Van Morrison

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Van Morrison
Van Morrison at Marin Civic Center, 2007
Background information
Birth nameGeorge Ivan Morrison
OriginBelfast, Northern Ireland
Blue-eyed soul
Occupation(s)Singer-songwriter, Musician
Instrumentsvocals, guitar, harmonica, saxophone, keyboards, drums and tambourine
Years active1960–Present
Associated actsThem

George Ivan Morrison OBE (generally known as Van Morrison) (born August 31, 1945) is a Grammy Award-winning Northern Irish singer, songwriter, author, poet and multi-instrumentalist, who has been a professional musician during the last five decades. He plays a variety of instruments, including the guitar, harmonica, keyboards, drums, and saxophone. Featuring his characteristic growl — a unique mix of throaty folk, blues, Irish, scat, and Celtic influences — Morrison is widely considered one of the most unusual and influential vocalists in the history of rock and roll.[1][2][3]Critic Greil Marcus has gone so far as to say that "no white man sings like Van Morrison."

Known as "Van the Man" by his fans, Morrison first rose to prominence as the lead singer of the Northern Irish band, Them, penning their seminal 1964 hit "Gloria". A few years later, Morrison left the band for a successful solo career.

Morrison has pursued an idiosyncratic musical path. Much of his music is tightly structured around the conventions of American soul and R&B, such as the popular singles "Brown Eyed Girl", "Moondance", "Domino" and "Wild Night". An equal part of his catalogue consists of lengthy, loosely connected, spiritually inspired musical journeys that show the influence of Celtic tradition, jazz, and stream-of-consciousness narrative, such as his classic album Astral Weeks and lesser known works such as Veedon Fleece and Common One. The two strains together are sometimes referred to as "Celtic Soul".

Morrison's career, spanning some five decades, has influenced many popular musical artists. In 1993 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2000, Morrison ranked #25 on American cable music channel VH1's list of its 100 greatest artists of rock and roll, and in 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Van Morrison[4] 42nd on their list of The Immortals: 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.[5]Paste Magazine ranked him 20th in their list of 100 Greatest Living Songwriters In 2006[6]and Q Magazine ranked him 22nd on their list of 100 Greatest Singers in April 2007.[7]


Early life

George Ivan (Van) Morrison was born on August 31, 1945, and grew up at 125 Hyndford Street[8] in Bloomfield, Belfast, Northern Ireland as the pampered, only child of George, a shipyard worker and Violet, a singer. Morrison was exposed to music from an early age, as his father, having spent time working in Detroit, Michigan collected American jazz, country and western, and blues albums.[9] His father's taste in music was passed on to him and he grew up listening to artists such as Jelly Roll Morton, Ray Charles, Lead Belly and Solomon Burke. In a 2005 Rolling Stone article he said, "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."[10]

In a taped 1969 interview, his mother said that he was listening to recordings from the age of two, when he would tug at her apron strings urging her to play more records. (His grandmother) "used to come up and take turns, because he'd have you play them morning, noon and night." There were sing-songs in the house on Saturday nights with family and friends and, although shy, the young Morrison would always sing upon request. He gave his first performance as a child with a rendition of Lead Belly's "Goodnight Irene".[11] He would perform this same song years later with another of his boyhood idols, Lonnie Donegan, on his album, The Skiffle Sessions - Live in Belfast 1998.

Young Morrison's father, noting his son's genuine interest, bought him his first guitar at age twelve. Van learned to play rudimentary chords, while studying the songbook The Carter Family Style. He soon formed a skiffle band named the Sputniks with school friends. They played at some of the local cinemas, and even at this young age, Van was already taking the lead and doing most of the singing and arranging. At fourteen, he formed another modified skiffle band, Midnight Special and played at a school concert. When this band broke up he wanted to join the Thunderbolts, but they turned him down because they already had a guitar player. After talking his father into buying him a saxophone, Van took lessons in tenor sax and music reading from George Cassidy, a local teacher, and practiced playing unremittingly for a month. [12] He then joined the Thunderbolts, playing in church dance halls and hospitals around town. The young Morrison was already noted for his uncommunicative nature and his inadequate social skills by his fellow band members, who remarked that his parents were remarkably patient with their only child. His mother disclosed that she took him aside one day to tell him he needed to learn to talk to people. According to his mother, "Van said to me that it wasn't that he didn't want to talk but tunes were running through his head all the time. He said he didn't know whether he'd been blessed or cursed because the words and music wouldn't leave him."[13]

When Morrison finished school at fourteen, coming from a hard working family, he was expected to get a regular, full-time job.[14]After several short apprenticeship positions, he settled into a job as a window cleaner, referenced in the autobiographical songs, "Cleaning Windows" and "Saint Dominic's Preview".[15] Young Morrison also played with the Harry Mack Showband, the Great Eight, with his older workplace friend, Geordie Sproule. He was later to name Sproule as one of his biggest influences. Morrison was drinking wine regularly by the age of fifteen, and had learned to perform an outlandish and attention-getting stage act by watching Sproule.[16]

Many of the places of Morrison's childhood, such as "Cyprus Avenue",[17]Fitzroy, Hyndford Street, Sandy Row and "Orangefield", (the boys' school he attended), would find their way into the lyrics of some of his most famous songs. His contented and self-absorbed childhood would be an important factor in the nostalgic and searching tone of much of his music throughout his long career.

