Van Morrison

He was born George Ivan Morrison in Belfast, Northern Ireland on August 31st, 1945. His mother was a singer and his father was an avid collector of classic American Jazz and Blues recordings. By the age of twelve, Morrison joined a local Skiffle band called Deannie Sands And The Javelins, and within two years had moved on to a show band called The Monarchs. They took their brand of Soul and R&B to military bases in Scotland and England before traveling to Germany, where they recorded a single for CBS Records, "Bozoo Hully Gully", before disbanding. By this time, Morrison had taken up vocals, saxophone and harmonica, and soon teamed up with a local attraction called The Gamblers to form a new group they called simply, Them.

"Them" earned a local following and in late 1964, recorded their first single, "Don't Start Crying Now". Though the first effort went nowhere, the follow-up, a hard rocking version of Big Joe Williams' "Baby Please Don't Go", cracked the UK Top Ten in early 1965. The band's next release, "Here Comes The Night" also hit the UK chart, but is best remembered for its "B" side, a Morrison composition called "Gloria". In the clamor to promote any English recording, "Gloria" was shopped around radio stations in the U.S., but was always turned away because of its suggestive lyrics. A Chicago band called The Shadows of Knight, changed the words from, "She comes in my room, just about midnight", to "She comes around here, just about midnight", and scored a U.S. Top Ten hit with it.

Line-up changes plagued Them throughout its lifespan, and at the insistence of producer Bert Berns, session musicians were used on follow-up recordings. In frustration, 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 join him stateside and record as a solo artist. The pair's first U.S. sessions produced Morrison's first solo hit, a 1967 Top Ten smash called "Brown-Eyed Girl", which would go on to become a Rock 'n' Roll classic. Once again though, Morrison's original writing would have to be cleaned up from its original title, "Brown-Skinned Girl". The following album, a Blues laden LP called "Blowin' Your Mind", was in sharp contrast to the light, garage band style of the single and sold poorly.

Somewhat desperately, Bang Records issued a collection of early recordings and released it as "The Best Of Van Morrison", without the singers permission. An angry Morrison promptly returned to Ireland, but after Berns suffered a fatal heart attack in late 1967, the singer was freed of his contract and began writing new material. He signed with Warner Brothers and recorded some of his finest work for an album called "Astral Weeks", a Jazz oriented effort that critics loved, but record buyers largely ignored. The follow-up LP, 1970's "Moondance", cracked the Top 40, generating the singles "Caravan", "Into the Mystic", and the title song.

Morrison's records reflected a profoundly mystical outlook, spurred on in large part by his marriage to wife Janet Planet and the couple's relocation to California. After the album, "His Band and the Street Choir" yielded his biggest US chart hit, "Domino" (#9), Morrison released 1971's "Tupelo Honey", highlighted by the single "Wild Night" (#28). A strong cult following helped his next three albums sell, but in 1973 he not only dissolved his band, but also divorced Planet and moved back to Belfast. 1974's "Veedon Fleece" chronicled Morrison's emotional turmoil, after which, he 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".

Despite chronic stage fright, Morrison launched his first tour in nearly five years in support of 1978's "Wavelength", but his performances became more and more erratic. During a 1979 show at New York's Palladium, he stalked offstage in mid-set and did not return. "Into the Music", released later that year, had a more spiritual perspective than before, a pattern that continued on successive recordings for years to come. 1983's "Inarticulate Speech of the Heart", 1985's "A Sense of Wonder" and 1986's "No Guru, No Method, No Teacher", are all in the same venue, employing beautiful musical backdrops to explore themes of faith and healing. 1988's "Irish Heartbeat" changed styles completely, as Morrison teamed up with one of his homeland's musical institutions, the famed Chieftains, for a collection of traditional Folk songs. 1989's "Avalon Sunset", meanwhile, started a commercial comeback, while "Whenever God Shines His Light," a duet with Cliff Richard, became Morrison's first UK Top 20 hit in over twenty years. After a short dry spell, Morrison returned with one of his strongest efforts, "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You", that Rod Stewart took into the U.S. Top Five in 1993.

