Backstage with Van ‘The Man’ Morrison includes bio, pics and music videos

No Lies Radio Music – By Teri Perticone – July 28, 2018

40295_132498050126796_8064384_n Photo: Van Morrison Irish Singer/Songwriter.

Sir George Ivan “Van” Morrison, OBE[1] (born 31 August 1945) is a Northern Irish singer-songwriter, instrumentalist and producer. In 2016, he was knighted for his musical achievements and his services to tourism and charitable causes in Northern Ireland.

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 that time. He rose to prominence in the mid-1960s as the lead singer of the Northern Irish R&B band Them, with whom he recorded the garage band classic “Gloria”. His solo career began under the pop-hit oriented guidance of Bert Berns with the release of the hit single “Brown Eyed Girl” in 1967. After Berns’ death, Warner Bros. Records bought out his contract and allowed him three sessions to record Astral Weeks (1968).[2] Though this album gradually garnered high praise, it was initially a poor seller.

Moondance (1970) established Morrison as a major artist,[3] and he built on his reputation throughout the 1970s with a series of acclaimed albums and live performances. He continues to record and tour, producing albums and live performances that sell well and are generally warmly received, sometimes collaborating with other artists, such as Georgie Fame and The Chieftains.

Much of Morrison’s music is structured around the conventions of soul music and R&B, such as the popular singles “Brown Eyed Girl”, “Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile)”, “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 the album Astral Weeks and the lesser-known Veedon Fleece and Common One.[4][5] The two strains together are sometimes referred to as “Celtic soul”.[6] He has received two Grammy Awards,[7] 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.

Early life and musical roots: 1945–1964

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.[9] Morrison’s family were working class Protestants descended from the Ulster Scots population that settled in Belfast.[10][11][12] From 1950 to 1956, Morrison, who began to be known as “Van” during this time, attended Elmgrove Primary School.[13] 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)[14] 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;[13][15] 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.”[16]

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,[13] while the first record he ever bought was by blues musician Sonny Terry.[17] 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.[18][19]

Morrison’s father bought him his first acoustic guitar when he was eleven, and he learned to play rudimentary chords from the song book The Carter Family Style, edited by Alan Lomax.[20] A year later, when he was twelve years old, Morrison formed his first band,[21] a skiffle group, “The Sputniks”, named after the recently launched Soviet satellite, Sputnik 1.[22] In 1958, the band played at some of the local cinemas, and Morrison took the lead, contributing most of the singing and arranging. Other short-lived groups followed – at fourteen, he formed Midnight Special, another modified skiffle band and played at a school concert.[20] Then, when he heard Jimmy Giuffre playing saxophone on “The Train and The River”, he talked his father into buying him a saxophone,[23] and took lessons in tenor sax and music reading.[24] 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 and vocalist Roy Kane.[25] Later the four main musicians of the Javelins, with the addition of Wesley Black as pianist, became known as the Monarchs.[26]

Morrison attended Orangefield Boys Secondary School, leaving in July 1960 with no qualifications.[27] As a member of a working-class community, it was expected he would get a regular full-time job,[26] 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”.[28] 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.[29]

At age 17, Morrison toured Europe for the first time with the Monarchs, now calling themselves the International Monarchs. This Irish showband,[30] 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.[25] While in Germany, the band recorded a single, “Boozoo Hully Gully”/”Twingy Baby”, under the name Georgie and the Monarchs. 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.[31][32]

Upon returning to Belfast in November 1963, the group disbanded,[33] so 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, later known as the Wheels, Morrison went along and was hired as a blues singer.[34]

Them: 1964–1966

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.[36] 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.[37][38] Eric Wrixon, still a schoolboy, was the piano player and keyboardist.[39] 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!