After the death of his father in April 1988, Van would honour his father's memory with the song, "Choppin' Wood", which he often performs in concert.[18]


Morrison left home at seventeen to tour Europe with the group the Monarchs alongside his boyhood friend, George Jones, who later founded the showband Clubsound. Upon returning to East Belfast, the Monarchs disbanded.[19] Morrison connected with Geordie Sproule again and played with him in the Manhattan Showband along with guitarist Herbie Armstrong. When Armstrong auditioned to play with Brian Rossi and the Golden Eagles, Morrison went along and both were hired. He had acquired his first position as a blues singer as the band was not in need of a saxophonist, but he soon left to form an R&B Club at the Maritime Hotel. Needing a group to perform with there, he joined up with the members of The Gamblers. Before the first opening night at the Maritime in April 1964, the group changed their name to Them from a Fifties horror movie.[20] Morrison soon came to prominence fronting the band, as he was the only song-writer. Them had a number of chart hits, most notably the rock standard "Gloria", subsequently covered by many artists, including The Doors, Shadows of Knight, and Jimi Hendrix. In June 1966, while Them was headlining a three-week residency at the famed Whisky-a-Go-Go, Jim Morrison and The Doors were the opening act on the last week. Van's influence on Jim's developing stage performance was noted by John Densmore in his book Riders On The Storm, "Jim Morrison learned quickly from his near namesake's stagecraft, his apparent recklessness, his air of subdued menace, the way he would improvise poetry to a rock beat, even his habit of crouching down by the bass drum during instrumental breaks."[21] On the last night the two Morrisons and the two bands jammed together on "Gloria".[22] Van and Jim would eventually become good friends, often joking that they were brothers.

Morrison and the other Them band members became involved in a dispute with their manager, Decca Records' Phil Solomon, over the revenues paid them on the two month United States of America west coast tour.[23] He returned to Belfast, intending to quit the music business. Them’s one-time producer, Bert Berns, persuaded him to return to New York and record solo for the Bang Records label.[24] From these early sessions emerged one of his best-known songs, "Brown Eyed Girl", which reached No.10 in the US charts in 1967. Master session drummer Gary Chester played on that song.[25] 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."[26] Recordings from these sessions have been occasionally re-released by Bang and in bootleg form, under various names. Most of these recordings were remixed and repackaged in 1991 as the Bang Masters. The compilation included an alternate take of "Brown Eyed Girl", as well as early versions of "Beside You" and "Madame George", songs that would appear with slightly different chord changes, instrumentation, and lyrics on Morrison's second album.

File:VanMorrison AstralWeeks.jpg
Morrison's seminal 1968 album Astral Weeks

After Berns’ death in 1967, Morrison was involved in a contract dispute with Berns' widow that prevented him from performing on stage or recording in the New York area .[27] The song, "Big Time Operators", released in 1991, chronicled his dealings with the New York music business during this time period.[28] He then moved to Boston, Massachusetts and was soon confronted with personal and financial problems; he had "slipped into a malaise" and had trouble finding gigs.[29] However, through the few gigs he could find, he regained his professional footing and started recording with the Warner Bros. Records label.[30][31]The record company was able to buy out his contract with Bang Records, and Morrison fulfilled a highly unusual clause that bound him to submit thirty-six original songs within a year by recording thirty-two nonsense songs in one session.[32]

His first album for Warner Bros. Records was Astral Weeks (which he had already performed in several clubs around Boston), a mystical song cycle, considered by many to be his best work.[33] Morrison has said, "When Astral Weeks came out, I was starving, literally."[34] Released in 1968, the album was critically acclaimed, but received an indifferent response from the public. To this day, it remains in an unclassifiable music genre and has been described as hypnotic, meditative, and having a unique musical power. It has been compared to French Impressionism and mystical Celtic poetry.[35][36][37] Perhaps the best known review in rock history was written by the influential music journalist Lester Bangs in 1979, describing the effect that Astral Weeks had on his life.[38] It has often been placed on the most authoritative lists of best albums of all time. In the 1995 MOJO list of 100 Best Albums, it was listed as #2, and was #19 on the Rolling Stone Magazine's The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003.[39]


Van Morrison in concert, mid 70s.

Morrison then moved to Woodstock, New York, and released his next album, Moondance, in 1970. Moondance reached #29 on the Billboard charts. The style of this album was in great contrast to that of Astral Weeks. Whereas Astral Weeks was a sorrowful and vulnerable album, Moondance was a much more optimistic and cheerful affair. The title track, although not released in the US as a single until 1977, was heavily played in many radio formats. The evocative song "Into the Mystic" has also gained a wide following over the years. The single released was "Come Running", which reached the US Top 40. Moondance was both well received and favourably reviewed. Lester Bangs and Greil Marcus had a combined full page review in Rolling Stone Magazine, stating that Morrison now had "the striking imagination of a consciousness that is visionary in the strongest sense of the word."[40]"That was the type of band I dig," Morrison said of the Moondance sessions. "Two horns and a rhythm section - they're the type of bands that I like best." He produced the album himself as he felt like nobody else knew what he wanted.[41]Moondance was listed at #65 on the Rolling Stone Magazine's The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[42]In March 2007, Moondance was listed as #72 on the NARM Rock and Roll Hall of Fame list of the "Definitive 200".[43]

Over the next few years, he released several acclaimed albums, among them a second one in 1970. His Band and the Street Choir had a freer, more relaxed sound than Moondance, but not the perfection, in many critics' opinions, and contained the hit single "Domino". The last song "Street Choir" took on a more serious tone.

