Musician Donovan Leitch talks legacy of ‘Sunshine Superman’ and importance of Transcendental Meditation

Donovan at FAIRfest

Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts — Sunday, Sep. 4 at 8 p.m.

Photo by MK Feeney
Photo by MK Feeney

In 1966, the U.S. was in turmoil. Race riots rocked the streets. War with Vietnam was escalating — more young men were drafted than during any other year of that war. Demonstrations erupted across the country. Into all of this mayhem and strife, increasingly familiar to us lately, came the record Sunshine Superman. It was no accident.

Donovan believes in the intense power of music to heal a broken world. That’s part of the reason that this year, he’s touring to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Sunshine Superman, and of his first world tour, and of his first number one single, the album’s title track, which, he told Little Village, was “very special for me.”

“What the ’60s did,” he explains, “was open the door wide, really wide, to Bohemian ideas and culture, which the world needs right now.”

He is hoping to fill that need in a variety of ways. In part, he says, “I wanted to come back on the 50th to celebrate, but also to connect my fans.” That connection is at the core of Donovan’s dream for the world. “There is a place inside us that unites us,” he maintains — and music, particularly psychedelic music, which he has been credited with ushering in with Sunshine Superman, is one path towards that unity.

Another? Transcendental Meditation. Donovan was at the forefront of introducing that form of exploration to the U.S. as well, and his current aim is introducing it to schoolchildren. A portion of tour proceeds will go toward the Donovan Children’s Fund, a division of fellow TM practitioner David Lynch’s Foundation, headquartered in Fairfield, Iowa. The fund provides access to TM for at-risk students in underserved U.S. schools.
The singer is passionate about the benefits children gain from practicing TM. He speaks with enthusiasm about the idea that “sleep is not the deepest form of rest.” Children who are introduced to TM find a refuge from the tension and friction of the world. Through TM, he says, they “will feel a great sense of unity with all things, and compassion will arise.” He’s not expecting an immediate panacea, but, he notes, “These tiny beginnings create enormous things.”

Donovan is pleased to be returning to Fairfield with this tour for two shows, as part of the city’s three-day roots music festival Fairfest. He performs twice on Sunday, Sep. 4 — first, at the Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts at 8 p.m., which requires a $24 ticket purchase on top of Fairfest admission, and again at 9:30 p.m. on the outdoor Main Stage, as part of the Fairfest finale. Fairfest passes start at $10 for student day passes on Saturday and Sunday; a student pass for Friday only is $15. Day passes for adults are $30 on Friday, $20 on Saturday and Sunday. Full weekend passes are $25 for students; adults can purchase in advance for $39 or at-the-door for $50. Children 13 and under are admitted to the festival free, and VIP packages are also available.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 204.