Friday, September 5, 2008

Sunshine Superman

Sunshine Superman-The Journey of Donovan (Released 10/7/08)

I have certainly watched a lot of movies about musicians. It is one of the hazards of the job. I can’t tell you how many films I have seen with a thin career stretched out over two hours with the most embarrassing assortment of blather, and modern concerts by artists who once were great, but are now unable or unwilling to pay for the rights to their own legacy. For instance, the new documentary on John Kay and Steppenwolf presents some interesting information on John Kay’s life and times, but illustrates it with almost no footage of vintage Steppenwolf. No matter how well intentioned, I am not thrilled to see the classic stuff played by whatever modern band he is now flogging. Not the case with Sunshine Superman. This incredibly loving and thorough portrayal of Donovan Leitch spares no expense, actually licensing clips of The Beatles or Bob Dylan, if that is what is called for. In addition, the two-disc set gathers together many, many great clips of Donovan from every stage of his career: TV appearances, promotional films (the entire “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” film), private reels, and it is all woven together by a startlingly honest and coherent narrative by Donovan himself.

Amazingly, Donovan still looks and sounds great. He is thoughtful and sweet and has all his marbles. His recollections of his early years are some of the most clear-eyed and poignant I’ve heard from a rock star. And he certainly was a rock star. In case you’ve forgotten, this film will remind you what an immense and influential star Donovan was in the 60’s. There is an argument to be made that his early career was very similar to Dylan’s in a favorable way, and much is made of this idea in the film. Donovan suffered from the comparisons at that time, but reflecting on it now, it is not such a stretch.

Perhaps the most affecting aspect of the film is Donovan’s very real quest for and ultimate attainment of spiritual enlightenment, which sets him apart from most of his peers. What we find in the modern Donovan is a man at peace with his past, present and future. We see him meditating in a pastoral setting outside his quaint Irish manor with his wife of many years, celebrating with his recently reunited traveling companion from the 60’s Gypsy Davey in Greece, and at the very end he participates in all-star jam on “Season of The Witch” with all kinds of cool people playing with him. Garth Hudson does an otherworldly organ solo. Throughout I was just mesmerized by the sincerity of this gentle soul and his historic journey through pop music.

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