Saturday, April 20, 2024

Notes: Donovan Rocks, Chicago Eats, Whitey Bulger Shoots


Here’s a unique story: Donovan, the eternally youthful 1960s troubadour who had a zillion hits like “Mellow Yellow” and “The Hurdy Gurdy Man,” has been with the same music publisher his entire career. Around 1964 he found himself in Nashville, where he signed with Peer Music. He’s been with them this whole time, and unlike a lot of other artists, still owns his music. Now he’s 68, and still releasing new terrific music. (Check it out at

Yesterday I interviewed Donovan onstage at the Cutting Room for a huge group of advertising music supervisors and film people. Donovan, still sprightly and lots of fun, is also a great story teller. The room was spellbound. And he played a bunch of hits, acoustic on guitar, no augmentation: “Sunshine Superman,” “Season of the Witch,” “Catch the Wind,” the two I already mentioned, a couple of new songs, and “There Is A Mountain.” Did you know that the Allman Brothers adapted “Mountain” for their own “Mountain Jam” on “Eat a Peach”? Cool!

Donovan’s songs hold up beautifully because they’re based on blues, jazz, and 50s rock and roll. They are composed. It’s amazing how fresh they sound. That’s why they’re classics. Donovan was pretty much the last artist I advocated for at the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and he was just inducted. He should have been in there a long time ago…

…Going to Chicago? I did last week for Sting’s musical “The Last Ship.” What did I discover? Coco Pazzo, which closed up in New York years ago, has been there for 24 years. Pino Luongo’s former partner, Jack Weiss, moved to the Windy City and turned their Coco Pazzo into the premiere Italian restaurant. Weiss also has a cozy Coco Pazzo Cafe. On the night I ate there, Chicago Symphony Orchestra conductor Ricardo Muti came in after his performance dressed in white tie! This is apparently where the elite meet, and eat. I am still dreaming about the all the different pastas we tried. Chicago is an eating town, but this is where it starts…

…A bunch of interesting celebs turned up the other night for a screening of Joe Berlinger’s film, “Whitey:United States Of America V. James J. Bulger.” Whitey Bulger was played Jack Nicholson in “The Departed.” Then the infamous mobster was caught, tried and convicted of heinous crimes. The movie opens next Friday (June 27). It’s riveting. Among those riveted: Candice Bergen, Robert Wuhl, Peter Riegert, Gay Talese, Barbara Kopple, Clive Davis, Ashleigh Banfield, Nick Pileggi, and both NYC police commishes– past- Ray Kelly, with wife Veronica, and present Bill Bratton with his wife, journalist Rikki Klieman.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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