In 1971, he moved with his family to a hilltop home in Fairfax, California[44] and released another popular album, Tupelo Honey. This album produced the hit single "Wild Night", and the catchy title song that has a very country and western feel about it. It ended with another country tune, "Moonshine Whisky". Morrison said he originally intended to make an all country album.[45] His co-producer, Ted Templeman, was impressed with Morrison's ability as a musician, arranger and producer, describing it at the time as the "scariest thing I've ever seen. When he's got something together, he wants to put it down right away with no overdubbing."[46]He claimed later, "I'd never work with Van Morrison again as long as I live, even if he offered me two million dollars in cash. I aged ten years producing three of his albums."[47] He later regretted the statement, however.[48]

Released in 1972, Saint Dominic's Preview, was an indication that Morrison was breaking away from the more accessible style of the last three albums and moving back towards the more daring, adventurous, meditative aspects of Astral Weeks. The combination of two styles of music gave it a versatility that had been lacking before in his previous albums. Two songs ("Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile)"and "Redwood Tree") reached the Hot 100. Two other songs ("Listen to the Lion" and "Almost Independence Day") were ten and eleven minutes long and employed the same poetic imagery not heard since Astral Weeks.[49] It was his highest charting album ever.

Van Morrison, early 70s

By 1972, despite being a performer for nearly 10 years, he began experiencing stage-fright when performing for audiences of thousands, as opposed to the hundreds that he had experienced in his early career. He became anxious on stage and would have difficulty establishing eye contact with the audience. He once said in 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."[50] After a brief break from music, he started performing in clubs, regaining his ability to perform live, albeit with smaller audiences. He then formed the backing group The Caledonia Soul Orchestra and ventured on a three month US tour with them. The tour was captured for posterity on the live double album, It's Too Late to Stop Now, regarded as one of the great live albums in rock history.[51][52] Soon after recording the album, Morrison restructured the Caledonia Soul Orchestra into a smaller unit, the Caledonia Soul Express. For many years, his parents, George and Violet, owned a record store in Fairfax, California named Caledonia Records.

In 1973, Morrison divorced his wife of five years, actress and model, Janet (Planet) Rigsbee, with whom he had a daughter, the singer-songwriter, Shana Morrison. Shana has appeared on stage with her father on several occasions and has duetted with him on his albums, (1994s) A Night in San Francisco and (1995s) Days Like This. Morrison had mixed, but mostly negative, reviews with his 1973 album, Hard Nose the Highway. It contained the popular song "Warm Love" but otherwise has been largely dismissed.[53]The Rolling Stone Magazine reviewer concluded: "Hard Nose the Highway is psychologically complex, musically somewhat uneven and lyrically excellent."[54]

He then released the introspective and poignant album, Veedon Fleece, in 1974. Though it attracted little attention at the time of its release, its critical stature has grown over the years, and Veedon Fleece is now considered one of Morrison's best works."[55]"You Don't Pull No Punches, But You Don't Push the River", one of the album's side closers, exemplifies the long, hypnotic, cryptic Morrison with its references to visionary poet William Blake and to the apparently Grail-like Veedon Fleece object.

Morrison would not release a follow-up album for the next three years. After ten years without taking time off, he said in an interview, that he just needed to get away from music completely and even ceased listening to it for several months. Also suffering from writer's block, he later confessed that he seriously considered leaving the music business for good. During this time, he lived in isolation "far from the beaten path." Greil Marcus said that he drove by on the road one time and there was this big sign that said, Van Morrison's Self-Improvement Camp. "I have no idea if someone put it up there as a prank or if he'd put it up; (nor whether) you went there to improve yourself or whether you went there to improve him, but it somehow struck me as very appropriate."[56] A new album was often rumoured to be ready for release under such titles as Mechanical Bliss, Naked in the Jungle and Stiff Upper Lip. Morrison later was to say the project was nothing more than an extended jamming session.[57]

In November 1976, Morrison performed at the farewell concert for The Band, which took place on Thanksgiving Day. It was his first live performance in quite some time and Morrison considered skipping his appearance until the last minute, even refusing to go on stage when his name was called. His manager, Harvey Goldsmith, said he "literally kicked him out there." Morrison was on good terms with The Band. They were near-neighbours in Woodstock, and they had shared experience of stage-fright. At the concert, Van performed two songs, one of them being, "Caravan", from his 1970 album Moondance which was described by All Movie Guide as "a rousing performance."[58] Greil Marcus was even more impressed and wrote that "Van Morrison turned the show around...singing to the rafters and ...burning holes in the floor. It was a triumph, and as the song ended Van began to kick his leg into the air out of sheer exuberance and he kicked his way right offstage like a Rockette. The crowd had given him a fine welcome and they cheered wildly when he left."[59] The concert was filmed and later issued in Martin Scorsese's 1978 film, The Last Waltz, which is considered a landmark concert film.

It was during his association with The Band, that he acquired both of his fans' nicknames for him: "Belfast Cowboy" and "Van the Man". While Van was singing the duet "4% Pantomime" that he co-wrote with Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel calls him, "Oh, Belfast Cowboy". It would be included in The Bands album Cahoots. When he left the stage, after performing "Caravan" on The Last Waltz, Robbie calls out "Van the Man!"

