Meaning of “Hurdy Gurdy Man” by Donovan

The lyrics of “Hurdy Gurdy Man” revolve around what can be deemed a psychedelic or mystical element, as they were directly inspired by a transcendental meditation retreat in India (or a ganja trip in Jamaica) Donovan was on at the time he wrote it. 

More specifically, he was prompted to write this song ‘by the sounds he heard’ while on said retreat. That would imply that the music of the area was reminiscent of that which is produced by a hurdy-gurdy.

In other words, a hurdy-gurdy is in fact an instrument, furthermore being one that you aren’t likely to come across unless you’re at a folk convention or some remote, traditional part of the world. And with that in mind, “the Hurdy Gurdy Man” comes off as if he is some type of a minstrel, i.e. a local musician who performs his craft to the edification of those in his direct vicinity. And his music is indeed universal, i.e. being “songs of love”.

Furthermore, as implied, it is timeless, such that a truth-seeker such as Donavan, if you will, can relate to it. It’s as if the Hurdy Gurdy Man’s style is such that it induces a meditative or philosophical state in the listener. And as idealized, ultimately Donovan himself is “the Hurdy Gurdy Man”, which we will take as meaning he wants tracks such as this one to serve a similar role.

“It was then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man
Came singing songs of love
Then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man
Came singing songs of love”

When was “Hurdy Gurdy Man” released?

In 1968, Donovan released his sixth studio album. This album was supported by multiple single releases. The song “Hurdy Gurdy Man”, which was released in May 1968, happens to be one of these singles. Furthermore, it also lent its name to the title of its album.


Donovan wrote this song. The production part of the song was taken care of by English record producer Mickie Most.

Hurdy Gurdy Man

Covers of “Hurdy Gurdy Man”

This is a real classic, and it’s been given a makeover by a bunch of cool cats over the years. Below are some of the popular covers out there:

Butthole Surfers – These rockers decided to give this tune a whirl on their 1991 album “Pioughd.” They kicked up the psychedelic vibes big time.

Steve Hillage – This dude’s a British guitarist who’s big on progressive rock. He put his own spin on the song for his 1976 album “L.”

Eartha Kitt – Eartha’s voice is like no other. She took this classic for a spin on her 1970 album “Sentimental Eartha.”

The Brothers Four – These folk dudes did their thing with Donovan’s classic on their 1968 album “Let’s Get Together.”

L.A. Guns – This hard rock band cranked up the volume for their take on this song for their 2004 album “Rips the Covers Off.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like...