My 15 Minutes with Donovan and his bats.

Last November Donovan presented a rare solo acoustic concert at the Kent State Folk Festival. Earlier that afternoon during the informal workshops, an Irish gentleman stopped me. He suggested that If I get a chance to talk to Donovan that I should ask about his bats. Soon I realized we weren’t discussing baseball. Apparently, he has bats living in his attic. This did sound like an icebreaker, but wait till you find out about what lives in his basement.

Let’s fast forward to 15 minutes before showtime. I’m backstage alone with Donovan. I’m going over my introductory comments. He’s enjoying a glass of red wine. I thought to myself: “When am I going to get 15 minutes alone with Donovan again?”

I asked him: “I understand you have bats in your attic.”
He almost spilled the wine: “Why yes, How did you know that?”

The ice was definitely broken. He then went on to tell me that he thought there
were around 12 bats because that’s all he ever saw. A naturalist went into his attic and informed him there were 127 of them. He only saw 12 at any one time, and thought they were always the same 12. They’re actually quite harmless creatures and absolutely beneficial because of all the harmful insects they eat. He is thrilled to help them out.

We then proceeded to talk about music, the music business, and meditation. He loved April Verch who played right before him. He was fascinated by her stage presence, her fiddling, and her dancing. He was very curious about Folk Alley. I told him about the entire staff, and all the hours we put in, and all the risks. He took a particular interest in me. He spotted the workaholic in me and asked:

“Do you wake up and immediately make lists as to what you’re going to do?”

“Yes,” I said, “and the list is always longer that the number of hours in the day. And I keep seeing things to do beyond the list, so I find myself growing impatient.

Donovan looked almost right through me and said: “You need to meditate – daily. I’m not talking about drugs and a long haired guru. Its a skill that requires a little time. You need to learn how to do it. You’ll learn to separate yourself from your stress, and your attitude will improve. You must do it Jim.”

I thought only my mother has ever said those last 5 words. Mostly I felt embarrased that he was so concerned about me. We talked up until he had to go on and I had to introduce him.

Following his perfomance, the audience rushed the stage (at his urging, I might add). As they were courted off, he decided to do one more song if they would leave peacefully. I saw his road manager and asked him:
“Does this happen often?”
“Trust me bloke,” he said, “this is a one-off.”

That was English for “no.” He then added: “Stick around, Donovan would like you to come on stage with him for his encore.”

I froze. I wondered if I knew all the words to “Mellow Yellow.” I think I could recite the “Summer Day Reflection Song” but it didn’t matter, because I would not be asked to sing. Instead he wanted to acknowledge me to the crowd. I wasn’t very comfortable about it, but I felt like an ‘everyman’ representing the whole crew of us who put the festival on, and who work to put Folk Alley on the air (or on the net…).

I will not soon forget my 15 minutes with a guy who was good friends with the Beatles. A guy who read me like a book (or a short story) in that amount of time.

Will I take his advice and meditate? I guess first I’ll have to learn how. Any tips? Oh, and if you’ve been waiting – aside from bats in his belfry, he has rats in his basement. He didn’t have time to tell me about them, except to say that they were welcome too. Suddenly my 6 cats and 3 dogs don’t feel like a load after all…

Jim Blum

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