Building on the success of their singles in the United States, and riding on the back of the British Invasion, Them undertook a two-month tour of America in May and June 1966 that included a residency from 30 May to 18 June at the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles.[49] The Doors were the supporting act on the last week,[50] and Morrison’s influence on the Doors singer, Jim Morrison, was noted by John Densmore in his book Riders On The Storm. Brian Hinton relates how “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.”[51] On the final night, the two Morrisons and the two bands jammed together on “Gloria”.[52][53][54]


Gloria – Them (with Van Morrison)

Toward the end of the tour the band members became involved in a dispute with their manager, Decca Records’ Phil Solomon, over the revenues paid to them; that, coupled with the expiry of their work visas, meant the band returned from America dejected. After two more concerts in Ireland, Them split up. Morrison concentrated on writing some of the songs that would appear on Astral Weeks, while the remnants of the band reformed in 1967 and relocated in America.[55]

Start of solo career with Bang Records and “Brown Eyed Girl”: 1967


Van Morrison – Brown Eyed Girl on American Bandstand

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.[57] Morrison flew over and signed a contract he had not fully studied.[58] 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.[59] 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.”[60]

However, from these early sessions emerged “Brown Eyed Girl”. Captured on the 22nd take on the first day,[61] this song was released as a single in mid-June 1967,[62] 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.[63]

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.[64] 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.[65] 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.[66] He regained his professional footing through the few gigs he could find, and started recording with Warner Bros. Records.[67][68] The record company managed to buy out his contract with Bang Records. By recording thirty-one songs in one session, Morrison fulfilled a clause that bound him to submit thirty-six original songs within a year to Web IV Music, Berns’ music publishing company. Ilene Berns thought the songs were “nonsense music … about ringworms” and did not use them.[69][70] The throwaway compositions came to be known as the “revenge” songs.[71] They were officially released on the compilation set The Authorized Bang Collection in 2017.

Astral Weeks: 1968

His first album for Warner Bros Records was Astral Weeks (which he had already performed in several clubs around Boston), a mystical song cycle, often considered to be his best work and one of the best albums of all time.[74] [75][76] Morrison has said, “When Astral Weeks came out, I was starving, literally.”[77] Released in 1968, the album eventually achieved critical acclaim, but it originally received an indifferent response from the public. It was described by AllMusic’s William Ruhlmann as hypnotic, meditative, and as possessing a unique musical power.[75] It has been compared to French Impressionism and mystical Celtic poetry.[78][79][80]

A 2004 Rolling Stone magazine review begins with the words: “This is music of such enigmatic beauty that thirty-five years after its release, Astral Weeks still defies easy, admiring description.”[81] Alan Light later described Astral Weeks as “like nothing he had done previously—and really, nothing anyone had done previously. Morrison sings of lost love, death, and nostalgia for childhood in the Celtic soul that would become his signature.”[7] It has been placed on many lists of best albums of all time. In the 1995 Mojo list of 100 Best Albums, it was listed as number two and was number nineteen on the Rolling Stone magazine’s The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003.[82][83] In December 2009, it was voted the top Irish album of all time by a poll of leading Irish musicians conducted by Hot Press magazine.[84][85]

VanMorrison

From Moondance to Into the Music: 1970–1979

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.[86][87][88] 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,[89] which abandoned the previous record’s abstract folk compositions in favor of more formally composed songs and a lively rhythm and blues style he expanded on throughout his career.[90]


Van Morrison – Moondance

The title track, although not released in the US as a single until 1977, received heavy play in FM radio formats.[91] “Into the Mystic” has also gained a wide following over the years.[92][93] “Come Running”, which reached the American Top 40, rescued Morrison from what seemed then as Hot 100 obscurity.[94] Moondance was both well received and favourably reviewed. Lester Bangs and Greil Marcus had a combined full page review in Rolling Stone, saying Morrison now had “the striking imagination of a consciousness that is visionary in the strongest sense of the word.”[95] “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.[96] Moondance was listed at number sixty-five on the Rolling Stone magazine’s The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[83] In March 2007, Moondance was listed as number seventy-two on the NARM Rock and Roll Hall of Fame list of the “Definitive 200”.[97]

Over the next few years, he released a succession of albums, starting with a second one in 1970. 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.”[98] It contained the hit single “Domino”, which charted at number nine in the Billboard Hot 100.[99]

In 1971, he released another well-received album, Tupelo Honey.[100] 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[101] and the album ended with another country tune, “Moonshine Whiskey”. Morrison said he originally intended to make an all country album.[102] The recordings were as live as possible – after rehearsing the songs the musicians would enter the studio and play a whole set in one take.[103] 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.”[104]

