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Van Morrison Biography: Life and Career of the Singer-Songwriter

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Born August 31st, 1945 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Van Morrison became interested in music as a child. After joining several bands, he finally found success with Them but left to go solo in the mid-1960s. His first album spawned signature tune, "Brown Eyed Girl." He gained critical success with the "Moondance" and "Astral Weeks" records and then experimented with many genres throughout his later albums. Regardless of ups and downs, he remains a respected artist and had his first top 10 album in the U.S. in 2008. In this video, we take a look at the life and career of Van Morrison.

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He just wants to have one more moondance with you. Welcome to, and today we’re taking a look at the life and career of Van Morrison.

Musical Beginnings

George Ivan Morrison was born August 31st, 1945 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Thanks to his father’s extensive record collection, he was exposed to music early and joined his first band at twelve.


Morrison gained his first taste of success outside his homeland with the group Them in the mid-‘60s. Their live shows, plus hits like their “Baby, Please Don’t Go” cover got them noticed, and while Morrison penned the popular anthem, “Gloria,” during his time with the band, he left Them in 1966 to pursue a solo career.

Solo Debut

He then recorded several tracks for Bang Records, which were released as Van Morrison’s solo debut, Blowin’ Your Mind! in 1967. Most notably, that rock and R&B effort yielded the pop success which later became his signature tune and a much-covered track: “Brown Eyed Girl.”

“Astral Weeks”

Despite personal and professional obstacles, Morrison soon found a home with Warner Bros. Records. With them, he released 1968’s musical masterpiece, Astral Weeks. This record demonstrated his ambitious use of diverse genres and styles like blues, soul, jazz and folk. Despite slow-going commercial success, the concept album came to be known as one of Morrison’s best works.


1970’s Moondance continued Morrison’s critical recognition. It also heightened his fame and chart success after it reached Billboard’s top thirty. The album saw the artist add R&B and country rock to his sound and gave him a top forty single with “Come Running,” as well as a radio success with the title cut.

Mixing Genres

That same year, Morrison had his highest charting single when “Domino” off His Band and the Street Choir peaked at number nine on Billboard. He released seven more studio albums during the 1970s, including the country-oriented Tupelo Honey and the genre-mixing top twenty record, Saint Dominic’s Preview. Other significant efforts were the lyrically-complex Veedon Fleece, the gold-certified and pop-flavored Wavelength and the inspirational Into the Music.

Transcendental Shows

Notwithstanding bouts of stage fright, the Belfast Cowboy was at the height of his stage prowess during the ‘70s, as demonstrated on the live album, It’s Too Late to Stop Now and during his legendary performance with The Band during The Last Waltz concert.

Spiritual Music

After opening the 1980s with the jazzy but poorly received Common One, Morrison returned to critics’ favors with the Celtic-infused Beautiful Vision. He expanded his spiritual interests in many of that decade’s albums. Examples included the heavily instrumental Inarticulate Speech of the Heart, the haunting No Guru, No Method, No Teacher and the highly regarded Poetic Champions Compose. 1989’s Avalon Sunset even spawned a top twenty UK duet with Cliff Richard.

Newfound Popularity in the 1990s

While continuing to tour and record new material, the artist gained newfound popularity in the early ‘90s with The Best of Van Morrison compilation. Notable records from this period included the critically and commercially well-received Too Long in Exile, the Mercury Prize-nominated Days Like This, and the blues and R&B disc Back on Top.

Success in the Twenty-first Century

In addition to writing new music, Morrison launched his own label, played several gigs and issued several compilations in the new millennium. Following a duet album with Linda Gail Lewis, he reached the top thirty with Down the Road and earned a Grammy nod for the bluesy What’s Wrong with This Picture? In 2008, Van Morrison had his highest U.S. chart showing yet when Keep It Simple premiered at the tenth position of the Billboard 200.

Born to Sing

Born to Sing: No Plan B was unveiled in 2012. Serving up some of Van Morrison’s political and social observations along with spiritual musings, the album also featured his trademark fusion of musical styles.

The Man

With his unique voice, poetic lyrics, and uplifting live performances, Van Morrison has proven his musical talents time and time again. But it’s his mix of soul, pop, jazz, blues, R&B, skiffle, Celtic folk, gospel and rock that truly makes him Van the Man.

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