The Songs We Will Sing.

#61: Atlantis: Donovan: 1969 on the album Barabajagal

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It’s time to talk about Donovan Philips Leitch, born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1946 and now 76 years old. He is known simply as Donovan and in the late 60s his music was up there with Bob Dylan and The Byrds. Along with a very cool name, Donovan had hits with songs such as Mellow Yellow, Try and Catch the Wind and Universal Soldier. For a list of Donovan’s greatest hits check the list below.

Donovan was a product of his time using his song lyrics to present the ideals of a better, more peaceful world. Remember it was the time of the Vietnam War, Flower Power, hippie culture, student and civic unrest and the song lyrics of the 60s protest era reached millions with the message that society must change. He most likely inherited his social conscience from his father who was a political activist, but while I really know very little of what his father said, Donovan’s words in songs such as Universal Soldier are still very present in my mind.

Which brings me to Atlantis of which Donovan said, “Atlantis is actually a state of mind, maybe a perfect society. Inside, humanity is the same. There are different colors, different locations. But inside there is a constant knowledge that everybody has in every age. And thus the myths are similar in all ages.”Donovan (132). And he is right!

Plato wrote about the lost city of Atlantis in around 360BC. Whether Altantis is a myth or a civilisation that actually existed is open for debate but the idea of a very advanced civilisation which was destroyed by a natural event (volcano) is actually quite an interesting thought in our present day! It is also interesting that when the society realised their fate that they sent out knowledge with “the Twelve” to all corners of the Earth but the elders of our time choose to remain blind. This story has Biblical overtones of the twelve who were sent into the world to take the good news of Jesus Christ and many people of the time, and even today, choose to remain blind.

Donovan uses the lost city of Atlantis as a metaphor for the new world the hippy movement of the 60s dreamed of creating. The lyrics speak to the new, Hail Atlantis where folks would rejoice, and dance and sing and ring in the new. Since the elders of our time choose to remain blind there had to be better alternative. Along with many other songs of that protest era Atlantis is countercultural, it speaks to a idea of a mythological drama where even the sailors were beautiful and Donovan longs to be in that utopian, beautiful society and he draws us into believing that this could be so.

The song begins in a mellow monologue narrative. It sounds ancient and wise but then picks up in tempo and transforms into a love song. Whether this love song is addressed to a girl or to the city of Atlantis, way down below the ocean where I want to be she may be I will leave to your interpretation. Regardless, in 1969 I thought this was a great song and still do. I hope you will enjoy it.

Atlantis by Donovan

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