British chart-topping 1960s folk singer Donovan received a prestigious cultural award from the French Government. The hippy era singer of poetry ballads won the hearts of nations and clearly French hearts too.

Born May 10, 1946, the crooner was first discovered on TV’s Ready, Steady, Go programme. His fame spread abroad, especially to the United States where the open road style of music was taking Route 69 to stardom. One of the first folk-rock stars the poet-balladeer had seven UK top 10 hits between 1965 and 1968.

Donavan´s influence on music cannot be overstated. His originality led him to team up with legendary Mickey Most. His circle included Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Bruce Jones, and The Beatles. It was Donovan’s finger-picking guitar style that influenced John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

The simplicity and catchiness of Donovan’s songs spanned the generations. It was a period when an artist’s success was based on talent, not on marketing.  Hits included Mellow Yellow, Colours; Catch the Wind, Universal Soldier and many more.

There is an air of grandeur over the rather imposing French cultural award Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters. As French Culture Minister Christine Albanel pinned the medal to the singer’s iconic purple and velvet jacket, Donovan smiled.

“I am very pleased. I take it for all the work I have done over the years to bring poetry back into popular culture. To get an honour like this confirmed that to me it was successful that the work was accepted on my terms, rather than becoming an entertainer.”

He later revealed that his love for poetry had been inspired by his father who read to him as a young child. The Troubadour appears to criticise Britain’s approach to culture. “The (French) Midem music industry conference and France has established themselves as a supporter of the arts. Perhaps Britain should put more attention to the arts.”


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