Clap Your Hands Say No Rain: Folk-Rock's R. Kelly
Donovan opens his autobiography in Scottish dialect, as he and a pal wage a tin-can grenade war against the Anderson Gang in 1954. The trippy Glaswegian folk-rock icon evokes Portrait of the Artist's language games and adolescent playgrounds before switching gears and delivering a "Bohemian Manifesto," unmasking the "Mellow Yellow" crooner as the R. Kelly of '60s psychedelia. Leitch didn't shoot scandalous videos with underage fans, but he digs forced couplets, peppers reveries with phrases like "a lover's bleat," and claims that in '66 he was "both sensual and spiritual." His belief that he stopped the rain by having "eighteen thousand souls" in L.A. clap their hands reveals a man capable of releasing a tie-dyed "Trapped in the Closet."
It's fun to watch Leitch polish his legacy: He takes credit for world music, folk-metal fusion, "All You Need Is Love" 's refrain, Warhol's VU banana, pre-Dylan electro-folk, and New Age. Things get super-speculative when he ponders if Page, Jones, and Bonham's contributions to "The Hurdy Gurdy Man" led to Zeppelin. Such pomp doesn't jibe with travels to the maharishi for hardcore meditation alongside the Beatles, but whenever the solipsism starts to drag, he does something entertaining, like labeling Dylan "the Hebrew shaman with the Celtic name." Less cartoonishly, he admires his boon Beat companion Gypsy Dave ("[we] stirred the cauldron of Bohemian power") and discusses his polio- laden working-class upbringing.
The book is ultimately a love story. He pined for Brian Jones's ex Linda Lawrence; she took time committing to Leitch, but they tied the knot in 1970, and he adopted the child she'd had with the Stones' visionary founder. (Despite that happy ending, it's depressing how badly "Flower Power" 's puff daddy treated Enid Stulberger, the mother of his two older children, including Ione Skye.) Leitch includes recent family photos and mentions "the second war in Iraq," but the book closes in the '60s, well before he can claim to have fathered punk, disco, new wave, and reggaetón.
The Autobiography of Donovan: The Hurdy Gurdy Man
By Donovan Leitch
St. Martin's, 287 pp., $24.95
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