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Van Morrison

Equal parts blue-eyed soul shouter and wild-eyed poet-sorcerer, Van Morrison is among popular music's true innovators, a restless seeker whose incantatory vocals and alchemical fusion of R&B, jazz, blues, and Celtic folk produced perhaps the most spiritually transcendent body of work in the rock & roll canon. Subject only to the whims of his own muse, his recordings cover extraordinary stylistic ground yet retain a consistency and purity virtually unmatched among his contemporaries, connected by the mythic power of his singular musical vision and his incendiary vocal delivery: spiraling repetitions of wails and whispers that bypass the confines of language to articulate emotional truths far beyond the scope of literal meaning.

George Ivan Morrison was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on August 31, 1945; his mother was a singer, while his father ardently collected classic American jazz and blues recordings. At 15, he quit school to join the local R&B band the Monarchs, touring military bases throughout Europe before returning home to form his own group, Them. Boasting a fiery, gritty sound heavily influenced by Morrison heroes like Howlin' Wolf, Brownie McGhee, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Little Walter, Them quickly earned a devout local following and in late 1964 recorded their debut single, "Don't Start Crying Now." The follow-up, an electrifying reading of Big Joe Williams' "Baby Please Don't Go," cracked the U.K. Top Ten in early 1965. Though not a major hit upon its original release, Them's Morrison-penned "Gloria" endures among the true classics of the rock pantheon, covered by everyone from the Doors to Patti Smith. Lineup changes plagued the band throughout its lifespan, however, and at the insistence of producer Bert Berns, over time session musicians increasingly assumed the lion's share of recording duties. A frustrated Morrison finally left Them following a 1966 tour of the U.S., quitting the music business and returning to Belfast.

After Berns relocated to New York City to form Bang Records, he convinced Morrison to travel stateside and record as a solo artist; the sessions produced arguably his most familiar hit, the jubilant "Brown-Eyed Girl" (originally titled "Brown-Skinned Girl"), a Top Ten smash in the summer of 1967. By contrast, however, the resulting album, Blowin' Your Mind, was a bleak, bluesy effort highlighted by the harrowing "T.B. Sheets." The sessions were originally intended to produce only material for singles, so when Berns released the LP against Morrison's wishes, he again retreated home to Ireland while the album tanked on the charts. Berns suffered a fatal heart attack in late 1967, which freed Morrison of his contractual obligations and energized him to start working on new material.

His first album for new label Warner Bros., 1968's Astral Weeks, remains not only Morrison's masterpiece, but one of the greatest records ever made. A haunting, deeply personal collection of impressionistic folk-styled epics recorded by an all-star jazz backing unit including bassist Richard Davis and drummer Connie Kay, its poetic complexity earned critical raves but made only a minimal commercial impact. The follow-up, 1970's Moondance, was every bit as brilliant; buoyant and optimistic where Astral Weeks had been dark and anguished, it cracked the Top 40, generating the perennials "Caravan" and "Into the Mystic."

The first half of the 1970s was the most fertile creative period of Morrison's career. From Moondance onward, his records reflected an increasingly celebratory and profoundly mystical outlook spurred on in large part by his marriage to wife Janet Planet and the couple's relocation to California. After His Band and the Street Choir yielded his biggest chart hit, "Domino," Morrison released 1971's Tupelo Honey, a lovely, pastoral meditation on wedded bliss highlighted by the single "Wild Night." In the wake of the following year's stirring Saint Dominic's Preview, he formed the Caledonia Soul Orchestra, featured both on the studio effort Hard Nose the Highway and on the excellent live set It's Too Late to Stop Now. However, in 1973 he not only dissolved the group but also divorced Planet and moved back to Belfast. The stunning 1974 LP Veedon Fleece chronicled Morrison's emotional turmoil; he then remained silent for three years, reportedly working on a number of aborted projects but releasing nothing until 1977's aptly titled A Period of Transition.

Plagued for some time by chronic stage fright, Morrison mounted his first tour in close to five years in support of 1978's Wavelength; his performances became more and more erratic, however, and during a 1979 date at New York's Palladium, he even stalked off-stage in mid-set and did not return. Into the Music, released later that year, evoked a more conventionally spiritual perspective than before, a pattern continued on successive outings for years to come. Albums like 1983's Inarticulate Speech of the Heart, 1985's A Sense of Wonder, and 1986's No Guru, No Method, No Teacher are all largely cut from the same cloth, employing serenely beautiful musical backdrops to explore themes of faith and healing. For 1988's Irish Heartbeat, however, Morrison teamed with another of his homeland's musical institutions, the famed Chieftains, for a collection of traditional folk songs.

Meanwhile, Avalon Sunset heralded a commercial rebirth of sorts in 1989. While "Whenever God Shines His Light," a duet with Cliff Richard, became Morrison's first U.K. Top 20 hit in over two decades, the gorgeous "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You" emerged as something of a contemporary standard, with a Rod Stewart cover cracking the U.S. Top Five in 1993. Further proof of Morrison's renewed popularity arrived with the 1990 release of Mercury's best-of package; far and away the best-selling album of his career, it introduced the singer to a new generation of fans. A new studio record, Enlightenment, appeared that same year, followed in 1991 by the ambitious double set Hymns to the Silence, widely hailed as his most impressive outing in years.