The rest of the decade saw a continued string of strong albums. 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" featured a duet with his daughter Shana, on "You Don't Know Me." Signing with the Verve label in 1996, he cut "How Long Has This Been Going On", a traditional Jazz record co-credited to 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 also appeared on albums by B.B. King and Lonnie Donegan before releasing his first LP for the Virgin Records subsidiary, PointBlank, in 1999. "Back On Top" was yet another classic Morrison album which became his most commercially successful release in many years. He found himself with a hit single on his hands when "Precious Time" hit the UK Top 40 in March, 1999. It was followed by 2000's "The Skiffle Sessions" and "You Win Again".

In January, 2001, it was reported by the press that Morrison would play at George W. Bush's inauguration week ceremonies, but this was quickly denied by Morrison's staff, saying: "Reports that Mr. Van Morrison will be performing or attending the inauguration ceremonies of President elect George W. Bush are absolutely false. Mr. Morrison was never slated to appear at this event and has no intention of doing so." The LP, "Down the Road" was released on May 14th, 2002. It charted at #6 in the UK and #26 in the US, and was consistently ranked in the Top 20 across Europe. His chart success continued in 2005 when "Magic Time" debuted at #25 on the Billboard 200 upon its May release. Rolling Stone magazine listed it as #17 of The Top 50 Records of the year. In July of '05, Morrison was named by Amazon as one of their top twenty-five all-time best-selling artists and inducted into the Hall of Fame. Later in the year, Morrison donated a song called "Blue and Green", a previously unreleased track, to the charity album "Hurricane Relief: Come Together Now", which raised money for Gulf Coast victims devastated by hurricanes, Katrina and Rita.

In March, 2006, he released a Country flavored album called "Pay the Devil", which debuted at #26 on the Billboard 200 album chart and went to #7 on their list of Top Country Albums. In November of '06, a limited edition LP, "Live at Austin City Limits Festival" was issued by Exile Productions. In June, 2007, Morrison released the LP "The Best of Van Morrison Volume 3" with "Blue and Green" being issued as a single that August. In the Fall of '07, Morrison's complete catalogue of albums from 1971 through 2002 were made available exclusively at the iTunes Store. That same October, a 37 track, double CD called "Still on Top - The Greatest Hits" was released by Polydor Records. The LP charted at #2 in the UK, #3 in Ireland and #1 in Sweden. A single disc version reached #37 in Canada and #48 in the US. Morrison's 33rd studio album, "Keep It Simple" came out in the Spring of 2008 and was promoted by a brief American tour which helped push its chart position to #10. In February, 2009, the live album "Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl" was released through Amazon Exclusive. Morrison then hit the road for a busy schedule across the United States and Canada. By February, 2012, he was back in Ireland to appear at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast and at The O2 in Dublin and was slated for more shows in Britain throughout the year.

Although he has always made music on his own terms, Van Morrison has had more than his share of commercial success, and continued to write and perform. On June 12th, 2015, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to music and tourism in Northern Ireland. On June 19th, Morrison was inducted into The Song Writers Hall Of Fame in New York. On September 30th, 2016, Morrison issued "Keep Me Singing", his 36th studio album, in conjunction with the single release, "Too Late". A short series of shows America, followed by a brief trek across the UK, was also on tap. He was slated to return to the US in January, 2017 with dates in Las Vegas and Clearwater, Florida. 2018 was filled with tour dates across Europe in support of a new album called "You're Driving Me Crazy", set for release in April. February, 2019 brought the news that Morrison would release a deluxe edition of "The Healing Game", his acclaimed 1997 album, expanded with out-takes, rare tracks and a complete live concert recording. The collection was set to hit store shelves and download services on March 22nd.

With the COVID-19 virus putting a stop to virtually all concerts around the globe, Morrison released three anti-lockdown songs in mid-September, 2020 to protest the way officials handled the coronavirus pandemic. He issued a statement that read, "I'm not telling people what to do or think, the government is doing a great job of that already. It's about freedom of choice, I believe people should have the right to think for themselves." Live music was banned in the UK in March, although it was possible for indoor live music performances to take place with socially distanced audiences since August 1st. Venues and artists both expressed concerns about whether this model was financially viable. In mid-January, 2021, Morrison sent a formal letter of protest to Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann.