked about, your own bust and how back in the '60's you had warned George Harrison about his impending bust.......

Among the '68 India gang (l-r): Cynthia Lennon, Jane Asher, Paul McCartney, Donovan, Mia Farrow, George Harrison, Maharishi, Mike Love, John Lennon and Patti Harrison.
Photo by Rex Features

D: Well . . . more or less, the use of mind-altering plants were something new on the planet. Some are legalized and some are not, and it certainly needs to be re-addressed and reassessed and looked at. I can understand the powers-that-be, the legal substances are well established and, and it creates an enormous amount of jobs. So when you're looking to actually legalize everything.......--

Q: Right.

D It keeps everybody working.

Q: Right.

D: But when you don't legalize some of the others, it makes a . criminal of one. . and it makes a law abiding citizen of another, and yet the scale of effects, which we all know, tobacco and alcohol need a lot more understanding of what damage they're doing and so, therefore, . . . it's unbalanced, an unbalanced view of all the mind-altering plants, including sugar and coffee and tea and alcohol--

Q: You got it--

D- --and tobacco and all the legalized things.

Q: Well, it seems like more information is being shared about the illicit substances ,and about the legal things now, as we are learn more about what all these substances can do.

D:- Yes-- Well, you know the story- of hemp......-

It used to be the law that you had to grow hemp.

Q: That's right, the king's hemp.

D- A hundred years ago you had to grow it because it was an economic cash crop to balance the trade.

Q: Exactly.

D-:. I think Arizona passed a law-, didn't they?-

Q: Right, Arizona and California( Proposition 215)

D-: And then it was repealed.(Arizona) And so the discussion is on.

Q: So you have been following the news.

D- I think the issue is in the hands of the individual as well as the people who want to be healthy, But what about the inner city?

Bad news. .... what about the eighteen-year old heroin addicts in Glasgow(Scotland)? Nobody mentions it. The dichotomy of it is extreme. But meditation is a way to really bliss out. This is going to be, I think, one of the mind altering forms . The future is going to be the forms of ancient yoga being utilized and being taught through Internet yogis. And I think that that's the future, the futuristic altering state of mind. Not physically but spiritually.

Q: Do you practice Vipassana meditation?

D- I practice any basic meditation.

From Maharishi on through Buddhist breathing. As the American Indian . medicine man said to the young Indian students, look at the Indian shield and to describe what it looks like from your angle. And each of the Indian children described a different part of the shield and he said, "That's strange. You all described a different shield. But it's the same shield." And so meditation actually comes in many forms but it leads to the same place. So whatever form you practice is fine. It's only the kind of meditation that suits you, is the one to choose. Free, you're free to choose any way in. as a zen scientist regarding truth,

Q: One other question, Do you have any thoughts about Bob Dylan? He just ended up in the hospital for some heart related problem.

D Oh, poor Bob. if he's unwell,....... it doesn't feel serious and I do believe it is being treated right now. We get warnings.

Q: So hopefully his is just a warning.

D- We get warnings to look after ourselves more and perhaps he's been pushing himself too hard. I mean, he's worked six months a year playing live.

Q: When was the last time you saw him?

D- I saw him in a festival in California three or four years ago. But he came and went, which was very fast. Whoosh. I didn't have a chance to speak to him.

Q: So this is probably nature's way of telling him to meditate.

D-: To relax a bit, to look after oneself. I do believe he's getting healthier and we all are, we're all giving up all the bad things for us, and we're trying to get healthy. And that's the future, to be healthy.

Q: Well, you look great--

D- Along the way the guarantee runs out, you know, the body doesn't last forever.

Q: Well, Donovan, thank you very much. We love your album Sutras.

D- . Thank you, and-Hello to -everyone back in San Francisco and the world.

******************************* - Sir Francis Bacon's New Advancement of Learning