Morrison, in 1977, finally released A Period of Transition, a collaboration with Dr. John, who also appeared at The Last Waltz. It received a mild critical reception and began a very prolific period of song making. The following year, Morrison released Wavelength; It was the fastest selling album of his career, at the time, and soon went Gold. The engaging title track became a modest hit and peaked at #42. The opening track, "Kingdom Hall", about Morrison's own childhood experience around Jehovah's Witnesses also foreshadowed the religious turn in Morrison's next album, Into the Music.

Released in 1979, Into the Music, was hailed as a masterpiece: "An erotic/religious cycle of songs that culminates in the greatest side of music Morrison has created since Astral Weeks".[61] This album for the first time alludes to the healing power of music, which had become an abiding interest of Morrison's, and would dominate his music from this point on. "Bright Side of the Road" was a joyful, uplifting song that would appear on the soundtrack of the popular movie Michael.


With his next album, the new decade saw Morrison following his own muse into uncharted territory and merciless reviews. In 1980 he took a group of musicians with him to Super Bear, a studio in the French Alps, on the site of a former abbey, to record his "most daring and unclassifiable" album since Astral Weeks.[62]The album, Common One, consisted of only six songs of varying lengths. The longest, "Summertime In England" was fifteen and one-half minutes long and ended with the words,"Can you feel the silence?" NME magazine's, Graham Locke, called the album "colossally smug and cosmically dull; an interminable, vacuous and drearily egotistical stab at spirituality."[63] Even Greil Marcus, who had formerly supported Morrison, said: "It's Van acting the part of the 'mystic poet' he thinks he's supposed to be."[64]Morrison insisted that the album was never "meant to be a commercial album;"[65] but, perhaps stung by the harsh reviews, "he would not attempt anything so ambitious again."[65]Later the critics would reassess the album more favourably with the success of "Summertime in England" and other tracks that seem to take on new meaning in live performance. Lester Bangs wrote in 1982, "Van was making holy music even though he thought he was, and us (sic) rock critics had made our usual mistake of paying too much attention to the lyrics."[66]

Morrison's next album, Beautiful Vision, was released in 1982 and saw him returning once again to his Belfast roots. It was well received by the critics and public, producing a popular single, "Cleaning Windows", that documented one of Morrison's first jobs after leaving school.[67]Several other songs on the album, "Vanlose Stairway", "She Gives Me Religion", and the instrumental, "Scandinavia", on which Morrison plays piano, show the presence of a new physical muse: a Danish Public Relations agent, who would share Morrison's spiritual interests and serve as a steadying influence on him throughout most of the 1980s.[68]He had quit drinking alcohol, sometime during the years of 1973 or 1974,[69] and now drank "gallons" of coffee a day, according to friends. However, he was to once again have problems with alcohol, beginning later in the decade, after his father's sudden death.[70]

In the early 1980s, Morrison moved back to Europe and at first settled in the Notting Hill Gate area of London.[71]Later, he moved to Bath, where he bought Wool Hall Studios.[72]He became increasingly more in control of the music that he produced.[73]

Much of the music Morrison released throughout the 1980s continued to focus on themes of spirituality and faith as Morrison's compositions steered towards New Age territory. He gave a special thanks to L. Ron Hubbard on his 1983 album, Inarticulate Speech of the Heart, although he has never been formally associated with Scientology or any other Church.[74]

In 1985, he released a new album, A Sense Of Wonder, that contained the opening track "Tore Down A La Rimbaud". Morrison said he had been reading about Rimbaud in 1974, when he was suffering through a period of writer's block. He then carried this song around with him for eight years, before he could complete it.[75]

Morrison's 1986 release, No Guru, No Method, No Teacher, earned enthusiastic reviews from many, but not all critics. During the recording, the artist's characteristic deep growl was in grand form and the album featured some of the grittiest acoustic arrangements since the days of Astral Weeks, but not all critics were comfortable with the increasingly religious content.

Unflustered, Morrison was slightly less gritty and more adult contemporary with the well received 1987 album, Poetic Champions Compose, considered to be one of his highlights of the 1980s.[76] The romantic ballad, "Someone Like You", from this album was featured in the soundtrack of several popular movies, including 1995's French Kiss and, in 2001, both Someone Like You and Bridget Jones's Diary.

In 1988, he released Irish Heartbeat, with the Irish group, The Chieftains. It was a popular-selling album, which demonstrated the full range of Morrison's unique vocal power on a collection of traditional Irish folk songs. Morrison played drums on this album.

In 1989, Morrison released an even more popular seller, Avalon Sunset, which featured the hit duet with Cliff Richard "Whenever God Shines His Light" and the ballad "Have I Told You Lately" on which "earthly love transmutes into that for God"[77]This is often said to be his most spiritual album, but it also contained the sensual song, "Daring Night": "It deals with full, blazing sex, whatever it's churchy organ and gentle lilt suggest."[78]Morrison's preoccupation with the erotic/religious theme was once again in evidence. He can be heard calling out the change of tempo in the ending of this song, indicative of his belief that music should be spontaneous. He often completed albums in two days time, with first takes being the norm.[79][80][81]


Morrison was able to capitalise on the success of Avalon Sunset with the release of The Best of Van Morrison, in 1990. Not to be mistaken with a similarly-titled compilation, released in 1967, (and long out of print), this was the first collection ever to survey his entire career. Compiled by Morrison himself and focusing on his hit singles, it became a multi-platinum success and was one of the best selling albums of the 1990s.[82]

In 1990, Morrison joined many other guests for Roger Waters' massive performance of The Wall in Berlin. He sang "Comfortably Numb" with Roger Waters, and his friends from the Band, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson and Rick Danko. This version of the song was included in the soundtrack of Martin Scorsese's 2006 film The Departed.

