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One The Greatest Singer Songwriters
Van Morrison

by Jack-Julian Brighenti,
Brittany Lauren Lee and Mark R. Elsis

Van Morrison is acclaimed as one of music's truly innovative artists, collaborating a popular blend of R&B, jazz, blues, and Celtic folk styles. Morrison, born in Belfast, Ireland in 1945, is the son of a shipyard worker who collected American jazz and blues records. By age fifteen, teenage Morrison dropped out of school to pursue a career in music. Young Morrison learned to play the guitar, saxophone, and harmonica while playing with a series of local Irish bands before forming his own band - Them. Them quickly earned a devout following, in the process recording the UK Top Ten hit "Baby Please Don't Go" in 1965. Them's "Gloria" has and continues to be regarded as one of rock's classical hits which has been covered by a diverse number of bands including The Doors. Due to changing lineups, a frustrated Morrison left Them in 1966 and returned to his Belfast home.

When former producer, Bert Berns (Bang Records), was able to convince Morrison to record as a solo artist in New York City. Van recorded perhaps his most famous hit "Brown Eye Girl" from March 28th through 30th, 1967. The sessions took place in the A&R Recording Studios on 112 West 48th Street. The resulting album, Blowin' Your Mind (released against Morrison's wishes), was dissimilarly considered a bleak failure. Yet, the success of the "Brown Eyed Girl" single prompted Berns to call Van back to New York for a second studio session in November of 1967, from which The Best of Van Morrison and many of the subsequent reissues were culled. Berns died from a heart attack on December 30, 1967 and Morrison returned back to Belfast, Ireland.

Soon after, Morrison again started working on a new album. This time Morrison was signed wih the Warner Brothers company. In 1968 Van released arguably the best album of his career entitled Astral Weeks. Noted for its poetic complexity incorporating folk-styled jazz, Astral Weeks was a success on all levels except its commercial response.

In contrast, Morrison's optimistic follow-up Moondance (1970) not only catapulted the singers popularity but finally received public acclaim, cracking the Top 40 records of the year.
From Moondance's release in 1970 onward, Morrison's records were said to stylize a more celebratory tone due to his recent marriage to Janet Planet and their relocation to California.

Tupelo Honey (1971) was highlighted by the single "Wild Night" - most notable for its serene descriptions of married life. In 1972, Van Morrison formed the Caledonia Soul Orchestra. In 1973, however, things took a drastic turn as Morrison disunited the Orchestra, divorced his wife, and again returned to Ireland. The LP Veedon Fleece (1974) narrated Morrison's recent experiences in a emotional compiling of 1973's drastic occurrences.

Understandably, after Veedom Fleece, Morrison temporarily withdrew from music, although supposedly working on a number of failed compositions. Finally, in 1977, A Period of Transition was released. It was during Morrison's return to music that his performance became increasingly erratic. In 1978 Van Morrison released Wavelength and to back it up, he went on tour for the first time in five years. One thing Morrison was notorious for was often walking off stage without returning.

The eighties saw Morrison's release of a number of LP's including: Inarticulate Speech of the Heart (1983), A Sense of Wonder (1985), No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1986), Irish Heartbeat (1988), Avalon Sunset (1989), and Mercury Records Best of Van Morrison (1990). With the exceptions of both his best-of compilation and Heartbeat, the majority of Morrison's work through the eighties was noted for its uniformly spiritual substance. Only Irish Heartbeat (1988) changed Morrison's eighties genre by encompassing a more traditional folk styled sound.

Contrary to the majority of his eighties work, the nineties proved excitingly eclectic. In 1990 Van Morrison released the critically acclaimed album Enlightenment. To me, the song "Enlightenment" is one of the five best of Van's long great career. This was followed by Hymns of Silence in 1991. Considered some of his best work in years, both of these releases helped Morrison appeal to a new generation of fans.