By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News, in Cannes
French minister Christine Albanel hailed Donovan as "a genuine
British 1960s folk singer Donovan has received a prestigious cultural honour from the French government.
The hippy icon, whose hits included Mellow Yellow, Hurdy Gurdy Man and Sunshine Superman, was made an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters.
French culture minister Christine Albanel pinned the medal to Donovan's long dark purple velvet jacket during the ceremony in Cannes.
The singer said he was "very pleased" to receive the accolade.
He said: "I take it for all the work I've done over the years to bring poetry back to popular culture.
"To get an honour like this confirmed to me that it was successful, that my work was accepted on my terms, rather than becoming an entertainer," he said.
"I wanted to be entertaining, but to bring to the world a sense of meaning again."
Donovan dedicated the honour to his father for regularly reading poetry to him as a young child.
The award was given at the Midem music industry conference, and France had "established itself as a supporter of the arts", Donovan said.
"Perhaps Britain should put more attention on the arts.
"Of course one is recognised abroad more than in one's own country. We are more exotic abroad."
Other recipients of the award have included Bob Dylan, Salman Rushdie and Kylie Minogue.
Donovan, 62, was one of the first folk-rock stars, enjoying seven UK top 10 hits between 1965 and 1968.
He dabbled with drugs with The Beatles and also counted Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell as friends.
"Today we're in a music festival which is proving that we have a global music community now," he said.
"In the '60s, the Beatles and I used to sit around and talk about - how can everybody in the whole planet communicate with everybody else at the same time?
"So John Lennon would say: 'You mean telepathy?'
"And I said: 'Yes, something like that'. Because if a radio wave can travel, why can't another kind of message travel?
"And now we have the internet. And the music business is in a huge change.
"Who knows what my grandchildren are going to do with the music business, and their grandchildren?"
Donovan is about to release a greatest hits DVD.
He is also working with US film director David Lynch to encourage meditation in schools as a way to improve pupils' concentration and behaviour.
"David and I have been travelling the world and we're raising millions of dollars and we're putting the programme into schools," he said.
"Sixty-thousand students around the world are now meditating in schools for 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the afternoon.
"The whole school is meditating. It reduces fear and anxiety and doubt."