Kensington, England

Sunny South Kensington by Donovan

If I'm late waitin' down the gate
It's such a raz scene
A groovy place to live
Donovan Leitch was a wee Scot born in Glasgow in 1946. His family moved to England, where he lived for many years before he retired to Ireland. His singing and songwriting career was a roller coaster journey and somewhat short-lived, but sprinkled with some very impressive claims to fame. His single, "Sunshine Superman," made it to #1 in the United States.

He became famous using only one name years before Sting and Madonna. He taught Lennon and McCartney how to play guitar finger-picking style. He was the first British pop star busted for drug use. He was one of the first celebrities exposed by the now defunct newspaper News of the World.

South Kensington near Chelsea, Kingston upon Thames, England<br>Photo: <a href="" target="_blank">David Dixon</a>, Geograph Project, CC 2.0South Kensington near Chelsea, Kingston upon Thames, England
Photo: David Dixon, Geograph Project, CC 2.0
His drug conviction meant his entry to play in the United States was delayed and worse still, there were legal arguments over use of some of his music, which hampered the release of certain songs in his native land.

They say that timing is everything in show business, and Donovan, who started out in a hippie or beatnik style playing acoustic guitar, was crushed when punk rock burst on the scene. Critics at the time saw him as old hat. In 1965 Donovan met Bob Dylan in London, and for years some critics reckoned Donovan was a clone of the great singer. Donovan rejected this criticism.

To his credit, Donovan kept on writing the type of songs he wanted to write. His style changed as he used influences of jazz, blues, and Eastern music. If nothing else, he kept mixing with the high-flyers or would-be superstars and is even believed to have helped Paul McCartney in writing some of the lyrics of "Yellow Submarine." The favor was probably returned with McCartney singing backing vocals on Donovan’s hit "Mellow Yellow."

South Kensington is a trendy and expensive part of London close to the heart of the capitol city. Its post or zip code of SW7 has a certain whiff of class, history, and style. Shops in this part of London, and particularly in the swinging '60s, had daring, class, and popularity. Fashion leaders like Mary Quant were all the rage and Donovan knew of the people, places, and products all found in South Kensington.

The fact that just-as-trendy Chelsea is part of the same Royal Borough gives you some idea of the wealth of the locals. Even today the area is ideal for window-shoppers and millionaires. Certainly the real estate prices are not for the faint-hearted.

It’s dead easy to reach South Kensington, which is a short cab ride from central London, or you can hop off the tube at Gloucester Road or South Kensington itself. The Natural History Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Royal Albert Hall are just some of the sites for you to enjoy. And Knightsbridge and Harrod's are but a stone’s throw away. There’s culture, fashion and food aplenty.

Cenarth Fox
March 26, 2014


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