Van Morrison, twinned with Bob Dylan, has been the pole star illuminating my love of twentieth century popular music. Untold hours, since I was a teenager, spent listening to the treasure house of his recordings and attending scores of live performances have given me some of the signal pleasures of my life.
The powerful nourishing river of his music, fed by deep tributaries, has carried me into love and appreciation of many, many great musicians and the traditions they came out of and worked within. His deep respect, love and practitioner’s knowledge of the blues, rhythm and blues, gospel, soul and folk music which he has demonstrated repeatedly throughout his career have been an education and a blessing.
From the first moment I heard Van sing, ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ in the early 1970s on the Saturday lunchtime show of the estimable, ‘Emperor Rosko’ on BBC radio and was catapulted into transcendent joy I have been an obsessive follower of his musical journeys and a grateful beneficiary. ‘Voyages Around Van’ will be a series tracing some of those journeys.
When Van Morrison at his best sings a song, one of his own or one from one of his approved forebears or contemporaries that has somehow called to him, you are forced to stop, take heed and listen with true bodily and spiritual attention rather than the mere overhearing it can be so easy to lapse into when listening to lesser music. The rewards more than justify the effort.
Certain songs from other artists have clearly captivated Van’s imagination to the extent that he has felt compelled to record them and return to regularly in concert – mining them for deeper levels of meaning throughout his career. One of these is the bewitching ballad, ‘Dont Look Back’ Van found within the catalogue of an artist who has profoundly influenced him; his elder brother in the blues, John Lee Hooker. A discussion of that song will follow very shortly! In the meantime as a treat on a glorious summertime in England day here’s Brown Eyed Girl – the original lightning strike that lit a still blazing flame.