Ah yes, it’s easy to forget that the popular folkster originally hailed from Scotland. Donovan would eventually go all psychedelic, actually producing some of this most memorable songs from mind altering experiences. But it’s his early acoustic work, heavily influenced by Bob Dylan but standing easily on its own, that remains my favorite. You can still hear his distinct influence on artists today from Badly Drawn Boy to Jake Bugg. Before he got all jazzy and dark, it was just about simple, beautiful storytelling and his acoustic guitar. Catch the Wind was the first hit, and maybe the better song, but Colours is admirable for how much it does with so little. With its strong structure and lyrical repetition, is sound more authentically like an American folk song of the era. But Donovan pushes the form ever so gently in the final verse, bursting it open in an unexpected way with one of the greatest uses of caesura ever seen in song. Each previous verse contained two distinct thoughts, conditioning the listener how to interpret the line breaks. But in the final verse, Donovan carries a single thought throughout, allowing the meaning to change once the final line is revealed.
Freedom is a word I rarely use/Without thinking, mm hmm/Without thinking, mm hmm/ Of the time, of the time/When I’ve been low
It’s a strikingly personal reveal at the end of an otherwise rote but beautiful song. Details like this are what elevated Donovan above so many peers and imitators, keeping his songs relevant decades down the line.