Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Tribute to Van Morrison

The Life and Music of Van Morrison by Russell Shortt

Van Morrison was born on 31 August 1945 in Belfast, Ireland. As a young teenager he was involved in numerous bands including the Sputniks, Midnight Special, Deanie Sands and the Javelins and the Monarchs. After leaving school he played with the Harry Mack Showband and the Great Eight with his friend and some time mentor Geordie Sproule.

At the age of seventeen he embarked on a tour of Europe with the International Monarchs, when he returned to Belfast he reunited with Geordie Sproule and played with him in the Manhattan Showband. He later joined Brain Rossi and the Golden Eagles as a blues singer but left before long to set up an R&B club at the Maritime Hotel, needing a group to perform at the club, he joined with members of the Gamblers who changed their name to Them.

Them had a number of successful chart hits including the rock standard Gloria, subsequently they went on a tour of America but became involved in a dispute with their manager, Decca Records' Phil Solomon over revenues paid. Morrison teamed up with Bert Berns, recording the song Brown Eyed Girl for Bang Records which reached number ten in the US charts in 1967.

On the death of Berns, Morrison began recording for Warner Bros. and his first album with them was the classic Astral Weeks. He released the album, Moondance in 1970, it was critically acclaimed and was a commercial success. Over the next few years he released several acclaimed albums, 1972's St. Dominic's Preview saw a return to the less accessible, innovative style of Astral Weeks. In 1973 he formed The Caledonian Soul Orchestra and embarked on a three month tour of the States resulting in the live double album, It's Too Late to Stop Now, it has come to be regarded as one of the greatest live rock albums of all time.

In 1974, he released the album Veedon Fleece, initially it was poorly received but it proved to be a slow burner and is now viewed as one of his best works. For three years after Veedon Fleece, Morrison released nothing, he stated that he needed a break after ten years from the music business. He returned on Thanksgiving Day, 1976, performing at a farewell concert for The Band, the event was filmed and formed the basis for Martin Scorcese's 1978 movie The Last Waltz. Morrison released the albums A Period of Transition, Wavelength and the much lauded Into the Music at the end of the seventies. Much of the music that Morrison would release in the eighties focused on spirituality with the albums Common One, Beautiful Vision, Inarticulate Speech of the Heart, A Sense of Wonder and No Guru, No Method, No Teacher.

In 1988, he released an album with the Irish group, The Chieftains called Irish Heartbeat which contained a collection of Irish folk songs. His 1989 album, Avalon Sunset featured the hit duet with Cliff Richard Whenever God Shines his light and the top-selling ballad Have I Told You Lately. The early nineties were a very successful time for him, with three Top Five UK albums, The Best of Van Morrison, The Best of Van Morrison Volume II and Too Long in Exile.

In January 1993, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he did not attend the induction ceremony becoming the only artist ever to do so. His albums of the mid nineties, Days Like This (1995), The Healing Game (1997) and Back on Top (1999) sold well but received mixed reviews. In 2002 he released the critically well received Down the Road, which gave him his highest US chart position since his 1972 work, St. Dominic's Preview, he followed this with the 2005 hit album Magic Time. In 2006, he released a country music album, Pay the Devil, it debuted at number twenty-six on The Billboard 200.

Russell Shortt is a travel consultant with Exploring Ireland, the leading specialists in customised, private escorted tours, escorted coach tours and independent self drive tours of Ireland.

Article source: Russell Shortt,

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