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The Autobiography of Donovan: The Hurdy Gurdy Man Hardcover – November 29, 2005

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Hardcover, November 29, 2005
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (November 29, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312352522
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312352523
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #626,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A folk rocker and early prince of flower power, Donovan (b. 1946) shares wistful memories of his youth growing up in bombed-out Glasgow, Scotland; rambling adolescence in England; and precipitous stardom at age 18. Early on, Donovan (who's known by his first name) contracted polio, leaving him lame. An art student, Donovan left home by 16 to wander with his lifelong friend Gypsy Dave and taught himself how to play guitar by mimicking the folk styles of the Carter Family, Doc Watson, Woody Guthrie and Ramblin' Jack Elliott, among others he credits. After appearances on the British TV show Ready Steady Go! in 1965, he landed a record contract, and Catch the Wind (with its Bob Dylanesque sound) rode the crest of the British Invasion. Fusing folk with jazz and metal, Donovan forged "Celtic rock," and in his recording sessions, engineered brilliantly by Mickie Most, he worked with all the happening musicians and even collaborated with the Beatles. Donovan toots his own horn, amiably. As he achieves in his music, Donovan writes his bohemian manifesto personably and earnestly, stopping short around 1970, when he reunited with muse Linda Lawrence and dropped out. Color photos not seen by PW. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The quintessential flower-child musician begins his memoirs in the Scots of Glasgow, where he was born in 1946. Moving with his family to England, he changed his accent to conform to new surroundings. He heard Bill Haley and the Comets while still in Scotland, bought Buddy Holly records in England, and as a teenager turned to Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, and Woody Guthrie. At 16, he left home, hitchhiking to Cornwall to lead an itinerant life. Eventually settling in London, he made his first records, prided himself on being the Scottish Woody Guthrie, and enjoyed his first real success with the hit "Catch the Wind" and his first American tour. Anecdotal and name-dropping, he also discusses the British rock invasion of America, folk-rock, his first LSD trip, his drug bust in London, and a visit from a Paul McCartney armed with tunes that would eventually be "Eleanor Rigby" and "Yellow Submarine." In the late sixties, tired of it all, he walked away from the music business. A warm, gentle recollection of a turbulent time. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

I would advise that you read this book for yourself and draw your own conclusions.
Buz McGuire
Donovan Leitch is the "nominal author" of this "autobiography", but I am dead certain he didn't actually write it himself.
Simon Cutler
If you are interested in a very sincere, uplifting look at the life of Donovan than you will certainly enjoy this book.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Boz Hubris on December 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I love Donovan and his music and this book as well for the most part, but I find myself a little less enamored with all the self-aggrandizing which permeates much of the book. Interspersed with the gently flowing prose and poetry of his writing and the wonderful anecdotes are pegs of a ladder in which he continuously climbs up high and shouts out his own accolades (he was the first person to feature electric violin, he started 'world music', he influenced Warhol's banana art on the Velvet Underground album via 'Mellow Yellow', he taught Lennon his plucking style, he, he, he.). Which I suppose is the purpose of an autobiography but coming from such a 'mystical soul' I find it a bit perplexing and contradictory and disappointing(This coming from a grown man who opened a Christmas present [which is the book being reviewed] two weeks early.). That said, it doesn't take away anything from what he accomplished or the book itself, it merely shows him being human like the rest of us. It is a quick breezy read that gives much more than it takes and never bogs down in muddy or unnecessary detail.

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Clyde Bouley on May 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase did me a real favor with the better together offer. I had bought the Donovan Box Set "Try For the Sun" and the Autobiography "The Hurdy Gurdy Man". The combination was fantastic and worth every penny. But let's talk about the book. I have never have been much of a reader but I did find this book rather interesting. So much so I did finish it which is a lot for me. The stuff this guy did was the dreams of what kids at that time frame dreamt of, at least for me. Though this book only covers about 5 years of his life, it must have been the best five years for him. It starts with him leaving home, after a short intro of his family, walks through his journeys, his life on the road, places, events, the writing of some of the songs and what they meant lyrically, the influences from people places and events, the people, how fellow musicians reacted to him, how fans reacted to him, how producers treated him, and the problems with record companies. The hardest part for him must have been the writing of his love life. He did an eloquent job with the writing. Reading this book certainly gave me a deeper understanding of his songs. I would highly recommend this book especially if you buy the box set or if you plan on buying all of his albums. Buy the way Donovan was not a Bob Dylan wanna-be, he was an Irish, English, psychedelic, pop, blues, Jazz, folk, rock singer/song writer. Read the book you'll understand this remark. There was not a single song he did that made me think of Dylan. To me the difference between Donovan and Dylan is like night and day. Don't miss understand me I like Dylan, but in his own right.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Buz McGuire on December 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I would advise that you read this book for yourself and draw your own conclusions. I've been a Donovan fan for the past 37 years, and , what he says in this book is true. When you listen to his entire catalog of material and you consider when he began and how revolutionary his music was for the times, you begin to really appreciate his part in rock history. He was the first major Western rock artist to meld instruments and styles from around the world. What he brings to rock music musically is as important as what Dylan brought to it lyrically. Each album is different, and the non-hits are often of a higher quality than the hits. And, while it is true that the book is filled with his accomplishments and his associations with the icons of the 60's music scene, it's all true. And, as an earlier reviewer points out, isn't that the point of an auto-biography?

Give the book a try, and, while your at it, give his music a try. If you get Donovan, then you really get him, and there's no one else quite like him. If you don't get him, it's your loss.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By M. Ritchie on August 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
I've been a fan of Donovan for years, and it pains me to say that his autobiography is a massive disappointment. First, it is badly written; I respect the fact that he apparently decided against a ghostwriter, but this book shows why there is a place for ghostwriters in the literary world. The prose is awkward, the chronology is occasionally jumbled, and he comes as rather pretentious--while he did influence pop music, and also reflected the influence of others, he seems to think that he is the reason for the popularity of folk-rock, Celtic rock, psychedelic rock, and heavy metal; he inspired Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, the Beatles (individually and collectively), the Rolling Stones, and T. Rex, among others; and he thinks he is responsible for the founding of Led Zeppelin (as all the members but Robert Plant played on the "Hurdy Gurdy Man" sessions). He is honest about his drug use, and I respect him for not trying to excuse it away or claim it meant nothing to him, and there is something touching about his story of finally finding the love of his life, Linda, after several years of missed connections. But to make sense of his career and his influence, I will have to wait for someone a bit more objective (and someone who is a more straightforward writer) to issue the definitive book.

Lastly, the book was terribly edited and proofread. There are glaring mistakes of every kind on every page. The names of people such as Allen Klein, Phil Spector, and Steve Winwood, all of whom come up more than once, are misspelled consistently. Sentences are missing the words that would make them grammatical, or even make them make sense.
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