Van Morrison

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Astral Weeks, Van Morrison (1968)

Van Morrison (b. George Ivan Morrison, August 31 1945 in Belfast, Northern Ireland) is a singer, songwriter, guitarist, harmonica player, occasional saxophone player, and exponent of so-called Celtic Soul. His work spanning some four decades has influenced many popular musical artists that followed him.

Growing up in Belfast, Morrison was exposed to music from an early age, as his father collected American jazz and blues albums, and his mother was a singer. His father's taste in music was passed on to him, he grew up listening to artists such as Ray Charles, Leadbelly and Solomon Burke. In a 2005 Rolling Stone article he said that "Those guys were the inspiration that got me going. If it wasn't for that kind of music, I couldn't do what I'm doing now. [1] ("

He left home at age 15 to pursue a music career. He played in several local skiffle and rock n roll bands before joining the group The Monarchs and touring across Europe. He then formed the group Them, in 1964 and came to prominence fronting the band. The band had a number of chart hits, most notably the rock standard, "Gloria," subsequently covered by many artists, including Shadows of Knight.

Morrison became unhappy with increasing emphasis on the use of studio musicians, and left the band after a U.S. tour in 1966. He returned to Belfast, intending to quit the music business. Them’s producer, Bert Berns, persuaded him to return to New York and record solo for the Bang Records label. From these early sessions emerged one of his best-known songs, "Brown Eyed Girl" (which reached #10 in the US in 1967). Master session drummer Gary Chester played on that song. It was revealed in 2005 that the song is on George W. Bush's iPod and is one of his favourites [2] ( The album that came from those sessions was Blowin' Your Mind!. Morrison later admitted he wasn't pleased with the results, claiming in a Rolling Stone interview in 1969, "It came out wrong and they released it without my consent."

After Berns’s death in 1967, Morrison moved to Boston, Massachusetts. He was soon confronted with personal and financial problems. He had entered an alcohol-aided depression and had trouble finding gigs. However, through the few gigs he could find, he regained his professional footing and started recording with the Warner Bros. label. His first album for them was Astral Weeks (which he had already performed in several clubs around Boston), a loose song cycle considered by many to be his best work. Released in 1968, the album was critically acclaimed, but received an indifferent response from the public. Morrison, in a Rolling Stone interview in 1970, said the album was a rock opera with a definite story line.

Morrison then moved to California and released his next album, Moondance in 1970, which reached #29 on the Billboard charts. The style of this album was in great contrast to that of Astral Weeks. Astral Weeks was a sorrowful and vulnerable album, Moondance on the other hand was a much more optimistic and cheerful affair. The title track, though never released in the US as a single, was heavily played in many radio formats. The evocative track "Into the Mystic" has also gained a wide following over the years. He produced the album himself because he felt no one knew what he was looking for except himself.

Over the next few years, he released several albums, which spawned the hits "Domino" (#9 in the US in 1970), "Wild Night", and "Tupelo Honey".

By 1972, despite being a performer for nearly 10 years, he soon began experiencing stage-fright when performing in front of large audiences, in front of thousands of people as opposed to the hundreds he had experienced in his early carrier. He would get anxious on stage and have difficulty establishing eye-contact with the audience He once said on an interview about performing on stage, "I dig singing the songs but there are times when it's pretty agonizing for me to be out there" [3] ( However, after a brief break from music, he started performing in clubs and regained his ability to perform live, albeit with a smaller audience.

He then formed the group, The Caledonia Soul Orchestra and ventured on a 3 month US tour with them. However in 1973 he left the group and also divorced his wife, the violinist Janet Planet, with whom he had two children. He then released the introspective and poignant album Veedon Fleece in 1974, after which he remained musically silent for the next 3 years. [4] (|MORRISON&uid=CAW020506111009&sql=11:81l67uq070j0~T1)

In 1977, he released A Period of Transition, which began a very prolific period of song making. Much of the music he released throughout the next decade focused primarily on the themes of sprituality and faith.

Throughout his career, Morrison has pursued a successful and idiosyncratic musical path, expressing a general disdain for the opinions of the press and critics. Some of Morrison's albums are conventionally structured, such as Moondance and Tupelo Honey, while others feature long, loosely connected musical journeys into Morrison's singular personal vision, such as St. Dominic's Preview and Veedon Fleece. Throughout, his work is thoughtful, often spiritual in nature, and combines elements of jazz, R&B, soul, Celtic traditions, Christianity, and stream-of-consciousness.

Many consider his performance of "Caravan" to be the high point of The Last Waltz, Martin Scorsese's 1978 film of The Band's farewell concert.

In 1990 he joined many other guests for Roger Waters' massive performance of The Wall in Berlin.

He performed a duet with Cliff Richard on Morrison's 1989 album, Avalon Sunset. He also performed with singer Tom Jones on the 1999 album Reload and with musical legend Ray Charles on his 2004 album Genius Loves Company.

In 1997, Morrison collaborated with blues legend John Lee Hooker on Hooker's album, Don't Look Back. This was not the first time the two had worked together; Morrison appeared on both Hooker's Never Get Out of These Blues Alive and Chill Out previously.

Van Morrison continues to record and tour in the 2000s. Uncompromising as ever, he generally plays fewer of his well-known songs in concert than almost any other artist from his era. He still remains popular with the public; his latest album, Magic Time debuted at #25 on the US Billboard charts upon release in May 2005, some 40 years after first entering the public's eye as the frontman of Them.

Morrison's influence can be readily seen in the music of many major artists, including U2 (much of The Unforgettable Fire), Bruce Springsteen ("Spirit in the Night", "Backstreets"), Bob Seger, Rod Stewart, Patti Smith (her poetic-proto-punk "Gloria" most explicitly), Graham Parker, Thin Lizzy, Dexys Midnight Runners, and numerous others.


  1. Blowin' Your Mind (1967)
  2. Astral Weeks (1968)
  3. Moondance (1970)
  4. His Band and the Street Choir (1970)
  5. Tupelo Honey (1971)
  6. Saint Dominic's Preview (1972)
  7. Hard Nose the Highway (1973)
  8. It's Too Late to Stop Now (1974)
  9. Veedon Fleece (1974)
  10. A Period of Transition (1977)
  11. Wavelength (1978)
  12. Into the Music (1979)
  13. Common One (1980)
  14. Beautiful Vision (1982)
  15. Inarticulate Speech of the Heart (1983)
  16. A Sense of Wonder (1985)
  17. No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1986)
  18. Poetic Champions Compose (1987)
  19. Irish Heartbeat (1988); with The Chieftans
  20. Avalon Sunset (1989)
  21. Enlightenment (1990)
  22. Hymns to the Silence (1991)
  23. Too Long in Exile (1993)
  24. A Night in San Francisco (1994)
  25. Days Like This (1995)
  26. How Long Has This Been Going On (1996)
  27. Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison (1996)
  28. The Healing Game (1997)
  29. Back on Top (1999)
  30. The Skiffle Sessions - Live In Belfast 1998 (2000; with Lonnie Donegan)
  31. You Win Again (2000)
  32. Down the Road (2002)
  33. What's Wrong with this Picture? (2003)
  34. Magic Time (2005)

External links

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