Friday, August 31, 2007

Van The Man

In the great, great movie, Groundhog Day, Bill Murray says:

I'm a god.
I'm not the God, I don't think.

In our household, "not the God" has become the phrase of highest praise, and we use it sparingly.

The man about whom we say it most often is Van Morrison, who is 62 years old today. If I had to choose just one musician to listen to throughout eternity, it would be Van. I believe someday, long, long after I have departed this earth, he will be taught in colleges along with Yeats and all the other great poets who have ever lived. His work encompasses all human emotion from the depths of melancholy to the heights of ecstasy. He writes love songs and loss songs and spiritual songs and nostalgic songs.

From On Hyndford Street, Hymns To The Silence, 1991:

Take me back, take me way, way, way back
On Hyndford Street
Where you could feel the silence at half past eleven
On long summer nights
As the wireless played Radio Luxembourg
And the voices whispered across Beechie River
In the quietness as we sank into restful slumber in the silence
And carried on dreaming, in God
And walks up Cherry Valley from North Road Bridge, railway line
On sunny summer afternoons
Picking apples from the side of the tracks
That spilled over from the gardens of the houses on Cyprus Avenue
Watching the moth catcher working the floodlights in the evenings
And meeting down by the pylons
Playing round Mrs. Kelly's lamp
Going out to Holywood on the bus
And walking from the end of the lines to the seaside
Stopping at Fusco's for ice cream
In the days before rock 'n' roll

From Sometimes We Cry, The Healing Game, 1997

Sometimes we know, sometimes we don't
Sometimes we give, sometimes we won't
Sometimes we're strong, sometimes we're wrong
Sometimes we cry

Sometimes it's bad when the going gets tough
When we look in the mirror and we want to give up
Sometimes we don't even think we'll try
Sometimes we cry

Well we're gonna have to sit down and think it right through
If we're only human what more can we do
The only thing to do is eat humble pie
Sometimes we cry

From Bright Side Of The Road, