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

Comments

alfredhogan5 8 2
old school!!!
alfredhogan5 8 2
liven it!!!
Wow cool stuff
Music is my life
How is he classic rock?
.
jwmollohan
On this beautiful 4th of July, I just want to say thank you for your service! I really mean it, take care
Don't choose to remember Nam... just the tunes...
Naval Air Vietnam 1971 DaNang (my husband). Just remembers We Gotta Get Out Of This Place by the Animals
Vietnam? Serving with the Marines. All I remember is James Brown & Stones, Stones, Stones. But that said, I've always loved Morrison's Music and his integrity regarding it.
VIETNAM?? OH YEA, NOW I REMEMBER.. 4-39 INFANTRY, 68-69. WASN'T HEARING ANY VAN MORRISON IN THE MEKONG...
1591425100
G L O R I A !!!!!!!!!
1591425100
Yeah! We Viet Nam vets love this song!
I agree councilbobby !
Why can't someone make some music like this. Very meaningful.
Still the best. One of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard.
I love Kristi Null
krudd3
I should add that Brown Eyed Girl was my wedding song. Long before I knew who he was, he was my favorite artist.
krudd3
My blue-eyed troubador. Van could have existed in any century and would have been a bard, poet, troubador or whatever term was in fashion. What would not have changed is his unique perspective, love for language and presentation . Luck alone placed him in our lives.
Nothing like a brown eyes girl!!!
Your home is Cambridge... The Emerald City arena...
Thank you Van. And yes rOn, a beautiful shout out to all the brown eyed girls!! My daughter.... This is our song
shout out to all the brown eyes girls out there !
Shoo!
The first paragraph of this bio is spot-on and spiritually transcendent in itself. And Into the Mystic , Tupelo Honey, so many of his songs, speak my soul and bring it to higher levels.
stcch221
I have loved Van Morrison forever. His music has gotten me through good and bad times alike.
Damn I love this guy he's so f**king amazing it's not even funny and my nurse and I just happened to see Jimmy falon impersonatin g him on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and then she started asking me if I even had ever heard of them before and as soon as I said yes his blue eyed girl song came on my Pandora which I have to say that I found extremely weird but pretty funny as well
cajunvarst
Knock Knock who's there?
Van Van who? Van-Tastic!
cajunvarst
My 2nd fav band is, you guessed it, Van Morrison. My 1st is The Beatles.
I am married 2 one!!!!!
So lovely.....I also love Contacting my Angel, At that time, we lost our little girl in my 8th month of pregnancy... our angel....Jai m e Allison...th a n k s for your music.
mama told me there'd be days like this -- this might be the Best Day in My Life
I want to write a song.
Turn up your radio and let me hear the song
Switch on your electric light
Then we can get down to what is really wrong
I long to hold you tight so I can feel you
Sweet lady of the night I shall reveal you
Turn it up, turn it up, little bit higher, radio
Turn it up, that's enough, so you know it's got soul
Local wizard! Love his music!
Crazy love....is the most romantic song I ever heard I think !
Brown Eyed Girl. My song to my daughter who has the most beautiful big brown eyes you will ever see. :-)
Great Bio Photo. Great photo art. The photo looks like a painting. Now THAT is photo art.
Congrats gshipa--you win for being the biggest jerk and stupidest human of the day...either that or the best troll
I am so glad they changed brown skinned girl to brown eyed girl ..who wants to hear about a brown skinned girl from, what self respecting Irish man would sing about that!
morrison &guitar day jim carnahan daytona
My coison cyanne's song........ . Brown eyed girl! Cy do you remember when WE used to sig sha lalalalalala l a l a l a l a l a l a . . . . . .
cauffmank
Just love rainy days in Florida
A day without Van Morrison is like a day without sunshine....
Street Choir Band might be my favorite Van record, but it is also the one I listened to the most, I would likely own all his records given the chance to have them all.
Good photo
fastcar3829
Van the man Morrison is Van-freakin- t a s t i c !
hey neon,,me too,,,big brown eyes
Van..timeles s and will be played 100 yrs from now..we can only hope
Love into the mystic
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