Van Morrison
Musician, singer and songwriter
Van Morrison
Van Morrison, OBE is a Northern Irish singer-songwriter and musician. His live performances at their best are described as transcendental, while some of his recordings, such as the studio albums Astral Weeks and Moondance and the live album It's Too Late to Stop Now, are critically acclaimed and appear at the top of many greatest album lists.
Biography
Van Morrison's personal information overview.
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News
News abour Van Morrison from around the web
Eleven More Bass Players Who Belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Huffington Post - 3 months
"You ask the average person what a bass is, or what a bass sounds like, and most of the time, they don't know. But remove the bass from any piece of music and suddenly it becomes the largest missing piece in the world! Whoa, fifty percent of the music just went away with one instrument! It is an instrument that is much more conspicuous by its absence than by its presence..." As told to this writer by Michael J. Visceglia, bassist, author, educator, recording artist The 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees were revealed a few weeks ago and I congratulate all the artists: Bad Brains, Chaka Khan, Chic, Depeche Mode, Electric Light Orchestra, J. Geils Band, Jane's Addiction, Janet Jackson, Joan Baez, Joe Tex, Journey, Kraftwerk, MC 5, Pearl Jam, Steppenwolf, The Cars, The Zombies, Tupac Shakur, and Yes. Some of the choices are obvious to me, some less so. A few leave me bewildered, but that's rock and roll...the mistakes make the music real. And I see that a few of the nomi ...
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Huffington Post article
Van Morrison and Tom Jones team for a wild night at the Hollywood Bowl
LATimes - 4 months
Not all of the significant voices of pop music from the 1960s are hunkered down in the Coachella Valley this week for Desert Trip, and two of them got together Thursday the Hollywood Bowl to demonstrate the veracity of the Who’s songwriter Pete Townshend’s observation that “It’s the singer, not...
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LATimes article
Music Review: A legendary singer, into the music once again
Yahoo News - 5 months
Van Morrison, "Keep Me Singing" (Caroline Records)
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Yahoo News article
Under the influence of ... working class rocker Bruce Springsteen
Huffington Post - 5 months
Richard Pithouse, Rhodes University In our regular series, "Under the influence", we ask experts to share what they believe are the most influential works of art or artists in their field. Bruce Springsteen will soon release his long-awaited autobiography. Here, academic Richard Pithouse, who has also worked as a music critic, explains why he finds Springsteen, the progressive musician known to his fans as The Boss, a hugely influential figure in rock music. Bruce Springsteen was signed by Columbia Records at the age of 24. He was born into a Catholic working class New Jersey family living in the shadow of a depressive and violent father. As a boy it was television that offered a window into a wider world. In 1956, at the age of nine, seeing Elvis Presley perform for the first time, on The Ed Sullivan Show, sent a jolt of electric excitement into his body. The following year his mother took a loan to buy him his first guitar. A few years later watching John Ford's fi ...
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Huffington Post article
Van Morrison returns with a new album and U.S. shows with Tom Jones
LATimes - 5 months
Back in 1982, Van Morrison recorded a song titled “Cleaning Windows.” It celebrated a blue-collar worker, the sort he has often identified with in his career as a musician. Morrison, over the course of a 50-plus year recording span, has certainly worked. The singer-songwriter from Belfast, Northern...
Article Link:
LATimes article
Van Morrison returns with a new album and U.S. shows with Tom Jones
LATimes - 5 months
Back in 1982, Van Morrison recorded a song titled “Cleaning Windows.” It celebrated a blue-collar worker, the sort he has often identified with in his career as a musician. Morrison, over the course of a 50-plus year recording span, has certainly worked. The singer-songwriter from Belfast, Northern...
Article Link:
LATimes article
Van Morrison returns with a new album and U.S. shows with Tom Jones
LATimes - 5 months
Back in 1982, Van Morrison recorded a song titled “Cleaning Windows.” It celebrated a blue-collar worker, the sort he has often identified with in his career as a musician. Morrison, over the course of a 50-plus year recording span, has certainly worked. The singer-songwriter from Belfast, Northern...
Article Link:
LATimes article
Van Morrison returns with a new album and U.S. shows with Tom Jones
LATimes - 5 months
Back in 1982, Van Morrison recorded a song titled “Cleaning Windows.” It celebrated a blue-collar worker, the sort he has often identified with in his career as a musician. Morrison, over the course of a 50-plus year recording span, has certainly worked. The singer-songwriter from Belfast, Northern...
Article Link:
LATimes article
Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Van Morrison
    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 2016
    Age 70
    On 30 September 2016, Morrison will release Keep Me Singing, his 36th studio album. "Too Late", the first single, will be released on the same.
    More Details Hide Details The songs are twelve originals and one cover and the album will be his first release of originals since Born to Sing: No Plan B in 2012. A short tour of the U.S. will follow with six dates in October 2016 due to be followed by a short short tour of the U.K. with eight dates in October–December 2016 including a London show at The O2 on 30 October. The U.S. tour will resume in January 2017 with five new dates in Las Vegas, NV and Clearwater, FL. By 1972, after being a performer for nearly ten years, Morrison began experiencing stage fright when performing for audiences of thousands, as opposed to the hundreds as 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 agonising for me to be out there." After a brief break from music, he started appearing in clubs, regaining his ability to perform live, albeit with smaller audiences.
