David Lynch Directs a New Music Video for Donovan

I often feel Scot­tish singer-song­writer Dono­van has been mis­un­der­stood. When he shows up these days, it’s in songs like his creepy “Hur­dy Gur­dy Man” and “Sea­son of the Witch,” in films and TV series about ser­i­al killers. This may leave younger view­ers with the impres­sion that the psy­che­del­ic folk hero went down some scary musi­cal paths. But those who remem­ber Dono­van in his hey­day remem­ber him as the singer of “Sun­shine Super­man,” his biggest hit, and “Mel­low Yel­low,” which hit Num­ber 2 in the U.S. in 1966. The fol­low­ing year, he urged his lis­ten­ers to wear their love like heav­en, in vers­es that rivaled Syd Barrett’s for their love of col­or: “Col­or in sky, Pruss­ian blue / Scar­let fleece changes hue.”

Maybe it’s hard to enter­tain the sen­ti­ments of flower pow­er in 2021. But maybe, also, Donovan’s sun­ni­est songs have always had dark­er threads woven through them. Take “Sun­shine Super­man”: kind of a creepy tune, with its Lou Reed-like obser­va­tion about “hus­tlin’ just to have a lit­tle scene,” and its hip­pie lothar­i­o’s con­fes­sion that he’ll use “any trick in the book” on the object of his desire. Maybe it was ear­ly fans who got him wrong. Dono­van has always been a weirdo’s weirdo, if you will. And so, it stands to rea­son that he would pick David Lynch to pro­duce his track, “I Am the Shaman,” and to direct a video for the song for his 75th birth­day this past Mon­day.

The song itself is not new, but was pro­duced by Lynch in 2010 for the album, Rit­u­al Groove, a col­lec­tion of record­ings, “some dat­ing as far back as 1976,” writes one review­er, held togeth­er by the “premise… that the plan­et is stuffed, the God­dess won’t care if we drift off into obliv­ion but wait, a sav­iour appears in the form of the pre­vi­ous­ly hum­ble min­strel Dono­van, now a true poet.” (If fans of the cult psy­che­del­ic hor­ror film Mandy are remind­ed of Jere­mi­ah Sand, then we are in grim ter­ri­to­ry, indeed.) The col­lab­o­ra­tion gets even more inter­est­ing when we learn that “I Am the Shaman” was large­ly impro­vised, as Dono­van him­self wrote on Face­book:

He had asked me to only bring in a song just emerg­ing, not any­where near fin­ished. We would see what hap­pens. It hap­pened! I com­posed extem­pore… the vers­es came nat­u­ral­ly. New chord pat­terns effort­less­ly appeared.

This way of work­ing suit­ed him per­fect­ly, as did the back­wards-talk­ing pro­duc­tion Lynch applied to the track. “David and I are ‘com­padres’ on a cre­ative path rarely trav­eled,” he not­ed. It is a path that leads straight through the wilds of Tran­scen­den­tal Med­i­ta­tion, for which the video is intend­ed to raise mon­ey and aware­ness. Despite its lack of col­or, anoth­er affin­i­ty shared by Dono­van Leitch and David Lynch, “I Am the Shaman” shows both artists vibrat­ing at the same fre­quen­cy, which may either con­firm or unset­tle what you thought you knew about the mys­ti­cal poet/singer/shaman Dono­van.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

David Lynch Posts His Night­mar­ish Sit­com Rab­bits Online–the Show That Psy­chol­o­gists Use to Induce a Sense of Exis­ten­tial Cri­sis in Research Sub­jects

David Lynch Being a Mad­man for a Relent­less 8 Min­utes and 30 Sec­onds

Meet the Hur­dy Gur­dy, the Hand-Cranked Medieval Instru­ment with 80 Mov­ing Parts

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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