The psychedlic folkie Donovan celebrated his recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame yesterday with an intimate concert and Q&A at his friend Deepak Chopra’s hangout space in a Union Square home-furnishings store. Tucked into the mezzanine of ABC Carpet & Home, the Deepak Homebase is a chic New Age lounge used to host events like this chat between the two spacey philosopher kings.
The evening began with a short Donovan set; he played seven songs, solo on acoustic guitar, the best of which was the simple and pretty “Sleep” from 1996’s Rick Rubin-produced Sutras (which, with his accent, I thought he called “Citrus”); he also nailed “Mellow Yellow,” his closer, getting the audience of 100 or so well-off-looking, mostly white people (including John Sebastian!) to clap and sing the chorus so he could whisper the quite rightlies.
Donovan mostly stuck to the hits—he was celebrating his induction, after all, as well as the recent release of The Essential Donovan. He played “Catch the Wind,” “Sunshine Superman,” and “There is a Mountain,” but he had a little trouble singing them. Perhaps he has lost his upper range to age and hasn’t modulated his arrangements, or perhaps he just didn’t really care. Later in the evening, he played a few measures of George Harrison’s “Something”—or, at least, he tried to. “I’m making it up, by the way,” he said. “I don’t know the chords.” Who cares? You know what he means! Plus, he’s Donovan! And he was here less to perform than he was to hang out and celebrate the old days.
He and Deepak shared stories about The Beatles (whom Donovan also impersonated) for most of the evening: how Donovan taught them fingerpicking and descending bass notes, which led to “Dear Prudence,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and “Blackbird”; how he helped Paul by writing a verse for “Yellow Submarine” (the “sky of blue” one, of which Paul said, “that’ll do”); how he watched a policeman park Paul’s car for him after the Beatle had left it half on a sidewalk, with the doors open and the radio blasting; and how he took George to see the Maharishi in Holland in 1989, where the three of them meditated together for 20 minutes.