Today, May 10th, is Scottish songwriter Donovan’s 75th birthday. Via Rolling Stone and Brooklyn Vegan, the early hippie icon is celebrating with a new music video for his 2010 song “I Am the Shaman” which is directed by his old friend David Lynch, who also produced the track.
The two septuagenarians (Lynch is also 75) bonded more than a decade ago over a shared love of transcendental meditation, and Donovan has not only worked with the David Lynch Foundation, he also contributed to the 2011 compilation album The Music of David Lynch.
As for “I Am A Shaman”, it appeared as a bonus track on Donovan’s 2010 double album Ritual Groove. The song was recorded in Lynch’s Los Angeles studio, and as the songwriter said, “It was all impromptu… I visited the studio and David said, ‘Sit at the mics with your guitar Don’. David in same room behind control desk with my Linda,” his wife. “He had asked me to only bring in a song just emerging, not anywhere near finished. We would see what happens. It happened!”
According to Donovan, he “composed extempore … the verses came naturally. New chord patterns effortlessly appeared… On another day David ‘Sound Sculpted’ my Ferrington acoustic guitar ‘Kelly’ and he played his unique Modal Chord Ferrington Guitar textures with ‘Effects’.”
The song toggles between two musical ideas: a pretty, lilting folk song, and a chorus that disappears through a psychedelic wormhole. The song opens with a poetic setting of the scene, as Donovan sings, “Yon wheeling of great stars has cast a silver web around my heart.” Amid waves of nautical imagery, a figure emerges: “Lorelei,” he repeats, “Lorelei, who will dry your pretty eyes?” From there, Donovan’s voice is submerged under reverb, and digital wizardry gives the effect of time slipping backward. “Yeah mon,” he says, “I am the shaman.” Both musical sections play off each other, with the beauty of one setting up the foreboding strangeness of the other.
In Lynch’s hands, the music video is both simple and strange. Donovan is framed with his guitar in front of a black backdrop. As the visuals progress, and as the lyrics journey through hyperspace, streaking stars frame the singer, and the skull necklace he is wearing appears to swing ominously through the frame. Donovan is using the “I Am the Shaman” video to raise money for teaching transcendental meditation classes, and you can check it out below.