Van Morrison was born in Belfast, Ireland. At sixteen he began playing tenor sax and started touring with a rock band called The Monarchs. He played in England, Scotland and Germany, eventually being cast for the role of a jazz musician in a German film.
In 1964, Van opened the R&B Club in Belfast, and subsequently formed his own group, Them.
A gritty, R&B-influenced beat band, Them had a hit in 1965 with Here Comes The Night, followed by one of rock’s hardiest anthems, Gloria.
After the band’s demise in 1966, Morrison relocated to the USA where he recorded another enduring classic, Brown Eyed Girl (1967).
The track had to be censored before some American radio stations would play it. The objectionable lyrics “making love in the green grass behind the stadium” had to be changed to the more palatable “laughin’ and a-runnin’ behind the stadium”.
After 1968’s Astral Weeks his stream of consciousness narrative and spiritual digressions earned Morrison his own genre: Celtic soul.
With Moondance (1970) he expanded his musical versatility into the service of beautiful, concise songcraft (Crazy Love, Into The Mystic, Moondance).
The double-barrelled punch of Astral Weeks and Moondance established Van Morrison as the most individual songwriter since Bob Dylan, and an incomparable singer and bandleader.
Morrison’s career then became a model of artistic consistency. On such albums as St Dominic’s Preview, Beautiful Vision and Into The Music – and up to 1991’s Hymns To The Silence – Morrison has explored his inimitable terrain with increasing complexity.
At times arcane and idiosyncratic, Morrison’s music always retains its expansive vision and sense of daring. Van Morrison has never compromised and never bent to commercial demands or fashion.
Whether as an obvious musical influence on artists like Bruce Springsteen, Graham Parker and Bob Seger or as an inspiration for younger generations of singer/songwriters and groups – including Sinead O’Connor and U2 – Morrison consistently remained a beacon of musical excellence and integrity.
Morrison was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.