Van Morrison is a musician and songwriter from Northern Ireland who originally grew in popularity due to his work with the band Them. He was the band’s lead singer, performing songs with major rhythm and blues influence as well as garage band hits such as the song “Gloria.”
These influences followed him into his solo career, during which he also integrated tenets of diverse musical genres such as jazz, country, folk, gospel, and Celtic music. He became something of a pop sensation in 1967 when he released “Brown Eyed Girl,” a Top 40 hit single and one of his the most notable songs of his career. The song with which people are familiar is nothing like the original, which was meant to be a Calypso-inspired song entitled “Brown-Skinned Girl.” Although the title has been changed, some of the Jamaican influence on the song can still be heard in the revised version, which combines a rhythmic, Calypso-infused beat with folksy and country-inspired melodies.
Van Morrison got his start while living in Boston, playing at the Boston Tea Party, one of the premier rock clubs of the 1960s. Despite the fact that he had already made the charts while singing for Them, he did not have much in the way of material possessions when he started his solo career. He had little money to survive on, and he had to share a small and dingy apartment with his small family. What he did have was a reel-to-reel tape recorder, which he used to record the music he played with his acoustic guitar. He spent a great deal of time without a recording contract, even though several musicians were familiar with his name.
Much of the time that Van Morrison spent living in poverty was spent listening to records by the multitude of musicians that influenced him. Such magicians included Hank Williams, Ray Charles, and Elvis Presley. These influences shone through in his music, and the songs he recorded on his 1968 album Astral Weeks have been said to be unclassifiable in terms of genre. Although listeners did not at first latch onto Van Morrison’s unique musical style, they began to jump on board when he released his next album, Moondance, in 1970.
Over the following years, Van Morrison would skyrocket in popularity. His song “Gloria” received revitalized fame, and he also released a number of covers such as Jim Henson’s “Bein’ Green” and Don Gibson’s “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” He also released a number of his own singles, such as “Warm Love,” “Call Me Up in Dreamland,” “Have I Told You Lately” and, in 2002, “Hey Mr. DJ.” A musician who had previously been starving, even following the success of “Brown Eyed Girl,” had finally managed to persevere through years of hard work and determination.
Today, Van Morrison’s celebrity status in the world of music is indisputable. His rags to riches story of success has inspired other musicians, and his unique combination of musical genres to create his own styles has demonstrated that musicians do not have to adhere to genre conventions in order to achieve widespread success or critical acclaim.
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