BBC2 filmed a career overview entitled One Irish Rover in 1991, which opened with Van Morrison and Bob Dylan singing a duet on the Hill of the Muses above Athens, Greece. Dylan and Morrison performed duets on "Crazy Love" "Foreign Window" and "One Irish Rover". The Independent described "the Irish singer flanked by Bob Dylan and the Acropolis: all three of them legendary, all looking their age, and all a waste of time talking to with a microphone in your hand."[83]

In January 1993, Van Morrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He became the first inductee ever to not attend his induction ceremony.[84] His friend from The Band, Robbie Robertson accepted the award on his behalf.[85]

Although Morrison's commercial success would continue throughout the 1990s, the critical reception to his work began to decline. 1990's Enlightenment yielded one hit single, "Real Real Gone", (first recorded ten years earlier); 1991's double album Hymns to the Silence was one of his most ambitious works; 1993's Too Long in Exile and 1995's Days Like This had large sales even though the critical reviews were not always favourable.[86]

In contrast, the 1994 live double album, A Night in San Francisco was a "tour-de-force", showing Morrison's talents and his influences in equal measure.

On February 14, 1994, Van Morrison was awarded the BRIT Award for his Outstanding Contribution to British Music. He was presented with the award by former Beirut hostage, John McCarthy who testified to the importance of Morrison's song, "Wonderful Remark":

Morrison performed before an estimated audience of 60-80,000 people when US President Bill Clinton visited Belfast, Northern Ireland on November 30, 1995. His song "Days Like This" had become the official anthem for the Northern Irish peace movement.[87]

In June 1996, Morrison was awarded an OBE by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace for his service to music.

This period was also marked by a number of side projects, including the live jazz performances of 1996's How Long Has This Been Going On, 1997's Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison, and 2000's The Skiffle Sessions - Live In Belfast 1998, all of which found Morrison paying tribute to his long-time favourites.

In 1997, Morrison released The Healing Game. The following year, Morrison finally released some of his unissued studio recordings in a warmly received two-disc set, The Philosopher's Stone. His next release, 1999's Back on Top, was a modest success, being his highest charting album in the US since 1978's Wavelength.

In September 1999, Morrison became the first musician to be inducted into the newly opened Irish Music Hall of Fame. Bob Geldof presented Morrison with the award remarking, "I believe there is only one genius in Irish music, and that's Van Morrison."

During this decade, Morrison developed a close association with two vocal talents at opposite ends of their careers: Georgie Fame, with whom Morrison had already worked occasionally, lent his voice and Hammond organ skills; and Brian Kennedy's vocals complimented the grizzled voice of Morrison, both in studio and live performances.

Taking this concept of association a stage further, the 1990s saw an upsurge in Morrison's collaborations with other artists, a trend that has continued into the new millennium.

These include:


Van Morrison continued to record and tour in the 2000s, performing two or three times a week. Playing fewer of his well-known songs in concert than almost any other artist from his era, Morrison refuses to be relegated into a nostalgia act.

Contrary to the days when he felt at the mercy of the music industry, he now has his own independent label, Exile Productions Ltd., and has full production control of each album he records; which he then delivers as a finished product to the recording label that he chooses, for marketing and distributing.[88]

In July 2001, Morrison received an honorary doctorate in music from Queen's University in his hometown of Belfast. Nine years earlier, in 1992, he had received an honorary doctorate in literature from the University of Ulster–at the time being the only other university in his native Northern Ireland.

In 2000, Morrison released a collaboration with Linda Gail Lewis (Jerry Lee Lewis's sister), You Win Again. Another side project, this time focusing on R&B and country-and-western standards, Lewis proved to be an excellent duet partner, and the project set the stage for Morrison's next album, Choppin' Wood. By the end of 2000 when the album was essentially finished, Lewis and Morrison had a falling out.[89]

The cover of the May 2005 edition of Wavelength, a magazine dedicated to Van Morrison

As a result, Morrison went back and re-recorded and/or remixed most of the tracks, removing Lewis's contributions in the process. A few songs were removed from the final running order and new ones were added in. The result was released in 2002 as Down the Road. Clinton Heylin contends that the original version, Choppin' Wood, would have been a true return to form. It is doubtful if that notion will ever be put to the test because the original recordings have yet to circulate, privately or publicly.

"In recognition of his unique position as one of the most important songwriters of the past century," Van Morrison was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, at an awards ceremony in New York City in June 2003. Ray Charles presented the award, following a performance in which the pair performed Morrison's "Crazy Love", from the album, Moondance. Morrison's admiration for Charles was evident in the award ceremony and he later wrote an article published in Rolling Stone Magazine in 2004, describing Ray Charles' influence on music and on him personally.[90]

In the same year, Morrison released What's Wrong with This Picture? on the legendary jazz record label, Blue Note Records. The album would later receive a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album.