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. The combination of two styles of music demonstrated a versatility not previously found in his earlier albums.[105] Two songs, “Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile)” and “Redwood Tree”, reached the Hot 100 singles chart.[94] 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.[105][106] It was his highest charting album in the US until his Top Ten debut on Billboard 200 in 2008.[107]

He released his next album Hard Nose the Highway in 1973 receiving mixed, but mostly negative, reviews. The album contained the popular song “Warm Love” but otherwise has been largely dismissed critically.[108] In a 1973 Rolling Stone review, it was described as: “psychologically complex, musically somewhat uneven and lyrically excellent.”[109]

During a three-week vacation visit to Ireland in October 1973, Morrison wrote seven of the songs that made up his next album, Veedon Fleece.[110] 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.[111][112] 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.”[113] “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.[114]

Morrison took three years to release a follow-up album. 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.[115] Also suffering from writer’s block, he seriously considered leaving the music business for good.[116] 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,[117] 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.

The following year, Morrison released Wavelength; it became at that time the fastest-selling album of his career and soon went gold.[118]


Wavelength (Remastered)

Considered by AllMusic as “the definitive post-classic-era Morrison”,[121] Into the Music, was released in the last year of the 1970s. Songs on this album for the first time alluded to the healing power of music, which became an abiding interest of Morrison’s.[122] “Bright Side of the Road” was a joyful, uplifting song that featured on the soundtrack of the movie, Michael.[123]


VAN MORRISON Bright Side of the Road


Van Morrison – Don’t Look Back – 2/1/1979 – Belfast (OFFICIAL)

Common One to Avalon Sunset: 1980–1989

With his next album, the new decade found Morrison following his muse into uncharted territory and sometimes merciless reviews.[124][125] 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 his original concept was even more esoteric than the final product.”[126][127] 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.”[126] 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.”[124] Morrison insisted the album was never “meant to be a commercial album.”[124] Biographer Clinton Heylin concludes: “He would not attempt anything so ambitious again. Henceforth every radical idea would be tempered by some notion of commerciality.”[127] Later, critics reassessed the album more favourably with the success of “Summertime in England”.[127] 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.”[124]

Morrison’s next album, Beautiful Vision, released in 1982, had him returning once again to the music of his Northern Irish roots.[128] 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.[129] 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.[130] “Scandinavia”, with Morrison on piano,[131] was nominated in the Best Rock Instrumental Performance category for the 25th Annual Grammy Awards.[132]

Much of the music Morrison released throughout the 1980s continued to focus on the themes of spirituality and faith.

The Best of Van Morrison to Back on Top: 1990–1999

The early to middle 1990s were commercially successful for Morrison with three albums reaching the top five of the UK charts, sold-out concerts, and a more visible public profile; but this period also marked a decline in the critical reception to his work.[152] The decade began with the release of The Best of Van Morrison; compiled by Morrison himself, the album was focused on his hit singles, and became a multi-platinum success remaining a year and a half on the UK charts. AllMusic determined it to be “far and away the best selling album of his career.”[92][153] After Enlightenment which included the hit singles “Real Real Gone” and the title cut in 1990, an ambitious double album “Hymns to the Silence” was released the following year, his only double studio album. 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.[154] 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.[155][156][157][158] 1995’s Days Like This also had large sales – though the critical reviews were not always favourable.[159] 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.

In 1997, Morrison released The Healing Game. The album received mixed reviews, with the lyrics being described as “tired” and “dull”,[160] 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.”[161] The following year, Morrison finally released some of his previously unissued studio recordings in a two-disc set, The Philosopher’s Stone. His next release, 1999’s Back on Top, achieved a modest success, being his highest charting album in the US since 1978’s Wavelength.[162]


Philosopher’s Stone ~ Van Morrison

Recent years: 2000–present

Van Morrison continues to record and tour in the 2000s, often performing two or three times a week.[163] 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.[164]


Van Morrison – Have I Told You Lately

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Video sources: www.youtube.com and www.vevo.com

Posted by Teri Perticone for No Lies Radio Music

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