John Mellencamp: “I Stole Donovan’s S***!”
If anyone thought that the idea of a blue-collar heartland rocker being inspired by ’60s psychedelic pop singer Donovan was an unlikely scenario, John Mellencamp made a strong argument to the contrary at Saturday night’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
In fact, Mellencamp scoffed at the idea of artists using the term “inspired by,” making the point that the term is actually just code for “stealing another artist’s s***!” Adding, with a laugh, that he had stolen much of Donovan’s. Carrying an original vinyl Donovan LP with him, he said that “In 1965, I wasn’t just listening to Donovan, I was living Donovan!”
After jokingly admitting that he is something of a misanthrope (or maybe he wasn’t joking), he described getting into a fist-fight with one of his bandmembers while recording in a L.A. studio, “rolling into the hallway” and then bumping into Donovan. Immediately ending the scuffle, he started telling the folk-rocker that he was a fan. He worried that Donovan would want to kill him for ripping him off, but Mellencamp realized that the elder singer was a peace loving hippie, so no more violence was likely to ensue that day.
Mellencamp also discussed the impact of Donovan on The Beatles, noting that he had taught them the “clawhammer” fingerpicking guitar style, which they later used on songs including “Mother Nature’s Son” and “Julia.”
Donovan took the mic, quipping “That was quite an introduction,” but seemed moved and, in a speech heavy on poetry said, “Honored I am to sing my song to a million fans.”
When he grabbed his guitar to sing some of his songs, he started out with an acoustic, performing “Catch The Wind” and “Sunshine Superman,” before strapping on an electric and playing “Season Of The Witch” with Mellencamp.
— Brian Ives, CBS Local