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The Beatles were often seen as some of classic rock’s greatest rebels — but what were they rebelling against? Different fans will give different answers, but one of the other rock stars from the 1960s has his own feelings on the matter. He said that Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen had the same mindset as the Fab Four.

Donovan said The Beatles and other rock stars felt ‘a mass generational angst’

Donovan is a psychedelic folk singer who is known for hits such as “Mellow Yellow,” “There Is a Mountain,” and “Hurdy Gurdy Man.” He also crossed paths with The Beatles many times. Donovan famously influenced much of the music of The White Album.

During a 2018 interview with Goldmine, Donovan discussed the social issues that cast a shadow over the 1960s counterculture. “The rivers were being poisoned as was the air,” he said. “Two world wars and a depression were produced.

“A mass generational angst ensued, resulting in artists like The Beatles, Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and others rebelling against the material world and the exploitation of natural resources with absolutely no concern for the delicate balance of the natural world,” he said. “I started writing ‘Sunshine Superman’ in 1965 but there were artists talking about this in the late ’50s onward.” It’s unclear how “Sunshine Superman” relates to the environment.

Donovan explained what 1960s rock stars were trying to say

The “Season of the Witch” singer saw the values of the 1960s as the result of a generational clash. “It was a total rejection of our forebears,” he said. “There became a union of man, a brotherhood, if you will, and it’s not religion, and it’s not about waving the flag or love thy neighbor either.” For context, “love thy neighbor” is an Old Testament teaching that Jesus Christ famously promotes in the New Testament.

Since Donovan is more associated with psychedelia than just about anyone else, he had some intriguing thoughts about the movement. “You could say psychedelia was a natural response of life-affirming values to a culture of death and stagnation, a deep movement that was clamped down on because we were saying no to the previous generation,” he said. Some music fans simply see psychedelic rock as drug music. The “Atlantis” singer said psychedelia is supposed to have the same sort of effect on the listener that meditation could have.


Donovan: ‘Sunshine Superman’ Inspired The Beatles

Paul McCartney said a Beatles song had an environmental message

Were The Beatles rebelling against the destruction of the environment? According to Paul McCartney’s memories, they were. In the 1997 book Paul McCartney Many Years From Now, Paul says that “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” had an animal rights message. In Paul’s opinion, John Lennon wasn’t an animal rights activist, but he leaned in that direction. The “Silly Love Songs” star felt that “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” aged well because it reflected environmental issues.

Another Beatles song inspired by the natural world is “Mother Nature’s Son.” Paul said he wrote the song because he loved nature since he was a Boy Scout. He said that he and Linda McCartney had that interest in common.

The Beatles wanted us to respect Mother Nature and hopefully, more people will listen to that message.