    On 4 February 2016 he was knighted, by Prince Charles, for his musical achievements and his services to tourism and charitable causes in Northern Ireland.
    More Details Hide Details Footnotes Bibliography Further reading
    In 2016 he was knighted for his musical achievements and his services to tourism and charitable causes in Northern Ireland.
    More Details Hide Details Known as "Van the Man", Morrison started his professional career when, as a teenager in the late 1950s, he played a variety of instruments including guitar, harmonica, keyboards and saxophone for various Irish showbands covering the popular hits of the day.
  • 2015
    Age 69
    Morrison's 70th birthday in 2015 was marked by celebrations in his hometown of Belfast, commencing with BBC Radio Ulster presenting programs including "Top 70 Van Tracks" between 26 and 28 August.
    More Details Hide Details As the headline act ending the Eastside Arts Festival, Morrison performed two 70th-birthday concerts on Cyprus Avenue on his birthday 31 August. The first of the concerts was broadcast live on BBC Radio Ulster and a 60-minute BBC film of highlights from the concerts, entitled Up On Cyprus Avenue, was first shown on 4 September.
    The first night of the Nocturne Live concerts at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, UK on 25 June 2015, featured Morrison and Grammy Award-winning American Jazz vocalist and songwriter Gregory Porter.
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    The Songwriter's Hall of Fame announced on 8 April 2015 that Morrison would be the 2015 recipient of the Johnny Mercer Award on 18 June 2015 at their 46th Annual Induction and Awards Dinner in New York City.
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  • 2014
    Age 68
    On 13 October 2014, Morrison received his fifth BMI Million-Air Award for 11 million radio plays of the song Brown Eyed Girl making it one of the Top 10 Songs of all time on US radio and television.
    More Details Hide Details Morrison has also received Million-Air awards for Have I Told You Lately
    On 2 September 2014, Morrison was presented with the Legend award at the GQ Men of the Year ceremony at Royal Opera House in London.
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    In August 2014, a "Van Morrison Trail" was established in East Belfast by Morrison in partnership with the Connswater Community Greenway.
    More Details Hide Details It is a self-guided trail, which over the course of 3.5 kilometers leads to eight places that were important to Morrison and inspirational to his music.
  • 2013
    Age 67
    On 15 November 2013, Morrison became the 79th recipient of the award, presented at the Waterfront Hall for his career achievements.
    More Details Hide Details After receiving the award, he performed a free concert for residents who won tickets from a lottery system.
    In August 2013, it was announced that Morrison would receive the Freedom of Belfast, the highest honour the city can bestow.
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  • 2010
    Age 64
    Morrison has been announced as of the 2010 honorees listed in the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
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  • 2009
    Age 63
    In December 2009, Morrison's tour manager Gigi Lee gave birth to a son, whom she asserted was Morrison's and named after him.
    More Details Hide Details Lee announced the birth of the child on Morrison's official website but Morrison denied paternity. Both mother and child died in 2011: Lee from throat cancer in October and her son in January from complications of diabetes. Morrison has received several major music awards in his career, including six Grammy Awards (1996–2007); inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (January 1993), the Songwriters Hall of Fame (June 2003), and the Irish Music Hall of Fame (September 1999); and a Brit Award (February 1994). In addition he has received civil awards: an OBE (June 1996) and an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1996). He has honorary doctorates from the University of Ulster (1992) and from Queen's University Belfast (July 2001).
    In his 2009 biography, Erik Hage found that "Morrison seemed deeply interested in his paternal Scottish roots during his early career, and later in the ancient countryside of England, hence his repeated use of the term Caledonia (an ancient Roman name for Scotland/northern Britain)".
    More Details Hide Details As well as being his daughter Shana's middle name, it is the name of his first production company, his studio, his publishing company, two of his backing groups, his parents' record store in Fairfax, California in the 1970s, and he also recorded a cover of the song "Caldonia" (with the name spelled "Caledonia") in 1974. Morrison used "Caledonia" in what has been called a quintessential Van Morrison moment in the song, "Listen to the Lion" with the lyrics, "And we sail, and we sail, way up to Caledonia". As late as 2008, Morrison used "Caledonia" as a mantra in the live performance of the song, "Astral Weeks" recorded at the two Hollywood Bowl concerts. Morrison's influence can readily be heard in the music of a diverse array of major artists and according to The Rolling Stone's Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001), "his influence among rock singers/song writers is unrivaled by any living artist outside of that other prickly legend, Bob Dylan. Echoes of Morrison's rugged literateness and his gruff, feverish emotive vocals can be heard in latter day icons ranging from Bruce Springsteen to Elvis Costello". His influence includes U2 (Bono was quoted saying "I am in awe of a musician like Van Morrison. I had to stop listening to Van Morrison records about six months before we made The Unforgettable Fire because I didn't want his very original soul voice to overpower my own."); John Mellencamp ("Wild Night"); Jim Morrison; Joan Armatrading (the only musical influence she will acknowledge); Nick Cave; Rod Stewart; Tom Petty; Rickie Lee Jones (recognises both Laura Nyro and Van Morrison as the main influences on her career); Elton John; Graham Parker; Sinéad O'Connor; Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy; Bob Seger ("I know Bruce Springsteen was very much affected by Van Morrison, and so was I." from Creem interview) ("I've Been Working"); Kevin Rowland of Dexys Midnight Runners ("Jackie Wilson Said"); Jimi Hendrix ("Gloria"); Jeff Buckley ("The Way Young Lovers Do", "Sweet Thing"); Nick Drake; and numerous others, including the Counting Crows (their "sha-la-la" sequence in Mr Jones, is a tribute to Morrison).