In 2004, his song, "Bright Side of the Road", from his 1979 album Into the Music was featured in the UNESCO advertisements for World Press Freedom Day. In October 2004 Van Morrison was honored as a BMI ICON at the annual London Awards for his "enduring influence on generations of music makers."[91]

Morrison still remains popular with the public: his album, Magic Time, debuted at #25 on the US Billboard 200 charts upon release in May 2005, some forty years after first entering the public's eye as the frontman of Them. Rolling Stone Magazine listed it as #17 on their list of The Top 50 Records of 2005.[92]

Later in the year, Morrison also donated a previously unreleased studio track to a charity album, Hurricane Relief: Come Together Now, which raised money for relief efforts intended for Gulf Coast victims devastated by hurricanes, Katrina and Rita. The song, "Blue & Green", was composed by Morrison and featured the late Foggy Lyttle on guitar.

Van appeared in The Hebridean Celtic Festival in Stornoway Outer Hebrides in the summer of 2005, where he was a headline act at the growing international Celtic music festival.

He released an album with a country music theme, entitled Pay the Devil, on March 7, 2006. On the day of its release, Van Morrison Day was declared in Nashville by the Mayor, and Morrison appeared for the very first time at the historic Ryman Auditorium that evening to a sold-out crowd. The entire Ryman was sold out twelve minutes after the tickets went on sale.[93] Pay the Devil debuted at #26 on The Billboard 200 and peaked at #7 on Top Country Albums. The country album was listed at #10 on Amazon Best of 2006 Editor's Picks in Country in December 2006.

In August 2006, Van and his longtime girlfriend, Michelle Rocca (who was Miss Ireland 1980) were reported to be the parents of a seven-month-old daughter, Aibhe Rocca Morrison. Aibhe was born in Dublin, Ireland. Barry Egan published an article in the Sunday Independent, on August 20, 2006, revealing that the pregnancy had been kept a secret by Michelle by her wearing baggy clothes and seldom leaving the house.[94] Morrison, a notoriously private person, had begun a close and initially highly publicised relationship with Rocca in 1993. In recent years, they have seldom been seen in public together, although they are reportedly sharing a home in Killiney in South Dublin, Ireland.

On September 15, 2006, Morrison was the headline act on the first night of the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Rolling Stone Magazine reviewed this performance as one of the top ten shows of the 2006 festival.[95] In November 2006, a limited edition album, Live at Austin City Limits Festival,[96] was issued which is sold only at Van Morrison concerts and at the official website.

In October 2006, Live At Montreux 1980/1974 was the first ever commercial DVD released by Morrison, though the Pay The Devil CD was rereleased in the summer of 2006 with a DVD containing tracks from the Ryman.[97]This two DVD set illustrates how his songwriting evolved over this period, and includes some of his best known tracks: "Moondance", " Street Choir", "Tupelo Honey", and "Ballerina". Pee Wee Ellis, Mark Isham, and David Hayes are among some of the well-known musicians featured in the 1980 show; the 1974 show has a line-up that features Pete Wingfield, Dallas Taylor and Jerome Rimson.

In November 2006, CNN published their list of The All-TIME 100 Greatest Albums.[98] Two of Van Morrison's albums, 1968's Astral Weeks and 1970's Moondance, were on the list.

His continuing popularity with music fans was evident when he was voted as #13 on the list of WXPNs 885 All Time Greatest Artists in 2006.[99]

Van Morrison was honoured at the Second Annual Oscar Wilde: Honouring Irish Writing in Film Pre-Academy Awards Party, in Los Angeles, California, on February 22, 2007 for his contribution to over fifty films. He was presented with the award by Al Pacino.[100] Van Morrison at the Movies - Soundtrack Hits, a new nineteen song album, was released by Morrison's latest record label, Manhattan EMI, on February 12, 2007, to coincide with this event.

He appeared at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on the first evening on April 27, 2007 as the headline act where his longtime collaborator and friend, Dr. John joined him for one set on stage.[101]Morrison also drew the largest crowd ever (35,000) on July 4 2007 at the Ottawa Canada Bluesfest.[102]

On May 08 2007 Van Morrison was named Best International Male Singer of 2007 by the first ever International Awards at famed jazz club Ronnie Scotts in London England.[103]

A new 2CD compilation album The Best of Van Morrison Volume 3 was released on June 11, 2007 in the UK and on June 19 in the US by Manhattan EMI.[104] It contains 31 tracks, some of which were previously unreleased. The tracks were personally selected by Morrison to represent the best of his work from 1993s album Too Long in Exile to the song "Stranded" from the 2005 album Magic Time.[105]

There was an announcement on August 16 2007 on Van Morrison's official website that his complete catalogue of albums dating from 1971 through 2002 will be available as of September 3 2007 exclusively from ITunes Store appearing at the rate of four albums per week.[106]

Van and Michelle Rocca became the parents of a son born during the first weekend of September 2007. As with their first child Aibhe, the pregnancy was kept secret from the public and revealed in an article in the RTE on September 05 2007.[107]


