Behind the Ritual

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"Behind the Ritual"
Song by Van Morrison
from the album Keep It Simple
Released March 17, 2008 UK
April 1, 2008 U.S.
Length 6:58
Label Exile/Polydor
Exile/Lost Highway Records
Songwriter(s) Van Morrison
Producer(s) Van Morrison
Keep It Simple track listing
  1. "How Can a Poor Boy" - 5:43
  2. "School of Hard Knocks" - 3:44
  3. "That's Entrainment" - 4:32
  4. "Don't Go to Nightclubs Anymore" - 4:31
  5. "Lover Come Back" - 5:15
  6. "Keep It Simple" - 3:34
  7. "End of the Land" - 3:16
  8. "Song of Home" - 4:13
  9. "No Thing" - 4:31
  10. "Soul" - 3:37
  11. "Behind the Ritual" - 6:59

"Behind the Ritual" is a song written by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison and included as the ending track on his 2008 album, Keep It Simple. In concerts previewing the album, Morrison used this song as a closer and continued to include it on the set lists of his concerts in 2008.


In the opening lines of the song, the singer is reminiscing of the youthful days in his career as when he fronted the band, Them.

Drinking wine in the alley, drinking wine in the alley
Making time, drinking that wine
Out of my mind in the days gone by

The song's meaning and title are contained in the lines:

Behind the ritual, Behind the ritual
You'll find the spiritual

Critical reception[edit]

This song is often the favourite of reviewers and critics of all the songs from Keep it Simple.

Reviewer Jeffrey Lee Puckett calls it "one of his trademark long and winding odes" and comments, "He's never messed with us more than he does on 'Behind the Ritual'. At the point when Morrison would normally start improvising a key word or phrase, we get this: blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah repeated around 60 times."[1]

In a review in the Buffalo News, Jeff Miers writes: "'Behind the Ritual' stands out as one of Morrison's finest. Over a poised, shuffle groove the singer slurs, intones, dances around the edges of the meaning, his activity serving to shine a light on what is unstated much in the manner that the timeless 'Madame George' said so much with so little."[2]

Another reviewer in The Mirror remarked: "'Behind the Ritual' is the killer. Drinking wine and dancing like a dervish Van finds 'the spiritual behind the ritual.'"[3]

Scott Foundas of LA Weekly writes that "it is not the least of Keep it Simple's accomplishments that it adds one trancelike classic in the making to the Morrison's fittingly the album closer...the song is called "Behind the Ritual" and like many of Morrison's best songs, this one points toward a destination.[4]

Greil Marcus calls the song, "a strong statement of the power of simplicity, and moreover an assertion of Morrison's mastery."[5]

On a poll conducted on the fansite Van Morrison News, to determine Van Morrison's fans' favourite song from the album Keep It Simple, the song "Behind the Ritual" received 465 votes, placing first ahead of "Keep It Simple" which had 324 votes.[6]


  • Van Morrison - vocals, alto saxophone, ukulele
  • Mick Green - guitar
  • John Allair - organ
  • Paul Moore - bass
  • Neil Wilkinson - drums
  • Liam Bradley - percussion
  • Crawford Bell - backing vocals
  • Karen Hamill - backing vocals
  • Jerome Rimson - backing vocals


  1. ^ courier- Review
  2. ^ Review Buffalo News
  3. ^ Van Morrison Keep it Simple
  4. ^ "Van Morrison once again ventures in the slipstream". 2008-05-21. Archived from the original on 2008-05-28. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  5. ^ Marcus (2010) p. 146
  6. ^ "Keep It Simple poll". Archived from the original on 2010-10-20. Retrieved 2008-08-04. 


External links[edit]