Found Performance: Sunshine Superman by Donovan


Mike Cherry offers a nostalgic series of blog posts called “Lost Treasures” (an example here). Mike focuses on lesser known records that should have been bigger radio hits or “treasures.” My angle is different. Since I create a number of videos, to supplement historical blog posts, I’m always on the lookout for footage of live or TV performances of major 1950s, ’60s and ’70s hits by original artists. Essentially, I am looking for lost performances of smash hits vs. Mike’s efforts at seeking out lesser known “treasures.”

A radio hit I remember from my teen years and those days of swimming at the lake in the summer of ’66, was Donovan’s Sunshine Superman. As an artist, the critics called him the “British Bob Dylan.” He was a friend of  The Beatles and one of their respected counselors. Donovan was a poet: He performed Catch the Wind, Colours, Universal Soldier, Sunshine Superman, Mellow Yellow, There is a Mountain, Jennifer Juniper, The Hurdy Gurdy Man, Atlantis and many more. He wrote those songs, except for Universal Soldier. Donovan is the real life father of actress Ione Skye.

He was impressive and a great representative of the era. But to me, Donovan’s quintessential hit was Sunshine Superman. It was released in the US in July ’66 and peaked at #1 on the Billboard Charts. Future Led Zeppelin band members Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones played on this very record. This was a morph of folk and rock. Most serious musical historians refer to it as one of the earliest entries in the category of “psychedelic” music.

For many years, I had been unable to locate a “timely” performance” of Sunshine Superman. By “timely,” I mean a performance from the era in which the song was a hit. I found videos that were more recent — Donovan at age 50 plus — singing the song, but there were only snippets of any archival sixties’ performances. Diligence paid off and I recently located a rarity from French television. I am not going to say  Donovan is completely “live” because in those days most all performers lip synced to their hit records. That is just how it was done. Regardless, this is an excellent quality video, and we see Donovan performing during his prime years. I customized it a bit for my purposes and improved upon the audio quality. If you watch this you will see a young Donovan perform his sole #1 hit.


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Author: Steven Smith

Presently editor and historical writer with Puget Sound Media in Seattle. Former radio broadcaster and radio station owner, 1970-1999. Journalism and speech communications degrees. I enjoy researching articles and online reporting that allows me to meld together words, audio and video. P.S. I appreciate and encourage reader comments and opinions.

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