    In a 2009 interview, Morrison stated: "I do not consciously aim to take the listener anywhere.
    More Details Hide Details If anything, I aim to take myself there in my music. If the listener catches the wavelength of what I am saying or singing, or gets whatever point whatever line means to them, then I guess as a writer I may have done a day's work." The music of Van Morrison has encompassed many genres since his early days as a blues and R&B singer in Belfast. Over the years he has recorded songs from a varying list of genres drawn from many influences and interests. As well as blues and R&B, his compositions and covers have moved between pop music, jazz, rock, folk, country, gospel, Irish folk and traditional, big band, skiffle, rock and roll, new age, classical and sometimes spoken word ("Coney Island") and instrumentals. Morrison defines himself as a soul singer. Morrison's music has been described by music journalist Alan Light as "Celtic soul", or what biographer Brian Hinton referred to as a new alchemy called "Caledonian soul." Another biographer, Ritchie Yorke quoted Morrison as believing that he has "the spirit of Caledonia in his soul and his music reflects it." According to Yorke, Morrison claimed to have discovered "a certain quality of soul" when he first visited Scotland (his Belfast ancestors were of Ulster Scots descent) and Morrison has said he believes there is some connection between soul music and Caledonia. Yorke relates that Morrison "discovered several years after he first began composing music that some of his songs lent themselves to a unique major modal scale (without sevenths) which of course is the same scale as that used by bagpipe players and old Irish and Scottish folk music."
    Morrison was scheduled to perform at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 25th anniversary concert on 30 October 2009, but cancelled.
    More Details Hide Details In an interview on 26 October, Morrison told his host Don Imus that he had planned to play "a couple of songs" with Eric Clapton (who had cancelled on 22 October due to gallstone surgery), but that they would do something else together at "some other stage of the game". Morrison performed for the Edmonton Folk Music Festival in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on 4 August 2010 as the headline act for the fundraiser and scheduled as second day headliner at the Feis 2011 Festival in London's Finsbury Park on 19 June 2011. Morrison appeared in concert at Odyssey Arena in Belfast on 3 February and at the O2 in Dublin on 4 February 2012. He appeared at the 46th Montreux Jazz Festival as a headliner on 7 July 2012. In 2014 Morrison's former high school Orangefield High School, formerly known as Orangefield Boys' Secondary School closed its doors permanently. To mark the school's closure Morrison performed in the school assembly hall for three nights of concerts from 22–24 August. The performance on the 22 August was exclusively for former teachers and pupils and the two remaining concerts were for members of the public
    Morrison continued with the Astral Weeks performances with two concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London in April and then returned to California in May 2009 performing the Astral Weeks songs at the Hearst Greek Theatre in Berkeley, the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, California and appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
    More Details Hide Details Morrison filmed the concerts at the Orpheum Theatre so that they could be viewed by Farrah Fawcett, confined to bed with cancer and thus unable to attend the concerts. In addition to It's Too Late to Stop Now and Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl, Morrison has released three other live albums: Live at the Grand Opera House Belfast in 1984; A Night in San Francisco in 1994 that Rolling Stone magazine felt stood out as: "the culmination of a career's worth of soul searching that finds Morrison's eyes turned toward heaven and his feet planted firmly on the ground"; and The Skiffle Sessions – Live in Belfast 1998 recorded with Lonnie Donegan and Chris Barber and released in 2000.
    In February and March 2009, Morrison returned to the US for Astral Weeks Live concerts, interviews and TV appearances with concerts at Madison Square Garden and at the Beacon Theatre in New York City.
    More Details Hide Details He was interviewed by Don Imus on his Imus in the Morning radio show and put in guest appearances on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Live with Regis and Kelly.
  • 2008
    Age 62
    On 7 and 8 November 2008, at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, California, Morrison performed the entire Astral Weeks album live for the first time.
    More Details Hide Details The Astral Weeks band featured guitarist Jay Berliner, who had played on the album that was released forty years previously in November 1968. Also featured on piano was Roger Kellaway. A live album entitled Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl resulted from these two performances. The new live album on CD was released on 24 February 2009, followed by a DVD from the performances. The DVD, Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl: The Concert Film was released via Amazon Exclusive on 19 May 2009.
    Keep It Simple, Morrison's 33rd studio album of completely new material was released by Exile/Polydor Records on 17 March 2008 in the UK and released by Exile/Lost Highway Records in the US and Canada on 1 April 2008.