Following the uniformity of his 1980s work, the remainder of the decade proved impressively eclectic: 1993's Too Long in Exile returned Morrison to his musical roots with covers of blues and R&B classics, while on 1995's Days Like This he teamed with daughter Shana for a duet on "You Don't Know Me." For the Verve label, he cut 1996's How Long Has This Been Going On, a traditional jazz record co-credited to longtime pianist Georgie Fame, while for the follow-up Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison he worked with guest of honor Allison himself. Morrison continued balancing the past and the future in the years to follow, alternating between new studio albums (1997's The Healing Game, 1999's Back on Top) and collections of rare and live material (1998's The Philosopher's Stone and 2000's The Skiffle Sessions and You Win Again).

It wasn't until 2002 that an album of new material surfaced, but in May his long-anticipated Down the Road was released. Three years later, Morrison issued Magic Time. Pay the Devil, a country-tinged set, appeared in 2006 on Lost Highway Records. That same year, Morrison released his first commercial DVD, Live at Montreux 1980 and 1974, drawn from two separate appearances at the Montreux Jazz Festival. In 2008, Morrison released Keep It Simple, his first album of all-original material since 1999's Back on Top. In November of that same year, Morrison performed the entire Astral Weeks album live at two shows at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, which resulted in 2009's Astral Weeks: Live at the Hollywood Bowl album and Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl: The Concert Film. His 34th studio album, Born to Sing: No Plan B, recorded in Belfast, appeared in the fall of 2012. ~ Jason Ankeny & Steve Leggett, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Fire In The Belly (Single)

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Track List: Open The Door (To Your Heart) (Single)

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Track List: Real Real Gone (Single)

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Track List: Some Peace Of Mind (Single)

Comments

Report as inappropriate
I would like to hear Into The Mystic,I hit on it 6 months ago, still have not heard it��
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I vomited before completing the first paragraph. Who wrote this crap? I think you have bypassed the limits of flowery descriptions .
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w.bolinger
Into the mystic better with horns.
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Oh Woodstock great time to be a teenager great music in the 60s
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Tupelo honey baby my favorite thanks for the memories and the music.
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Brown eyed girl!!!
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I fell in love with his music with Gloria. I saw him in the early 70's in Chicago with Bob Dylan & The Band backing them up. It was great!!! He is still one of my favorites.
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Never to disapoint love this tune
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gqnellie
Thank you Van.....I adore all your music......w h a t a RUSHING EUPHORIA.... . N O WORDS TO describe
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Yea, I love this. Soooo much. Memories
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fouldna3
Into the mystic....my favorite
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And it stoned me ! Lot of fun and great memories while listening to Van Morrison. Eddie in Pelham NC.
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My Brown-Eyed girl.
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Like for a like
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jlucilio
Chill out, folks, it's ultimately just music-- you are not meant to have a war over it. Enjoy the beauty and let your heart be warmed.
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Celtic soul from the master
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t_heath
Every song he has ever put out is good...great voice, lot of great lyrics....an d yes, the writer of the above does not know squat!!
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What is with this description? wild-eyed poet-sorcere r . . . incantatory vocals and alchemical fusion ... most spiritually transcendent body? What kinda hipster-baby b o o m e r w a n n a b e - w i t c h wrote this?? lol some thesaurus-qu e e n no doubt. Great music without a doubt, but stupid description!
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Oh yeah
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So hard to find my way. Now that I'm all on my own.
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terriconnell y 9
In The Garden.. I cry every time I hear it..also into the Mystic.. Brings back so many times.
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terriconnell y 9
Queen of the Slipstream is so beautiful
I have loved his music.. All of my life
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In The Garden, Listen To The Lion (I thought it was Listen To The Liar for the longest time until I saw the album cover) and 35 others are my absolute favorites of all time. Van will live forever in his incredible musical creations!
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Van, & I go back a long way
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I've been a fan since my teens. I find his music & lyrics inspirationa l . A wonderful artist.
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Hdhgdǔ
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His music is great for your soul
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Good stuff
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U play & I'll listen
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david1954.dd 7
Have heard to much van in the past 45 years
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dragonlady60 8 8
Moon dance..my fave
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dragonlady60 8 8
Van is the man......
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dragonlady60 8 8
sing it van....!!!!!
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Always liked the false/double rhyme on Caravan:

Turn up your radio
And let me hear the song
Switch on your electric light
Then we can get down to what is really...wro n g .

I've heard the song for 40 years about 8,000 times, and I still expect him to say right (to rhyme with light.) It's a little sing, but part of what makes him a clever songwriter.
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I wanna be your Brown-eyed Girl......
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Could listen. to his soulful voice all night so sexy.
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beautyofnatu r e . l g
Not sure who wrote the amazing biopic of Van Morrison and description of his soul on Pandora, but it is the best I've read: Lines like, Equal parts blue-eyed soul shouter and wild-eyed poet-sorcere r . . . C o n g r a t s to the authors.
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dshainker726
Our souls have traveled parallel paths since I fell into the mystic with him when I was 18...I'm 65 now and his music can always take my soul home. The most unique and transcendent poet of a generation with a depth that is too far for most people to be comfortable going. Keep listening to your muse Van and pass it on to us. Extraordinar y genius!
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Have I Told You Lately That I Love You: I love this song.
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yep, he and the fellows rock.......
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Van and the horns....... R O C K !
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If you haven't heard it, check out the alternate version of Brown Eyed Girl..it's got an interesting bass interlude... . . . . . . .
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Sing it Van, my brown eyed girl
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I do believe he's the best for your soul at any time in any mood. Amazing.
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That's a good dam song .beautiful lirycs
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Van is a banging artist
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Van, sound good any time
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fredsed
How'd I ever miss Van? ...catchin' up to do.
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a beautiful soul
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Love his sound very unique. But can't pronounce his last name lol
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