‘Fill Me With Song . . .’

A little more than four years ago, I wrote, “Donovan’s sometimes wispy ballads occupied one extreme of the sonic landscape of the time, and taken one-by-one, they provided an airy counterpoint to the heavier sounds of the time. Any more than one at a time, and Donovan’s songs were a little too light for me, and they still are.”

Clearly, Donovan is not a favorite here. I’ve got a few of his albums on LP, but it’s instructive that I’ve never bought a CD of the Scottish performer’s work. So why in the world am I stretching a look at one Donovan tune over more than a week? Schedule, mostly. Due to garden duties, a baseball game, the Texas Gal’s travel schedule and some minor stuff, I’ve had less time this week than I would like to spend here in the EITW studios. But here we are on an Independence Day morning, all gathered around the campfire, so to speak, to listen to a few versions of “Wear Your Love Like Heaven.”

First, here’s Donovan’s original. A single release went to No. 23 in the Billboard Hot 100 during a seven-week run that bridged the end of 1967 and the beginning of 1968. The track showed up on two albums that were part of a confusing album release strategy in December 1967. The album Wear Your Love Like Heaven went to No. 60, the album For Little Ones went to No. 185, and A Gift From A Flower To A Garden, a box set combining those two albums, went to No. 19.

I don’t know that I remember the single from its 1967-68 chart days, but it’s not all that different from a lot of Donovan’s work: light and airy with some odd diction provoked by the melody (“Prussian blue” in the first verse is a good example), and a general world view of peaceful bliss. It’s not a song that I would have thought would inspire many covers. Well, except in the realm of easy listening. The song was recorded by the Johnny Arthey Orchestra for the 1969 album The Golden Songs Of Donovan, and David Rose (who hit No. 1 with “The Stripper” in 1962), recorded “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” for his 1970 album Happy Heart.

Another instrumental version I found was from saxophonist Steve Douglas, one of Phil Spector’s go-to players during the years of the Wall of Sound. Douglas recorded the song for his 1969 album Reflections In A Golden Horn. It’s a light and jazzy take on the tune, and if you want to call it easy listening, I won’t cringe. And, along with the Cal Tjader version posted here last Saturday, I know there are other instrumental versions out there. One that interests me but that I have not yet heard is the 1992 version by pianist Richard Dworsky.

All of this started last week with Peggy Lipton’s cover of the tune. Other singers took on the song, too. We shared Richie Havens’ 1969 version here earlier this week, and another cover that caught my ear was the quirky 1970 take on the tune by Eartha Kitt, who included the song on her album Sentimental Eartha.

A more recent version of the song that I have not yet spent the coin to hear is from the group My Morning Jacket, which recorded “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” for the 2002 album Gift From a Garden to a Flower: A Tribute to Donovan. Beyond that, the most recent version that I enjoy is the cover that Sarah McLachlan recorded for her 1991 album Solace. As for versions I don’t enjoy (but others might), an Italian group called Edible Woman, about which I know nothing, has a lumbering, thrumming, heavy version of the tune posted this year on YouTube, which presumably is available somewhere for those who want to hear it again.

Tags: , , , , ,

2 Responses to “‘Fill Me With Song . . .’”

  1. David Lenander says:

    I don’t know what it is about this song, to which I never paid much mind. But I really like this Eartha Kitt version. And, it was quite a surprise to me when I saw Donovan (for the only time) at a downtown St. Paul free festival when he was touring behind _Beat Cafe_, I wasn’t expecting much from this old, tired 60s icon, and he was great in concert. And this song worked remarkably well with the crowd, but so did his other old songs, and his (then-)new Beat Cafe songs were good, too. He played a lot of his old hits–except for “Hurdy Gurdy Man” despite calls for it from the crowd throughout the set–I’ve re-evaluated Donovan since then. There’s a lot more substance than wisp. Did you ever listen to his _Open Road_ album? Or even the later ones, like _Beat Cafe_ and _Sutras_? His superstardom may have been a little puzzling, but he actually is a very respectable singer-songwriter and musician.

  2. David Lenander says:

    Hm, my original point in posting above was kind of buried, I notice. During the Taste of Minnesota Donovan performance, one of the biggest crowd responses was for “Where Your Love Like Heaven,” with the whole crowd swaying and into it, even more than with the bigger hits, I think. After the concert, it was that song that stuck in my mind. I came to pop radio even a little later than most of my age cohort–I knew “Sunshine Superman” and “Mellow Yellow”–the latter of which I rather disliked–as oldies on the radio, and had no idea that Donovan had been a big star (bigger than, say, any one- or two-hit wonder), and was later surprised that he’d had other hits. I probably heard the “Greatest Hits” album about the same time as buying Ian & Sylvia’s “Greatest Hits”–but the “hits” in the two titles have totally different meanings, don’t they? I thought that only the two songs I knew by Donovan had been actual chart hits, and only later came to realize that the pop stations didn’t play all old hits equally. By the time I was in college, a few years later, I was volunteering at the Night Place, a drop-in center at the U of MN student union (Coffman Union). One of the albums that I sometimes played and liked was _Open Road_–I’m not sure that I understood that this was a Donovan album, (and of course his original idea was to submerge Donovan into a group, but I didn’t have any idea about that, then).

Leave a Reply