Song 217: Donovan, “Catch the Wind” (1965)

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Donovan is often described as a hippie, lightweight Dylan, a kind of Dylan Lite. And there’s no denying the resemblance.

But who wasn’t trying to sound like Dylan in the sixties? And unlike many of the imitators, Donovan actually had songwriting and musical chops to back up his imitation. Take “Catch the Wind,” a pretty little song that sounds like a Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan castoff but is sweeter than anything Dylan has ever done. At its worst, this sweetness made Donovan sound like a sprite or naive schoolboy, but on songs like this, it was utterly charming.

The melody of “Catch the Wind” sounds ageless, and Donovan uses this characteristic to play to the lyrics’ age-old theme of unrequited (or is it just impossible?) love. His vocal performance teeters on the edge of tweeness, but that catch in his voice when he says “would be the sweetest thing” is, against all odds, perfect.

I also love all the outdoor imagery in this song, as if Donovan is placing his tiny self among the elements to emphasize his insignificance. It’s Donovan versus the natural forces of affection, and he doesn’t stand a chance. But you root for him anyway.

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