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John Mellencamp Inducts Donovan Into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Full Text

John Mellencamp
Michael Loccisano, Getty Images

While John Mellencamp has arguably carved out his own place in rock n roll history, he took to the stage of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame last night to induct one of his musical heroes, Donovan.

Mellencamp shared amusing anecdotes relating to how he felt he took Donovan’s influence upon his music a little too liberally, while also regaling the audience of having toured with the musician for 40 shows together in 2005.

Here is the complete text of John Mellencamp’s induction speech for Donovan:

“I’m here to induct Donovan Leitch into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.  I got my first Donovan record in 1965. I was in the 7th grade and back then, we waited for every record and I waited for every album to come out so that I could learn to play those songs. I wasn’t just listening to Donovan, I was living Donovan. I was stealing all the s— from Donovan. Other artists, and you know who you guys are, call that being inspired. But I was inspired by his beautiful melodies, his lyrical content, his arrangements and the overall presentation of his material.

In 1981, I was making a record at Cherokee in Los Angeles and one of the guys in my band comes up to us and says ‘God damn! I just saw Donovan Leitch in the lounge’ and I thought ‘Man, I hope that motherf—er don’t see me, I stole so much shit from him, he’s liable to kill me!’ But Don being a peace loving gentleman, I felt safe.

For you guys that don’t know me, I suffer from what some people call being a mild misanthrope, beady guy, which means that sometimes, I don’t like being around other people, which means that if you’re in my band, you’re in hell. I was talking to our guitar player, and I don’t know how this happened, but we were having a conversation and a f—ing fistfight broke out. I was just about to hit this hillbilly in the mouth and we are rolling around and we somehow roll out of the studio and into the lounge and pow, I run right into Donovan Leitch. And I go ‘Man, you’ve been such an influence on me and I thought he would say ‘You stole all my s—’ but he didn’t.

So that is my introduction to Donovan Leitch. I am sure he doesn’t remember that but he was my inspiration or as I say it, the guy I stole a bunch of s— from.

Here is the original copy of the record I bought 47 years ago. See how it says Mellencamp? In Indiana, we used to use these things like money. If you didn’t have any money, you could sell this for a dollar and a half or trade it for two Led Zeppelin records and they trade it back. You always wanted to keep track of your stuff. That’s why I have my name all over it.

I am going to now read from the liner notes of this album: Less than a year ago, the British Recording Industry reached a sort of floating period between the wild rampage of Liverpool and the sound shifting gears into a new trend. It was one of those indecisive moments when the followers and the opportunists — and you know who you are — tumbled all over each other as record buyers and began to look around for something new. They looked all about and soon they were attracted to a young lad with a sensitive face, jeans, a denim jacket, a miner’s cap and a touch of northern dialect from Scotland in his speech, tempered by roamings throughout the British Isles. This lad was Donovan, an 18-year-old singer from Glasgow, who brought a new kind of music that was almost old as the hills. Donovan was the simple, direct, sincere music of a folk artist. He blew his harmonica and preached his poetic words to all that would listen.

So really, I guess what it all boils down to in the long run is that you can do whatever you want and look however you want, but if you don’t have the songs, it don’t matter. So if people out in the audience tonight can’t sing your song, you got some songwriting to do.

Let me see if I can think of a couple of songs that Donovan might have written. I think I could come up with a couple: ‘Season of the Witch’, ‘Catch The Wind’, ‘Sunshine Superman’, ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’, ‘Mellow Yellow’, ‘Atlantis’, ‘Wear Your Love Like Heaven’, ‘Riki Tiki Tavi’, ‘Lalena’, ‘To Susan On The West Coast Waiting’. And those are just the songs that were on the radio. Think of all the undiscovered songs that are on these albums that nobody has ever heard or paid attention to. Beautiful songwriting like nobody else.

I think it’s only fair that we mention that this was all done by one kid from Scotland, right? One guy wrote all these songs. He was also part of one of the greatest collaborations maybe in music history and that was the marriage of Donovan to Mickie Most. Together, those guys created a folk-rock sound that invaded the world’s radio. Now, think about where we’re at, at this time in 1965 and 1966. Every kid that was sitting in their bedroom heard that sound and they style that this guy brought to the music industry and to the youth along with the Rolling Stones, leading the way for the youth culture (…crowd noise…) the world had not seen anything like it before and haven’t seen anything like it since.

And let us not forget Donovan and George Harrision dragging the rest of the kicking and screaming Beatles to meet the Maharishi, trying to expand the way of using one’s mind in a natural way and in a peaceful way, the message of peace that Donovan and those guys sent out at the time was heard all over the world. I heard that message but I forgot it.

One more thing to say about Don. Let’s not forget that he is the guy that taught Lennon and McCartney a special kind of finger picking called the clawhammer which they stole, or excuse me, were inspired by, was used on songs like ‘Dear Prudence’, ‘Blackbird’, ‘Mother Nature’s Son’ and ‘Julia’.

in 2005, I asked Donovan to do 40 shows with me and he obliged and he turned out to be the kind of fella that I thought he would be. But what it made me realize, seeing that guy play every night, is that the further we get away from the original, the worse it gets.

So I am proud to introduce into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, one of the original originals: Donovan P Leitch!”

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