Van Morrison

George Ivan Morrison was a son of a Belfast couple, born after the second world war. His father was a musician and had a vast collection of Irish, traditional, jazz, country, rhythm and blues, blues and lots besides. They were from the leafy protestant streets of South Belfast. His mother was enlightened and took him to various Protestant churches during his childhood. His father educated him in many different musical styles and his mother encouraged an eclectic spirituality.
He played saxophone initially. He also played guitar and keyboard, but his best instrument was his voice. Impassioned, powerful, educated, soulful, original and with a great range.
His first band was the Them. He sang and performed the classic R&B number Gloria. Like so many of his creations it was based on his youth growing up in Belfast. By 1967 he was branching out on his own. Like so many others he wanted to be free to express himself creatively. He recorded the ultimate three-minute pop song “Brown Eyed Girl”. Then the next year he completely changed direction in Boston. While living in poverty, he recorded “Astral Weeks” with some top jazz musicians. The difference with what came before was staggering. Astral weeks was a eulogy to lost youth, a mystical and spiritual reflection on his past. A stream of consciousness driven not by the popular recreational drugs of the day, but by rose tinted reflection of reality. In some circles, it is hailed as the greatest album of all time. It is difficult to compare because there is simply nothing like it, but I would not deny it. He carried on with the brilliant and brassy Moondance and his popularity began to increase. Superb live performances, where the music spoke for itself. An album a year until 1974, this was the great period. A hiatus was followed from 1977 with albums exploring personal spirituality and this would continue into the 1990’s. There were collaborations and tributes and almost yearly albums.
I could wax lyrical about him or his music and I will do so briefly. But Van is all about the music and you should just listen. If you want to know about him, he has shown himself to you on vinyl.
The music came first, period. He would work on a project to make an artistic statement. He accessed all the various genres learnt from his father, and creates his own. Apparently, he once said that he has tunes going through his head all the time and he does not know whether it is a blessing or a curse. He is a very private person who hates the fame and is allegedly not that sociable. So, what, listen to the music, the man has a tender and beautiful heart and he shares it with you on record.
So, if you see in the street, don’t go up and fawn all over him or ask for his autograph. You should know better, leave him alone. Buy his music and pass it on. His legacy is not drugs, politics or superstardom, he is like Joni Mitchell who explores emotional and spiritual issues. After all these are the things that make you happy, and that exploration is a gift that he shares with you in his priceless music.
Conway-Laird (2017)

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