    More Details Hide Details It comprised eleven self-penned tracks. Morrison promoted the album with a short US tour including an appearance at the SXSW music conference, and a UK concert broadcast on BBC Radio 2. In the first week of release Keep It Simple debuted on the Billboard 200 chart at number ten, Morrison's first Top Ten charting in the US. Morrison released his 34th studio album, Born to Sing: No Plan B on 2 October 2012 on Blue Note Records. The album was recorded in Belfast, Morrison's birthplace and hometown. The first single from this album, "Open the Door (To Your Heart)", was released on 24 August 2012. A selection of Morrison's lyrics, Lit Up Inside, was published by City Lights Books in the US and Faber & Faber in the UK the book was released on 2 October 2014 and an evening of words and music commenced at the Lyric Theatre, London on 17 November 2014 to mark its launch. Morrison himself selected his best and most iconic lyrics from a catalog of 50 years of writing
    It was his highest charting album in the US until his Top Ten debut on Billboard 200 in 2008.
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  • 2007
    Age 61
    The hits that were released on albums with the copyrights owned by Morrison as Exile Productions Ltd.—1971 and later—had been remastered in 2007.
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    On 3 September 2007, Morrison's complete catalogue of albums from 1971 through 2002 were made available exclusively at the iTunes Store in Europe and Australia and during the first week of October 2007, the albums became available at the US iTunes Store.
    More Details Hide Details Still on Top – The Greatest Hits, a thirty-seven track double CD compilation album was released on 22 October 2007 in the UK on the Polydor label. On 29 October 2007, the album charted at number two on the Official UK Top 75 Albums—his highest UK charting. The November release in the US and Canada contains twenty-one selected tracks.
    A new double CD compilation album The Best of Van Morrison Volume 3 was released in June 2007 containing thirty-one tracks, some of which were previously unreleased.
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  • 2006
    Age 60
    In October 2006, Morrison had released his first commercial DVD, Live at Montreux 1980/1974 with concerts taken from two separate appearances at the Montreux Jazz Festival.
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    Still promoting the country album, Morrison's performance as the headline act on the first night of the Austin City Limits Music Festival on 15 September 2006 was reviewed by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the top ten shows of the 2006 festival.
    More Details Hide Details In November 2006, a limited edition album, Live at Austin City Limits Festival was issued by Exile Productions, Ltd. A later deluxe CD/DVD release of Pay the Devil, in the summer of 2006 contained tracks from the Ryman performance.
    He released an album with a country music theme, entitled Pay the Devil, on 7 March 2006 and appeared at the Ryman Auditorium where the tickets sold out immediately after they went on sale.
    More Details Hide Details Pay the Devil debuted at number twenty-six on the Billboard 200 and peaked at number seven on Top Country Albums. Amazon Best of 2006 Editor's Picks in Country listed the country album at number ten in December 2006.
    The couple married and have two children; a daughter was born in February 2006 and a son in August 2007.
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  • FIFTIES
  • 2005
    Age 59
    Van Morrison was a headline act at the international Celtic music festival, The Hebridean Celtic Festival in Stornoway Outer Hebrides in the summer of 2005.
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    Also in July 2005, Morrison was named by Amazon as one of their top twenty-five all-time best-selling artists and inducted into the Amazon.com Hall of Fame.
    More Details Hide Details 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. Morrison composed the song, "Blue and Green", featuring Foggy Lyttle on guitar. This song was released in 2007 on the album, The Best of Van Morrison Volume 3 and also as a single in the UK.
    Morrison's 2005 album, Magic Time, debuted at number twenty-five on the US Billboard 200 charts upon its May release, some forty years after Morrison first entered the public's eye as the frontman of Them.
    More Details Hide Details Rolling Stone listed it as number seventeen on The Top 50 Records of 2005.
  • 2002
    Age 56
    The album, Down the Road released in May 2002, received a good critical reception and proved to be his highest charting album in the US since 1972's Saint Dominic's Preview.
    More Details Hide Details It had a nostalgic tone, with its fifteen tracks representing the various musical genres that Morrison had previously covered—including R&B, blues, country and folk; one of the tracks was written as a tribute to his late father George, who had played a pivotal role in nurturing his early musical tastes.
  • 1999
    Age 53
    His next release, 1999's Back on Top, achieved a modest success, being his highest charting album in the US since 1978's Wavelength.
    More Details Hide Details Van Morrison continued to record and tour in the 2000s, often performing two or three times a week. He formed his own independent label, Exile Productions Ltd, which enables him to maintain 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 distribution.
  • 1998
    Age 52
    This album would win a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album in 1998 and the title track "Don't Look Back", a duet featuring Morrison and Hooker, would also win a Grammy Award for "Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals" in 1998.
    More Details Hide Details The project capped a series of Morrison and Hooker collaborations that began in 1971 when they performed a duet on the title track of Hooker's 1972 album Never Get Out of These Blues Alive. On this album, Hooker also recorded a cover of Morrison's "T.B. Sheets". Morrison additionally collaborated with Tom Jones on his 1999 album Reload, performing a duet on "Sometimes We Cry", and he also sang vocals on a track entitled "The Last Laugh" on Mark Knopfler's 2000 album, Sailing to Philadelphia. In 2004, Morrison was one of the guests on Ray Charles' album, Genius Loves Company, featuring the two artists performing Morrison's "Crazy Love". In 2000, Morrison recorded a classic country music duet album You Win Again with Linda Gail Lewis. The album received a three star review from AllMusic who called it "a roots effort that never sounds studied".
  • 1997
    Age 51
    In 1997, Morrison released The Healing Game.
