Rhinofy-Sunshine Superman

This was the one that broke him in the U.S.A.

Donovan’s gotten a bad rap, ever since that Bob Dylan movie, where the bard from Hibbing cuts him down.

At this late date we can see Mr. Leitch was no match for Zimmy. But that does not mean he was not great in his own right. In 1965 Dylan made it to number two with his iconic “Like A Rolling Stone,” but “Sunshine Superman” topped the chart a year later. That’s right, in the summer of ’66, when the tide turned and the youth took over the nation, even though we didn’t realize it until two, maybe three years later, after the Summer of Love, after Woodstock.

Now Donovan was not completely unknown, everybody paying attention, the old folkies, not the AM denizens, was aware of “Catch The Wind.” Some knew “The Universal Soldier,” but now Donovan had switched labels, to the CBS powerhouse Epic, and he changed his sound, went electric, and got the big push.

And sure, the lyrics of “Sunshine Superman” were important. But really it’s the sound of this record. To hear this coming out of the speaker, and at this point there was usually only one, in the dashboard, in the transistor, at home, was to be transported, set free, feel good. Today’s music is too often exclusive, it’s people singing about how much better their lives are than yours. But “Sunshine Superman” drew you in, addicted you to the radio, made you want to buy the record, made you want to go to England. Today everybody wants to stay home, watch television, there’s a fiction that it’s the same everywhere, but the truth is foreign countries are still that, foreign, i.e. different, and what was happening in the U.K. in the midsixties was far more exciting than what was happening in the U.S., at least musically, they were breaking down boundaries, they were testing limits.

There was that bass intro.

And then the harpsichord.

And then that screeching GUITAR!

A magic elixir that immediately enraptured you. A one hit listen. That needed no time to build, that grabbed your mind and your body and took you away.

Sunshine came softly through my a-window today
Could’ve tripped out easy a-but I’ve changed my ways


Today if you’re not on the road to victory, you’re not even playing. That’s right, everybody’s a winner, being a person is not enough. In this land of income inequality the rich are pulling away and either you chase them or are forgotten. Hard to imagine there was a whole decade based on setting your mind free, bonding with your brother, becoming your best self. And to many the road was paved with drugs. Which we all heard about, but refrained from, for fear of becoming addicted, until…everybody was doing them and we did too. Our parents may not have known what taking a trip meant, but we certainly did!

It’ll take time, I know it, but in a while


That’s another thing that’s out the window. Everything worth having doesn’t come easy. You’ve got to plot, you’ve got to wait. But that does not mean you cannot believe.

You’re gonna be mine, I know it, we’ll do it in style

Style… It’s so important today, how you look. But that’s not what Donovan’s singing about, he’s talking about attitude, something inside, you can be a king if only you decide and stop trying to convince everybody else.

‘Cause I made my mind up, you’re going to be mine

The key line, the most famous, he was emphatic, he was sure, he was empowered and so were WE! Back then you held back, you didn’t want to appear aggressive, have desires that were too big, but when it comes to love we’re all looking for confidence and security, and listening to “Sunshine Superman” we got it. COME ON, if you’re a guy from the era and you didn’t use this line to get up your gumption…you never played.

And there’s a whole story, standing on the beach at sunset, we did not know that this song was about a real person, Linda Lawrence, who Donovan eventually wed, years later, this was before the internet when we knew everything about everybody, we thought Donovan was singing METAPHORICALLY!

Now the weird thing about “Sunshine Superman” is it’s a period piece, a curio from the sixties. But at this distance, it doesn’t sound dated, but otherworldly. Play it for a young ‘un and they’ll say they’ve never heard anything like it, unless they’ve heard it already!

So it’s the summer of ’66. The radio is populated by the legendary Lovin’ Spoonful cut about the season in the city. The Troggs had their legendary hit. The Stones and the Beatles were prevalent, with “Mother’s Little Helper” and “Paperback Writer” respectively. Paul Simon had a huge hit with Garfunkel, the downcast “I Am A Rock,” but the Cyrkle also had a hit with an upbeat cover of his and Bruce Woodley’s “Red Rubber Ball.” And in the mix, was this chart-topper, “Sunshine Superman.”

Maybe it was the Zeppelin element. That’s right, both Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones are on “Sunshine Superman.”

Maybe it was Mickie Most, who was now working with Mr. Leitch.

Whatever it was, “Sunshine Superman” is lightning in a bottle. Hearing it back then made you feel powerful, that you were living in a world of possibilities, where there was plentiful opportunity provided by like-minded people.

It still does.

Rhinofy-Sunshine Superman

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