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Grammy Award-winning George Ivan Morrison OBE or better known as Van Morrison - born on August 31, 1945 in Bloomfield, Belfast, Northern Ireland - is an Irish singer, lyricist, author, poet and multi-instrumentalist, who has been in this profession since the late 1950s. He is gifted with various talents in music and can play a selection of instruments, counting the guitar, harmonica, keyboards, drums, and saxophone. Featuring his characteristic growl an inimitable blend of folk, blues, Irish, scat, and Celtic influences Morrison is extensively thought to be one of the most remarkable and significant vocalists in the history of rock and roll. According to Critic Greil Marcus, though sounding a bit racial, as commented that "no white man sings like Van Morrison."
Recognized as "Van the Man" by his fans, Morrison first achieved fame as the lead singer of the Northern Irish band Them, with their formative 1964 hit "Gloria". After a few years with the band, Morrison departed, pursuing for a solo career which consequently, turned more flourishing and booming.
Morrison has followed an eccentric musical course. Much of his music revolves around the pivotal trends of American soul and R&B, for example the popular singles "Brown Eyed Girl", "Moondance", "Domino" and "Wild Night". An equal part of his collection comprises of lengthy, loosely connected, morally enthused musical journeys which possess the influence of Celtic tradition, jazz, and stream-of-consciousness description, such as his classic album Astral Weeks and less popular works such as Veedon Fleece and Common One. The two strains together are every now and then called as "Celtic Soul".
George Ivan (Van) Morrison grew up as the only child of George Morrison, a shipyard employee and Violet Stitt Morrison, a singer and tap dancer in her youth. Van became interested in music from an early age, as his father, having spent time working in Detroit, Michigan collected American jazz, country and western, and blues albums. He developed in him the same taste as his father's in terms of music and he grew up listening to artists such as Jelly Roll Morton, Ray Charles, Lead Belly and Solomon Burke. In a 2005 Rolling Stone article he exclaimed, "Those guys were the inspiration that got me going. If it wasn't for that kind of music, I couldn't do what I'm doing now."
In a recorded interview taken in 1969, his mother told that he was listening to recordings from the age of two, and he was so fond of it that he would tug at her apron strings insisting her to play more records. His grandmother used to come up and take turns, because he'd have you play them morning, noon and night. There were sing-songs in the house on Saturday nights with family and friends and, although shy, the young Morrison would always sing upon request. He gave his first performance as a child in his own version of Lead Belly's "Goodnight Irene". Years later, he performed this same song with another of his boyhood idols, Lonnie Donegan, on his album, The Skiffle Sessions - Live in Belfast 1998.
At seventeen, Morrison left home to tour Europe with the group the Monarchs together with his boyhood friend, George Jones, who later established the show band Clubsound. On his return to East Belfast, the Monarchs broke up. Morrison once more associated with Geordie Sproule and played with him in the Manhattan Showband in company with guitarist Herbie Armstrong. When Armstrong auditioned to play with Brian Rossi and the Golden Eagles, Morrison went along and both were hired. He had obtained his first position as a blues singer as the band was not in need of a saxophonist, but he soon left to form an R&B Club at the Maritime Hotel. Wanting a proper band to perform with there, he joined up with the members of The Gamblers. In April 1964, prior to the first opening night at the Maritime, the group changed their name to Them taking the idea from a Fifties horror movie.
In 1970, Morrison then shifted to Woodstock, New York, and released his next album, Moondance. Moondance reached #29 on the Billboard charts. The genre of this album was in great distinction to that of Astral Weeks. While Astral Weeks was a mournful and vulnerable album, Moondance was a much more buoyant and cheerful one! The title track, though not released in the US as a single until 1977, was played extensively on-air. The evocative song "Into the Mystic" has also attained a huge fan base all this time. The single released was "Come Running", which reached the US Top 40. Moondance was both well received and achieved critical acclaim. Lester Bangs and Greil Marcus both had a mutual full page review in Rolling Stone Magazine, stating that Morrison now had "the striking imagination of a consciousness that is visionary in the strongest sense of the word
With his subsequent album, the new decade saw Morrison following his own reflection into unexplored territory and harsh reviews. In 1980, he took a group of musicians with him to Super Bear, a studio in the French Alps, on the location of a previous abbey, to record his "most daring and unclassifiable" album since Astral Weeks. The album, Common One, comprised of only six songs of varying lengths. The longest, "Summertime in England" was fifteen and one-half minutes long and ended with the words,Can you feel the silence?" NME magazine's, Graham Locke, named the album "colossally smug and cosmically dull; an interminable, vacuous and drearily egotistical stab at spirituality." Even Greil Marcus, who had previously supported Morrison, said: "It's Van acting the part of the 'mystic poet' he thinks he's supposed to be." Morrison persevered that the album was never "meant to be a commercial album;" but, perhaps stung by the harsh reviews, Clinton Heylin concludes: "he would not attempt anything so ambitious again." Afterwards the critics reconsidered the album more positively with the success of "Summertime in England" and other tracks that seem to take on new meaning in live performance. Lester Bangs wrote in 1982, "Van was making holy music even though he thought he was, and us (sic) rock critics had made our usual mistake of paying too much attention to the lyrics."
In the 2000s, Van Morrison carried on with his journey of recording and touring, giving performances twice or thrice a week. Playing less of his renowned songs in concert than almost any other artist from his era, Morrison refuses to be referred into a reminiscence act.
In contradiction of the days when he was left at the clemency of the music industry, he now has his own independent label, Exile Productions Ltd., and has complete production power of each album he records; which he then delivers as a finished product to the recording label that he chooses, for marketing and distributing.
In November 2006, according to CNN's list of The All-TIME 100 Greatest Albums, two of Van Morrison's albums, 1968's Astral Weeks and 1970's Moondance, were also included..His continuing popularity with music fans was evident when he was voted as #13 on the list of WXPNs 885 All Time Greatest Artists in 2006.
On February 22, 2007, Van Morrison was given accolade at the Second Annual Oscar Wilde: Honouring Irish Writing in Film Pre-Academy Awards Party, in Los Angeles, California, for his contribution to over fifty films and was awarded by Al Pacino. Van Morrison at the Movies - Soundtrack Hits, a new nineteen song album, was released by Morrison's record label, Exile Productions Ltd. under license to Manhattan EMI, on February 12, 2007, to overlap with this event.
On the first evening on April 27, He appeared at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 2007 as the headline act where his longtime collaborator and friend, Dr. John joined him for one set on stage. Morrison also attracted the largest crowd ever (35,000) on July 4, 2007 at the Ottawa Bluesfest.On May 08, 2007 Van Morrison was entitled the Best International Male Singer of 2007 by the first ever International Awards at the prominent Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London England.
Morrison's influence is evident in the music of many major artists, counting U2 in much of The Unforgettable Fire; Bruce Springsteen in "Spirit in the Night", "4th of July Sandy", "Backstreets"; John Mellencamp in "A Little Night Dancin'", a cover of Morrison's "Wild Night"; Jim Morrison, Joan Armatrading, Rickie Lee Jones, Rod Stewart, Tom Petty, Patti Smith in her poetic-proto-punk most explicit "Gloria"; Elvis Costello who later toured with Morrison; Graham Parker, Daryl Hall, Thin Lizzy, Bob Seger; Dexys Midnight Runners, Jimi Hendrix in "Gloria"; Jeff Buckley in "The Way Young Lovers Do", "Sweet Thing"; and several others, together with Counting Crows in the "sha-la-la" sequence in Mr Jones, was infact in honor of Morrison.
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