    More Details Hide Details The album received mixed reviews, with the lyrics being described as "tired" and "dull", though critic Greil Marcus praised the musical complexity of the album by saying: "It carries the listener into a musical home so perfect and complete he or she might have forgotten that music could call up such a place, and then populate it with people, acts, wishes, fears." The following year, Morrison finally released some of his previously unissued studio recordings in a two-disc set, The Philosopher's Stone.
  • 1996
    Age 50
    Morrison's song, "Have I Told You Lately" would win a Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals in 1996.
    More Details Hide Details He also produced and was featured on several tracks with blues legend John Lee Hooker on Hooker's 1997 album, Don't Look Back.
  • FORTIES
  • 1995
    Age 49
    Morrison performed before an estimated audience of sixty to eighty thousand people when US President Bill Clinton visited Belfast, Northern Ireland on 30 November 1995.
    More Details Hide Details His song "Days Like This" had become the official anthem for the Northern Irish peace movement. Van Morrison continued performing concerts in the 2000s throughout the year rather than touring. Playing few of his best-known songs in concert, he has firmly resisted relegation to a nostalgia act. During a 2006 interview, he told Paul Sexton: This is another misconception. I stopped touring in the true sense of the word in the late 1970s, early 1980s, possibly. I just do gigs now. I average two gigs a week. Only in America do I do more, because you can't really do a couple of gigs there, so I do more, 10 gigs or something there.
  • 1994
    Age 48
    He has received six Grammy Awards, the 1994 Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music, and has been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
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  • 1993
    Age 47
    The Hall of Fame inductions began in 1993 with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; Morrison becoming notable as the first living inductee not to attend his own ceremony, – Robbie Robertson from the Band accepted the award on his behalf.
    More Details Hide Details When Morrison became the initial musician inducted into the Irish Music Hall of Fame, Bob Geldof presented Morrison with the award. Morrison's third induction was into the Songwriters Hall of Fame for "recognition of his unique position as one of the most important songwriters of the past century". Ray Charles presented the award, following a performance during which the pair performed Morrison's "Crazy Love" from the album, Moondance. Morrison's BRIT Award was for his Outstanding Contribution to British Music. Former Beirut hostage, John McCarthy presented the award; while testifying to the importance of Morrison's song "Wonderful Remark" McCarthy called it "a song … which was very important to us." Morrison received two civil awards in 1996, firstly the Order of the British Empire for his service to music, secondly an award from the French government which made him an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Along with these state awards he has two honorary degrees in music; an honorary doctorate in literature from the University of Ulster, and an honorary doctorate in music from Queen's University in his hometown of Belfast.
    Morrison selected the tracks, which ranged from the 1993 album Too Long in Exile to the song "Stranded" from the 2005 album Magic Time.
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    Another compilation album, The Best of Van Morrison Volume Two was released in January 1993, followed by Too Long in Exile in June, another top five chart success.
    More Details Hide Details The 1994 live double album A Night in San Francisco received favourable reviews as well as commercial success by reaching number eight on the UK charts. 1995's Days Like This also had large sales – though the critical reviews were not always favourable. This period also saw a number of side projects, including the live jazz performances of 1996's How Long Has This Been Going On, from the same year 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 early musical influences.
  • 1988
    Age 42
    In 1988, he released Irish Heartbeat, a collection of traditional Irish folk songs recorded with the Irish group the Chieftains, which reached number 18 in the UK album charts.
    More Details Hide Details The title song, "Irish Heartbeat", was originally recorded on his 1983 album Inarticulate Speech of the Heart. The 1989 album, 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"(Hinton)), reached 13 on the UK album chart. Although considered to be a deeply spiritual album, it also contained "Daring Night", which "deals with full, blazing sex, whatever its churchy organ and gentle lilt suggest"(Hinton). Morrison's familiar themes of "God, woman, his childhood in Belfast and those enchanted moments when time stands still" were prominent in the songs. He can be heard calling out the change of tempo at the end of this song, repeating the numbers "1 – 4" to cue the chord changes (the first and fourth chord in the key of the music). He often completed albums in two days, frequently releasing first takes.
  • 1987
    Age 41
    After releasing the "No Guru" album, Morrison's music appeared less gritty and more adult contemporary with the well-received 1987 album, Poetic Champions Compose, considered to be one of his recording highlights of the 1980s. The romantic ballad from this album, "Someone Like You", has been featured subsequently in the soundtracks of several movies, including 1995's French Kiss, and in 2001, both Someone Like You and Bridget Jones's Diary.
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  • 1986
    Age 40
    Morrison's 1986 release, No Guru, No Method, No Teacher, was said to contain a "genuine holiness and musical freshness that needs to be set in context to understand."
    More Details Hide Details Critical response was favourable with a Sounds reviewer calling the album "his most intriguingly involved since Astral Weeks" and "Morrison at his most mystical, magical best." It contains the song, "In the Garden" that, according to Morrison, had a "definite meditation process which is a 'form' of transcendental meditation as its basis. It's not TM". He entitled the album as a rebuttal to media attempts to place him in various creeds. In an interview in the Observer he told Anthony Denselow: I have never joined any organisation, nor plan to. I am not affiliated to any guru, don't subscribe to any method and for those people who don't know what a guru is, I don't have a teacher either.
