Van Morrison is a Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, author, poet and multi-instrumentalist, who is widely considered one of the most important living artists of our time. He has albums that are ranked greatest in the entire rock and roll canon. He has more than 150 songs featured in major motion pictures, including his hits “Brown-Eyed Girl,” “Moondance,” “Wild Night,” and “Gloria.”
Born in 1945, Morrison heard his Shipyard worker father’s collection of blues, country, and gospel early in life. Feeding off musical greats such as Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Muddy Waters, Mahalia Jackson, and Leadbelly, he was a travelling musician at 13 and singing, playing guitar and saxophone, in several bands, before forming Them in 1964.
Making their name at Belfast’s Maritime Club, Them soon established Morrison as a major force in the British R&B scene. Morrison’s matchless vocal and songwriting talents produced instant classics such as the much covered “Gloria” and “Here Comes The Night.”
Those talents found full astonishing range in Morrison’s solo career. After working with Them’s New York producer Bert Berns on Top 40 pop hit “Brown Eyed Girl” (1967), Morrison moved to another realm.
Recorded over three days with legendary jazz musicians Astral Weeks (1968) is a still singular album combining street poetry, jazz improvisation, Celtic invocation, and Afro Celtic Blues wailing. Morrison would weave these and myriad other influences into the albums that followed in quick succession.
Reflecting on new life in America on the joyous Sinatra soul of Moondance (1970) and the country inflected Tupelo Honey (1971) he summoned old spiritual and ancestral life in the epic St Dominic’s Preview (1972) closer track “Listen To The Lion.”
Double live album Too Late To Stop Now (1973) highlighted Morrison’s superlative performing and bandleader skills. Mapping out a richly varied musical course throughout the 70s he shone among an all-star cast including Bob Dylan and Muddy Waters on The Band’s Last Waltz.
Indeed, born of his Irish Showband instincts, the magic of the live performance has been a consistent feature of Morrison’s career.
Settling back into life in the UK in 1980 he released Common One, an album centering on “Summertime in England” and would often become a thrilling improvised centerpiece to his live shows.
Steering his own course throughout the 80s on albums such as No Guru, No Method, No Teacher he claimed Celtic roots with The Chieftains on Irish Heartbeat. Teaming with Georgie Fame brought new impetus to his live show while Avalon Sunset saw him back in the album and single charts by the decades end.
Van Morrison continued to advance on his status as a game- changing artist through the 90s and into the 21st century.
The international reach of Morrison’s art has been honored with several awards and accolades including a knighthood, a Brit, an OBE, an Ivor Novello, six Grammys, honorary doctorates from Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Ulster, entry into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the French Ordres Des Artes Et Des Lettres.