With one of the most revered catalogues in music history and his unparalleled talents as composer, singer, songwriter and performer and 2003 Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Van Morrison’s past achievements loom large. Morrison’s matchless vocal and songwriting talents produced instant classics such as the much covered “Gloria,” “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Moondance,” “Domino,” “Crazy Love,” “Have I Told You Lately,” and “Wild Night.”
One of music’s true originals, Morrison’s unique and inspirational musical legacy is rooted in postwar Belfast. 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, Morrison became a traveling musician at 13, singing, playing the guitar and sax 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 with charting songs including, “Baby, Please Don’t Go,” “Mystic Eyes,” and “Gloria,” which has been covered by Patti Smith, The Doors, Shadows of Knight, Jimi Hendrix and others.
Morrison’s talents found full astonishing range in his solo career. Working with producer Bert Berns, Morrison penned the pop hit, “Brown Eyed Girl” in 1967. He then moved into another realm in 1968 going on to record his critically acclaimed album, Astral Weeks, for which he wrote and composed all the songs. Recorded in just three days, the album remains a classic, ranking nineteenth on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” The album combines street poetry, jazz improvisation, Celtic invocation and Afro Celtic Blues wailing.
Reflecting on new life in America and the joyous Sinatra soul, Morrison released his third album, Moondance in 1970, which featured hits including “Moondance,” “Into The Mystic,” and “Come Running,” all written by Morrison. The album was followed by the country inflected Tupelo Honey in 1971, with the hit single “Domino.” In 1972 he summoned old spiritual and ancestral life in the epic St Dominic’s Preview, with key tracks including “Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile)” and “Redwood Tree.”
His 1973 double live album Too Late To Stop Now highlighted Morrison’s superlative performing and bandleader skills. Mapping out a richly varied musical course throughout the 1970’s he shone among an all-star cast including Bob Dylan and Muddy Waters on The Band’s “Last Waltz.”
Settling back into life in the UK in 1980 he released Common One, an album centering on “Summertime In England,” an extraordinary invocation of literary, sensual and spiritual pleasure. The song became a thrilling improvised centerpiece to his live shows. Steering his own course throughout the 1980’s on albums such as 1986’s No Guru, No Method, No Teacher and 1987’s Poetic Champions Compose, featuring the romantic ballad “Someone Like You,” which has been included in movie soundtracks including French Kiss, Someone Like You and Bridget Jones’s Diary. In 1988 he claimed his Celtic roots with The Chieftains on Irish Heartbeat. Avalon Sunset saw him back in the album and single charts by the decade’s end with his duet with Cliff Richard “Whenever God Shines His Light” and the ballad “Have I Told You Lately” which won a Grammy® Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals in 1996.
Morrison continued to advance his status as a game-changing artist through the 1990’s and into the 21st century with countless albums including Down The Road in 2002, which became his highest charting album. Also during this time period he won six Grammy ® Awards, was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003. He garnered other accolades included the Ivor Novello Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1995 and a BMI ICON award in 2004. In 2015 he released Duets: Re-Working The Catalogue featuring collaborations with Bobby Womack, Steve Winwood, Mark Knopfler, Mavis Staples, Natalie Cole, Joss Stone, Michael Buble, and others.