  • THIRTIES
  • 1985
    Age 39
    In 1985, Morrison also wrote the musical score for the movie, Lamb starring Liam Neeson.
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    A Sense of Wonder, Morrison's 1985 album, pulled together the spiritual themes contained in his last four albums, which were defined in a Rolling Stone review as: "rebirth (Into the Music), deep contemplation and meditation (Common One); ecstasy and humility (Beautiful Vision); and blissful, mantra like languor (Inarticulate Speech of the Heart)."
    More Details Hide Details The single, "Tore Down a la Rimbaud" was a reference to Rimbaud and an earlier bout of writer's block that Morrison had encountered in 1974.
  • 1983
    Age 37
    His 1983 album, Inarticulate Speech of the Heart was "a move towards creating music for meditation" with synthesisers, uilleann pipes and flute sounds and four of the tracks were instrumentals.
    More Details Hide Details The titling of the album and the presence of the instrumentals were noted to be indicative of Morrison's long-held belief that "it's not the words one uses but the force of conviction behind those words that matters." During this period of time, Morrison had studied Scientology and gave "Special Thanks" to L. Ron Hubbard on the album's credits.
  • 1982
    Age 36
    Morrison's next album, Beautiful Vision, released in 1982, had him returning once again to the music of his Northern Irish roots.
    More Details Hide Details Well received by the critics and public, it produced a minor UK hit single, "Cleaning Windows", that referenced one of Morrison's first jobs after leaving school. Several other songs on the album, "Vanlose Stairway", "She Gives Me Religion", and the instrumental, "Scandinavia" show the presence of a new personal muse in his life: 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. "Scandinavia", with Morrison on piano, was nominated in the Best Rock Instrumental Performance category for the 25th Annual Grammy Awards. Much of the music Morrison released throughout the 1980s continued to focus on the themes of spirituality and faith.
    Lester Bangs wrote in 1982, "Van was making holy music even though he thought he was, and us rock critics had made our usual mistake of paying too much attention to the lyrics."
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  • 1980
    Age 34
    With his next album, the new decade found Morrison following his muse into uncharted territory and sometimes merciless reviews. In February 1980, Morrison and a group of musicians travelled to Super Bear, a studio in the French Alps, to record (on the site of a former abbey) what is considered to be the most controversial album in his discography; later "Morrison admitted that his original concept was even more esoteric than the final product."
    More Details Hide Details The album, Common One, consisted of six songs; the longest, "Summertime in England", lasted fifteen and one-half minutes and ended with the words,"Can you feel the silence?". NME magazine's Paul Du Noyer called the album "colossally smug and cosmically dull; an interminable, vacuous and drearily egotistical stab at spirituality: Into the muzak." Greil Marcus, whose previous writings had been favourably inclined towards Morrison, critically remarked: "It's Van acting the part of the 'mystic poet' he thinks he's supposed to be." Morrison insisted that the album was never "meant to be a commercial album." Biographer Clinton Heylin concludes: "He would not attempt anything so ambitious again. Henceforth every radical idea would be tempered by some notion of commerciality." Later the critics would reassess the album more favourably with the success of "Summertime in England".
  • TWENTIES
  • 1973
    Age 27
    They divorced in 1973.
    More Details Hide Details Morrison moved back to Europe in the late 1970s, first settling in London's Notting Hill Gate area. Later, he moved to Bath, where he purchased the Wool Hall studio in January 1994. He also has a home in the Irish seaside village of Dalkey near Dublin, where legal actions against two different neighbours concerning safety and privacy issues have been taken to court in 2001 and in 2010. In the former case, Morrison pursued his action all the way to the Irish Supreme Court. In 2001, nine months into a tour with Linda Gail Lewis promoting their collaboration You Win Again, Lewis left, later filing claims against Morrison for unfair dismissal and sexual discrimination. Both claims were later withdrawn, and Morrison's solicitor was quoted that "(Mr. Morrison's) pleased that these claims have finally been withdrawn. He accepted a full apology and comprehensive retraction which represents a complete vindication of his stance from the outset. Miss Lewis has given a full and categorical apology and retraction to Mr. Morrison." Lewis' legal representative Christine Thompson said both parties had agreed to the terms of the settlement.
    During a three-week vacation visit to Ireland in October 1973, Morrison wrote seven of the songs that would make up his next album, Veedon Fleece.
    More Details Hide Details Though it attracted scant initial attention, its critical stature grew markedly over the years—with Veedon Fleece now often considered to be one of Morrison's most impressive and poetic works. In a 2008 Rolling Stone review, Andy Greene writes that when released in late 1974: "it was greeted by a collective shrug by the rock critical establishment" and concludes: "He's released many wonderful albums since, but he's never again hit the majestic heights of this one." "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 seemingly Grail-like Veedon Fleece object. Morrison would not release a follow-up album for another three years. After a decade without taking time off, he said in an interview, he needed to get away from music completely and ceased listening to it for several months. Also suffering from writer's block, he seriously considered leaving the music business for good. Speculation that an extended jam session would be released either under the title Mechanical Bliss, or Naked in the Jungle, or Stiff Upper Lip, came to nothing, and Morrison's next album was A Period of Transition in 1977, a collaboration with Dr. John, who had appeared at The Last Waltz concert with Morrison in 1976. The album received a mild critical reception and marked the beginning of a very prolific period of song making.
