How Donovan helped the Beatles write two classics


“I suggested the lyrics ‘Sky of blue and sea of green’ and they worked quite nicely,” Donovan says of the Beatles’ song Yellow Submarine in a recent interview with Vulture.

In 1968, Donovan traveled with The Beatles to study transcendental meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh, India. Donovan apparently gelled with Lennon on the trip, teaching him new guitar chord structures and some finger-picking techniques. In addition to pitching in on Yellow Submarine, Donovan claims to have helped Lennon with another Beatles classic:

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As John was in this period of tuition with me, he told me he wanted to write a song about his mother. He said, “Donovan, you’re the king of children’s songs. Can you help me?” I asked him what exactly it was that he wanted to do. He said, “I want to write a song about the childhood that I never really had with my mother.” He asked me to help him with the images that he could use in lyrics for a song about this subject. So I said, “Well, when you think of the song, where do you imagine yourself?” And John said, “I’m at a beach and I’m holding hands with my mother and we’re walking together.” And I helped him with a couple of lines, “Seashell eyes / windy smile” — for the Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland feel that John loved so much. And the song, which you may know, is the amazing “Julia.” I haven’t told many people that before.

What a trip and time to have been a part of. Check out the full interview here.

Photo credit: Roy Kerwood.

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