Morrison's influence can readily be seen in the music of many major artists, including U2 (much of The Unforgettable Fire), Bruce Springsteen ("Spirit in the Night", "4th of July (Sandy)", "Backstreets"), John Mellencamp ("A Little Night Dancin'", a cover of Morrison's "Wild Night"), Jim Morrison, Joan Armatrading, Rickie Lee Jones, Rod Stewart, Tom Petty, Patti Smith (her poetic-proto-punk "Gloria" most explicitly), Elvis Costello (who later toured with Morrison), Graham Parker, Daryl Hall, Thin Lizzy, Bob Seger ("I know Springsteen was very much affected by Van Morrison, and so was I." - interview in Creem), Dexys Midnight Runners, Jimi Hendrix ("Gloria"), Jeff Buckley ("The Way Young Lovers Do", "Sweet Thing"), numerous others, including Counting Crows (the "sha-la-la" sequence in Mr Jones, is a tribute to Morrison) and the The Wallflowers with "Into The Mystic". Ray Lamontagne,[108] James Morrison,[109][110] and Paolo Nutini[111] are several of the younger artists influenced by Morrison. Canadian blues-rock singer Colin James also covers "Into The Mystic" frequently at his concerts. Glen Hansard of Irish rock band The Frames, who lists Van Morrison as being part of his holy trinity with Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, commonly covers his songs in concert.[112]

Morrison expressed some grudges in the 1980s, regarding his pervasive influence on some of the artists, admitting that he was "flattered by the compliment" but "felt ripped off, in an academic context, because there are just people who don't know."[113]

On his 1986 album, No Guru, No Method, No Teacher, he included the song, "A Town Called Paradise", which begins with the words: "Copycats ripped off my words/ Copycats ripped off my songs/ Copycats ripped off my melody", but then goes on to say: "It doesn't matter what they say/ It doesn't matter what they do."

Overall, Morrison has typically been supportive of other artists and has often shared the stage with them during his concerts. On the live album, A Night in San Francisco, he had as his special guests, among others, his childhood idols, Jimmy Witherspoon, John Lee Hooker and Junior Wells. Although he often expresses his displeasure (in interviews and songs) with the music industry and the media in general, he has been instrumental in promoting the careers of many other musicians and singers, such as Brian Kennedy[114] and James Hunter.[115] In an interview with Jazziz, he was generous with his praise of artists that have covered his work, and the many artists that have influenced him.[116]

Awards and Recognition

Grammy Awards:

Other recognition:



  1. ^ Rolling Stone biography
  2. ^ All Music biography
  3. ^ Rock And Roll HOF biography
  4. ^ "Van Morrison". Peter Wolf. Rolling Stone Issue 946. Rolling Stone.
  5. ^ "The Immortals: The First Fifty". Rolling Stone Issue 946. Rolling Stone.
  6. ^ "100 Best Living Songwriters". Paste Magazine. Retrieved 2007-07-06.
  7. ^ "100 Greatest Singers". Retrieved 2007-04-08.
  8. ^ Van Morrison Website (Unofficial) Belfast Map Hyndford Street.
  9. ^ Rogan 2006. p17.
  10. ^ "Renaissance Van". Rolling Stone. 2005-06-02. Retrieved 2007-03-30.
  11. ^ Rogan 2006. pp20-21.
  12. ^ Turner 1993. p26.
  13. ^ Rogan 2006. pp23-31.
  14. ^ Van Morrison Website (Unofficial) 1985 New Age interview
  15. ^ Rogan 2006. p.48.
  16. ^ Rogan 2006. pp43-44.
  17. ^ Van Morrison Website (Unofficial) Belfast Map Cyprus Avenue
  18. ^ Rogan 2006. p375
  19. ^ Rogan 2006. pp55-70.
  20. ^ Rogan 2006. pp71-83.
  21. ^ Hinton 1997. p67.
  22. ^ Van Morrison Website (Unofficial) The Doors
  23. ^ Turner 1993. pp72-73.
  24. ^ Rogan 2006. p188.
  25. ^ Gary Chester website
  26. ^ Van Morrison Website (Unofficial) Reviews Greil Marcus
  27. ^ Rogan 2006. pp212-215.
  28. ^ Rogan 2006. p216.
  29. ^ Rogan 2006. p217.
  30. ^ Heylin 2003. p170.
  31. ^ Heylin 2003. pp176,177.
  32. ^ Rogan 2006. pp212-222.
  33. ^ Rogan 2006. p223.
  34. ^ Hinton 1997. p100.
  35. ^ Van Morrison Website (Unofficial) Reviews Scott Thomas
  36. ^ "Van Morrison". Geocities website. Retrieved 2007-03-30.
  37. ^ Hinton 1997. pp88,89.
  38. ^ Van Morrison Website (Unofficial) Reviews Lester Bangs
  39. ^ "(19)Astral Weeks". Rolling Stone Magazine online. Retrieved 2007-03-30.
  40. ^ Rogan 2006. pp250,251.
  41. ^ Heylin 2003. p226.
  42. ^ "65 Moondance". Rolling Stone. 2003-11-01. Retrieved 2007-03-30.
  43. ^ "NARM The Definitive 200"". Retrieved 2007-03-30.
  44. ^ Rogan 2006. p259.
  45. ^ Rogan 2006. pp267,268.
  46. ^ Hinton 1997. p137.
  47. ^ Hinton 1997. p135.
  48. ^ "1982 Rolling Stone interview".
  49. ^ Heylin 2003. pp255,256.
  50. ^ Van Morrison Website (Unofficial) 1972 Interview Scott Grissom Jr.
  51. ^ "MOJO Top 50 Live Albums". Muziek. Retrieved 2007-03-31.
  52. ^ "Top 50 Live Albums". Stylus. Retrieved 2007-03-31.
  53. ^ Heylin 2003. pp265-267.
  54. ^ RS review Hard Nose the Highway
  55. ^ Rogan 2006. p301.
  56. ^ Heylin 2003. p305.
  57. ^ Rogan 2006. p304.
  58. ^ "The Last Waltz". Retrieved 2007-03-30.
  59. ^ Rolling Stone Magazine "The Bands Last Waltz" Check |url= value (help). Rolling Stone Magazine online. Retrieved 2007-03-31.
  60. ^ Van Morrison Website (Unofficial) Review Scott Thomas
  61. ^ Dave Marsh, The Rolling Stone Album Guide, 2nd Edition
  62. ^ Rogan 2006. p330.
  63. ^ Rogan 2006. pp330,331.
  64. ^ Heylin 2003. p334.
  65. ^ a b Heylin 2003. p365. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "HeylinPage365" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  66. ^ Heylin 2003. p364.
  67. ^ Rogan 2006. pp337,338.
  68. ^ Heylin 2003. p371.
  69. ^ Rogan 2006. p286.
  70. ^ Rogan 2006. p384.
  71. ^ Rogan 2006. p342.
  72. ^ Rogan 2006. p400.
  73. ^ Rogan 2006. p340.
  74. ^ Van Morrison Website (Unofficial) 1985 Interview New Age Steven Davis
  75. ^ Heylin 2003. p308.
  76. ^ "Poetic Champions Compose". Retrieved 2007-03-30.
  77. ^ Hinton 1997. p278.
  78. ^ Hinton 1997. p280.
  79. ^ Van Morrison Website (Unofficial) Review Q Magazine Toby Manning
  80. ^ Heylin 2003. pp429,448,449,463.
  81. ^ Van Morrison Website (Unofficial) 2003 Interview Shana Morrison
  82. ^ Heylin 2003. p437.
  83. ^ Hinton 1997. p299.
  84. ^ Rogan 2006. p411.
  85. ^ Turner 1993. p177.
  86. ^ Heylin 2003. pp450,457,458.
  87. ^ Rogan, 2006, p. 437
  88. ^ Van Morrison Website (Unofficial) Discography
  89. ^ Heylin 2003. pp490,491.
  90. ^ "Ray Charles by Van Morrison". Rolling Stone Magazine. Retrieved 2007-03-31.
  91. ^ news Morrison to be honored as BMI ICON retrieved 2007-05-26
  92. ^ "The Top 50 Records of 2005". rolling stone magazine. Retrieved 2007-05-04.
  93. ^ "Van Morrison Ryman Auditorium Nashville TN by Barry Mazor". Retrieved 2007-03-31.
  94. ^ Van Morrison Website (Unofficial) Transcript Barry Egan article:Sunday Independent
  95. ^ "10 Best Shows at Austin City Limits". Retrieved 2007-03-31.
  96. ^ Van Morrison Website (Unofficial) Discography Live at Austin City Limits
  97. ^ Van Morrison Website (Unofficial) Discography LIve at Montreux 1980/1970
  98. ^ "The All-Time 100 Albums". Time/CNN. Retrieved 2007-03-31.
  99. ^ "885 All Time Greatest Artists". Retrieved 2007-08-12.
  100. ^ "Van Morrison, Terry George and Bill Monahan honored in LA". US-Irish Alliance. Retrieved 2007-03-30.
  101. ^ "Baptism By Choir". Retrieved 2007-04-29.
  102. ^ "Le Breton Flats Ottawa July 4, 2007". Retrieved 2007-07-29.
  103. ^ "Van Morrison receives jazz award". Retrieved 2007-05-09.
  104. ^ Official Van Morrison website
  105. ^ "Van Morrison's The Best of Van Morrison, Volume 3". abcnewsaksuperstation. Retrieved 2007-04-18.
  106. ^ Official Van Morrison website
  107. ^ "Van Morrison a dad again". Retrieved 2007-09-06.
  108. ^ "Ray Lamontagne Under the Influence". Retrieved 2007-03-30.
  109. ^ popmatters music reviews "James Morrison Undiscovered" Check |url= value (help). Retrieved 2007-03-30.
  110. ^ "Morrison Trys to Live up to Hype". Retrieved 2007-04-14.
  111. ^ "Bonnaroo 2007 Artists Paolo Nutini". Retrieved 2007-03-30.
  112. ^ "Dylan support slot a dream come true". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2007-09-02.
  113. ^ Van Morrison Website (Unofficial) 1984 Interview Bill Flanagan
  114. ^ "Biography-Brian Kennedy". 2006 Retrieved 2007-03-30.
  115. ^ "James Hunter in Concert". Retrieved 2007-03-30.
  116. ^ Van Morrison Website (Unoffical) 2004 Interview Jazziz


Further reading

  • Yorke, Ritchie (1975). Into The Music, London:Charisma Books , ISBN 0-85947-013-X
  • Dawe, Gerald (2007). My Mother-City, Belfast:Lagan Press — (Includes section on Van Morrison from previous edition, The Rest is History, Newry:Abbey Press, 1998)

See also

External links