    He released his next album Hard Nose the Highway in 1973 receiving mixed, but mostly negative, reviews.
    More Details Hide Details The album contained the popular song "Warm Love" but otherwise has been largely dismissed critically. In a 1973 Rolling Stone review, it was described as: "psychologically complex, musically somewhat uneven and lyrically excellent."
  • 1972
    Age 26
    Released in 1972, Saint Dominic's Preview revealed Morrison's break from the more accessible style of his previous three albums and moving back towards the more daring, adventurous, and meditative aspects of Astral Weeks.
    More Details Hide Details The combination of two styles of music demonstrated a versatility not previously found in his earlier albums. Two songs, "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile)" and "Redwood Tree", reached the Hot 100 singles chart. The songs "Listen to the Lion" and "Almost Independence Day" are each over ten minutes long and employ the type of poetic imagery not heard since Astral Weeks.
  • 1971
    Age 25
    In 1971, he released another well-received album, Tupelo Honey.
    More Details Hide Details This album produced the hit single "Wild Night" that was later covered by John Mellencamp. The title song has a notably country-soul feel about it and the album ended with another country tune, "Moonshine Whiskey". Morrison said he originally intended to make an all country album. The recordings were as live as possible – after rehearsing the songs the musicians would go into the studio and play a whole set in one take. His co-producer, Ted Templeman, described this recording process 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."
  • 1970
    Age 24
    Over the next few years, he released a succession of albums, starting with a second one in 1970.
    More Details Hide Details His Band and the Street Choir had a freer, more relaxed sound than Moondance, but not the perfection, in the opinion of critic Jon Landau, who felt like "a few more numbers with a gravity of 'Street Choir' would have made this album as perfect as anyone could have stood." It contained the hit single "Domino", which charted at number nine in the Billboard Hot 100.
    Morrison's third solo album, Moondance, which was released in 1970, became his first million selling album and reached number twenty-nine on the Billboard charts.
    More Details Hide Details The style of Moondance stood in contrast to that of Astral Weeks. Whereas Astral Weeks had a sorrowful and vulnerable tone, Moondance restored a more optimistic and cheerful message to his music, which abandoned the previous record's abstract folk compositions in favor of more formally composed songs and a lively rhythm and blues style he would expand on throughout his career. The title track, although not released in the US as a single until 1977, received heavy play in FM radio formats. "Into the Mystic" has also gained a wide following over the years. "Come Running", which reached the American Top 40, rescued Morrison from what seemed then as Hot 100 obscurity. Moondance was both well received and favourably reviewed. Lester Bangs and Greil Marcus had a combined full page review in Rolling Stone, stating that Morrison now had "the striking imagination of a consciousness that is visionary in the strongest sense of the word." "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. Moondance was listed at number sixty-five on the Rolling Stone magazine's The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In March 2007, Moondance was listed as number seventy-two on the NARM Rock and Roll Hall of Fame list of the "Definitive 200".
  • 1967
    Age 21
    Morrison lived in Belfast from birth until 1967, when he moved to New York after signing with Bang Records.
    More Details Hide Details Facing deportation due to visa problems, he managed to stay in the US when his American girlfriend Janet (Planet) Rigsbee agreed to marry him. Once married, Morrison and his wife moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he found work performing in local clubs. The couple had one daughter in 1970, Shana Morrison, who has become a singer-songwriter. Morrison and his family moved around America, living in Boston; Woodstock, New York; and a hilltop home in Fairfax, California. His wife appeared on the cover of the album Tupelo Honey.
    Following the death of Berns in 1967, Morrison became involved in a contract dispute with Berns' widow, Ilene Berns, that prevented him from performing on stage or recording in the New York area.
    More Details Hide Details The song "Big Time Operators", released in 1993, is thought to allude to his dealings with the New York music business during this time period. 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 concert bookings. However, through the few gigs he could find, he regained his professional footing and started recording with Warner Bros. Records. The record company managed to buy out his contract with Bang Records. Morrison fulfilled a clause that bound him to submit thirty-six original songs within a year to Web IV Music, Berns' music publishing company, by recording thirty-one songs in one session; however, Ilene Berns thought the songs "nonsense music … about ringworms" and did not use them. The throwaway compositions would come to be known as the "revenge" songs.
  • TEENAGE
  • 1965
    Age 19
    Bert Berns, Them’s producer and composer of their 1965 hit, "Here Comes the Night", persuaded Morrison to return to New York to record solo for his new label, Bang Records.
    More Details Hide Details Morrison flew over and signed a contract he had not fully studied. Then, during a two-day recording session at A & R Studios starting 28 March 1967, eight songs were recorded, originally intended to be used as four singles. Instead, these songs were released as the album Blowin' Your Mind! without Morrison being consulted. He said he only became aware of the album's release when a friend mentioned on a phone call that he had just bought a copy of it. He later commented to Donal Corvin in a 1973 interview: "I wasn't really happy with it. He picked the bands and tunes. I had a different concept of it." However, from these early sessions emerged "Brown Eyed Girl". Captured on the 22nd take on the first day, this song was released as a single in mid-June 1967, reaching number ten in the US charts in 1967. "Brown Eyed Girl" became Morrison's most played song and over the years it has remained a classic; forty years later in 2007, it was the fourth most requested song of DJs in the US.
