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The Beatles and Donovan both made some of the defining songs of the 1960s. Donovan revealed that “Sunshine Superman” reused a musical trick that was in several Fab Four songs. Notably, “Sunshine Superman” reached a milestone that several Beatles songs did. However, it aged better than some of those songs in the long run.

Donovan said ‘early Beatles songs’ inspired the chords of ‘Sunshine Superman’

During a 2013 interview with Performing Songwriter, the “Hurdy Gurdy Man” singer discussed the inspiration behind “Sunshine Superman.” “Musically, the song is built on a chord structure that came from listening to early Beatles songs,” he said. “I was messing with C7th and the odd G changes.” While “Sunshine Superman” takes some inspiration, it doesn’t sound much like any of The Beatles’ songs. While it’s a psychedelic tune, none of The Beatles’ psychedelic tunes have a comparable groove.

“The Latin groove was coming from my love of jazz,” he added. “When I met my producer Mickie Most, and he heard the harpsichords, congas, and flutes, he said, “Whoa, you have to have an arranger.” He introduced me to [jazz arranger] John Cameron. So the three of us cooked up the sound — and the song went to No. 1.”

Donovan contrasted his songs with The Beatles’ songs

During a 206 interview with Best Classic Bands, Donovan discussed what he felt like when “Sunshine Superman” became a No. 1 single. The “Season of the Witch” singer said hitting No. 1 was never his goal. He was more interested in making sure his music found an audience, and he would have been happy for the song to simply make it to the top 20.

Regardless, the “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” singer was happy the song topped the charts. He noted that he had less luck in that department than Elvis Presley or The Beatles, both of whom had several No. 1 singles. Regardless, “Sunshine Superman” is more famous today than some No. 1s by the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll or the Fab Four. After all, how often do you hear “The Long and Winding Road,” “Hard Headed Woman,” “Eight Days a Week,” or “Good Luck Charm” on classic rock radio today? Meanwhile, “Sunshine Superman” recently appeared in the hit Netflix series Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.


Donovan: The Beatles Didn’t Top ‘Mellow Yellow’

What the lyrics of ‘Sunshine Superman’ mean

In the Performing Songwriter interview, Donovan revealed the meaning of the tune’s lyrics. “As for the title, ‘Sunshine’ was a tag describing acid. LSD was legal and pure then,” he said. “We were experimenting with it, as were poets, scientists, and philosophers. I was relating ‘Superman’ to Nietzsche, about this idea of the Superman of the future who would be totally enlightened and using the full potential of his brain and heart and soul.”

Donovan also noted that the tune mentions two superheroes: Superman and Green Lantern. He said he referenced those characters because he was a comic book fan. In his opinion, comic books are a form of mythology. He said that anyone could see themselves as the superhero from “Sunshine Superman,” as every person could become a more heroic version of themselves.

“Sunshine Superman” drew some inspiration from The Beatles but it’s an experience all its own.