Forty-one years ago we sat in a Miami University dorm room, where Emerson played and first sang a song for me called “Catch the Wind” by Donovan. Where were you?
It’s fascinating to look back at significant events and influences in our lives—those that made a difference. Though there are many, it’s possible to whittle that list down to just a few that really changed our lives. Donovan’s presence was one of those few. Even before we met, Emerson felt a shift when he was only 14 years old, as Donovan splashed onto the music scene. Inspired, Em began searching for his own solitary sound, as he picked his old acoustic guitar. With each pluck of the strings and ringing of favorite chords, he moved a little closer to finding something of comfort, something of expression, something of himself. From those early times until now, musically and philosophically he has been forever changed.
This past Tuesday, we packed our rucksacks and headed for Dublin, Ireland. Feeling a bit like wanderers or beatniks of the new millennium, we made a pilgrimage to see Donovan Leitch at the Olympia—a funky old theater on Dame Street in the heart of the city. Four decades ago Donovan appeared at Clowe’s Hall in Indianapolis where he sat cross-legged on the floor, creating a magic spell that was irresistibly unique. Now, after all that time, as I searched for inspirational experiences, I spied the notice of Donovan’s upcoming performance. To work his magic once again, Donovan had selected special eclectic venues—the Olympia in Dublin certainly qualifies. Within minutes, tickets were ordered online and we began making detailed plans.
Although Donovan is now 65 years old, he still creates mysterious, spellbinding performances. He sounds much younger than his years, with that strong, clear voice that has been his recognizable trademark sound since he was in his 20’s. The Olympia was packed to the rafters. With each memorable song, he took us down the path of his musical journey. He introduced a couple of new songs from his latest creation called “Ritual Groove—a soundtrack written prior to the movie!” In the CD, he invites amateur movie-makers from around the world to submit artistic creations in response to his call. It’s a bold project to be sure.
Why now? Why doesn’t he just settle back and relax into his autumn years to enjoy his grandchildren or personally reflect on his incredible journey of a lifetime? For him the answer is simple. His idealism and lifelong belief in peace (that grew from his bohemian roots in the 1960s) is as needed and appropriate today as it ever was before. It’s not that he really holds any particular magic more than anyone else. After all, Donovan is just a regular bloke (nod to his homeland in the British Isles) like each of us, trying to make a difference. Still, both his sincerity and energy are contagious, reminding us of the magical possibilities that are within us all.
The aging troubadour of peace and love walked onto the stage on a Wednesday evening, in the gritty working class town of Dublin. The old Victorian Olympia Theater came to life again as Donovan plucked the guitar strings and sang his poetry. We were all transported simultaneously back in time and also into a hopeful future. It was nothing less than magical.