Happy Birthday Van Morrison! Checkin’ it Out (An Immortal Jukebox Van Fest)

There are guides and spirits all along the way who will befriend us’

Guides and Spirits. We all need them.

Pilgrims all, we need Way Markers reassuring us that there is indeed a Way and that we are not the first to have set off in this direction.

Guides and Spirits are all around.

You find those with whom you feel a certain sympathetic kinship.

You think, ‘Here’s someone who speaks to me.

Here’s someone who knows what they’re talking about.

Someone worth attending to’.

So, for me; Thomas Merton, Erich Fromm, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Seamus Heaney, Emily Dickinson, Anton Chekhov, Samuel Beckett, Russell Hoban and Buster Keaton.

In music Hank Williams, Howling Wolf, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan and .. Van Morrison.

One of Van’s ‘lesser songs’ but one which has always spoken to me.

Get into it like a meditation.

Taking it further.

Taking it further.

Further.

Van is tuned into the ‘Undersong’ all around us if we would but listen.

The Song of the Earth.

For Van this is first the undersong of his home place.

Belfast. East Belfast.

With the bewitching sounds of the Sea and the River.

The morning fog and the trees wet with Summer rain.

The bustle of the streets and the hushed quiet of The Avenue.

The salty tang of Belfast speech and the Mystery of voices coming through the ether.

At the same time he is tuned into the Music of the Spheres.

Music that’s always, always, all around us.

Van invites this music in and channels it for us.

On record and especially in performance he surrenders to this blessing.

Only a very rare artist can do this.

He’s a musical and spiritual voyageur opening up the territory for us to journey wherever we are brave enough to go.

I once met Russell Hoban at a book signing and said that I thought his words took us as far as words could go and then left us to explore the white space beyond.

He laughed and said, ‘Bon Voyage’.

It’s the same with Van.

His songs and his singing, incorporating the Undersong and the Music of the Spheres, act to flamingly make present the unnameable, the unsayable and the unknowable.

There’s a lot more Van to come on The Jukebox (while I toil over the, one day I’ll finish it, Book, Van Morrison : Dweller on the Threshold’).

So, on his Birthday, I offer my thanks for these gifts and wish him well in his further journeys.

I take this opportunity to present all The Jukebox posts featuring Van.

The Immortal Jukebox’s very own VanFest!

Catch up with those you may have missed and revisit those you read in the past.

It’s Too Late To Stop Now!

Brown Eyed Girl’.

An introduction telling the tale of my headlong plunge into obsession following my first hearing of Van’s best known song.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-2L

Don’t Look Back’.

A meditation on Time featuring 2 astounding versions of John Lee Hooker’s tender Blues Ballad. One a reaching for the stars take of a teenager the second the work of a fully realised master musician.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-3k

Carrickfergus‘.

A meditation on family, friendship and loss. How the shadows lengthen! Sung with infinite tenderness and bardic authority.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-7J

In The Days Before Rock ‘n’ Roll’.

A miraculous meditation on the persistence of memory, the power of the radio and the post war world as seen by a young Irish mystic.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-bi

Tupelo Honey’.

A rhapsodic meditation on the nurturing, redemptive power of Love. A Hallelujah!

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-fr

All in the Game‘.

A meditation on the carousel we all ride. It’s been sung by many singers but never like this!

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-jY

Domino’ .

A Founding Father joyously celebrated by a Master from the next generation.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-pH

Sometimes We Cry‘.

Bringing it all back home to singing on the street corner Days. The sweetness of Doo-Wop seasoned with wry maturity.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-sf

I Cover the Waterfront’.

Van and John Lee Hooker, Blues Brothers and Soul Friends, conjure up ancient tides.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-tq

Buona Sera Signorina‘.

Van puts his party hat on and romps through the Louis Prima classic.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-Xg

Hey Girl’.

Van takes a stroll along the strand and suspends Time.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-1cA

Gloria! Gloria!’

Once, Now and Ever.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-1dh

Happy Birthday Van!

Voyages Around Van : Introduction

http://Embed from Getty Images
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.