  • 1964
    Age 18
    The roots of Them, the band that first broke Morrison on the international scene, came in April 1964 when he responded to an advert for musicians to play at a new R&B club at the Maritime Hotel – an old dance hall frequented by sailors.
    More Details Hide Details The new R&B club needed a band for its opening night; however, Morrison had left the Golden Eagles (the group with which he had been performing at the time), so he created a new band out of the Gamblers, an East Belfast group formed by Ronnie Millings, Billy Harrison, and Alan Henderson in 1962. Eric Wrixon, still a schoolboy, was the piano player and keyboardist. Morrison played saxophone and harmonica and shared vocals with Billy Harrison. They followed Eric Wrixon's suggestion for a new name, and the Gamblers morphed into Them, their name taken from the Fifties horror movie Them! The band's strong R&B performances at the Maritime attracted attention. Them performed without a routine and Morrison ad libbed, creating his songs live as he performed. While the band did covers, they also played some of Morrison's early songs, such as "Could You Would You", which he had written in Camden Town while touring with the Manhattan Showband. The debut of Morrison's "Gloria" took place on stage here. Sometimes, depending on his mood, the song could last up to twenty minutes. Morrison has stated that "Them lived and died on the stage at the Maritime Hotel," believing that the band did not manage to capture the spontaneity and energy of their live performances on their records. The statement also reflected the instability of the Them line-up, with numerous members passing through the ranks after the definitive Maritime period.
  • 1963
    Age 17
    Upon returning to Belfast in November 1963, the group disbanded, so Morrison connected with Geordie Sproule again and played with him in the Manhattan Showband along with guitarist Herbie Armstrong.
    More Details Hide Details When Armstrong auditioned to play with Brian Rossi and the Golden Eagles, later known as the Wheels, Morrison went along and was hired as a blues singer.
    This was Morrison's first recording, taking place in November 1963 at Ariola Studios in Cologne with Morrison on saxophone; it made the lower reaches of the German charts.
    More Details Hide Details
  • 1960
    Age 14
    Morrison attended Orangefield Boys Secondary School, leaving in July 1960 with no qualifications.
    More Details Hide Details As a member of a working-class community, it was expected that he would get a regular full-time job, so after several short apprenticeship positions, he settled into a job as a window cleaner—later alluded to in his songs "Cleaning Windows" and "Saint Dominic's Preview". However, he had been developing his musical interests from an early age and continued playing with the Monarchs part-time. Young Morrison also played with the Harry Mack Showband, the Great Eight, with his older workplace friend, Geordie (G. D.) Sproule, whom he later named as one of his biggest influences. At age 17, Morrison toured Europe for the first time with the Monarchs, now calling themselves the International Monarchs. This Irish showband, with Morrison playing saxophone, guitar and harp, in addition to back-up duty on bass and drums, toured steamy clubs and US Army bases in Scotland, England and Germany, often playing five sets a night. While in Germany, the band recorded a single, "Boozoo Hully Gully"/"Twingy Baby", under the name Georgie and the Monarchs.
  • 1958
    Age 12
    In 1958, the band played at some of the local cinemas, and Morrison took the lead, contributing most of the singing and arranging.
    More Details Hide Details Other short-lived groups followed – at fourteen, he formed Midnight Special, another modified skiffle band and played at a school concert. Then, when he heard Jimmy Giuffre playing saxophone on "The Train and The River", he talked his father into buying him a saxophone, and took lessons in tenor sax and music reading. Now playing the saxophone, Morrison joined with various local bands, including one called Deanie Sands and the Javelins, with whom he played guitar and shared singing. The line-up of the band was lead vocalist Deanie Sands, guitarist George Jones and drummer, vocalist Roy Kane. Later the four main musicians of the Javelins, with the addition of Wesley Black as pianist, became known as the Monarchs.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1950
    Age 4
    From 1950 to 1956, Morrison, who began to be known as "Van" during this time, attended Elmgrove Primary School.
    More Details Hide Details His father had what was at the time one of the largest record collections in Ulster (acquired during his time in Detroit, Michigan, in the early 1950s) and the young Morrison grew up listening to artists such as Jelly Roll Morton, Ray Charles, Lead Belly, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, and Solomon Burke; of whom he later said, "If it weren't for guys like Ray and Solomon, I wouldn't be where I am today. 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." His father's record collection exposed him to various musical genres, such as the blues of Muddy Waters; the gospel of Mahalia Jackson; the jazz of Charlie Parker; the folk music of Woody Guthrie; and country music from Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers, while the first record he ever bought was by blues musician Sonny Terry. When Lonnie Donegan had a hit with "Rock Island Line", written by Huddie Ledbetter (Lead Belly), Morrison felt he was familiar with and able to connect with skiffle music as he had been hearing Lead Belly before that.
  • 1945
    Born
    George Ivan "Van" Morrison was born on 31 August 1945, at 125 Hyndford Street, Bloomfield, Belfast, Northern Ireland, as the only child of George Morrison, a shipyard electrician, and Violet Stitt Morrison, who had been a singer and tap dancer in her youth.
    More Details Hide Details Morrison's family roots descend from the Ulster Scots population that settled in Belfast.
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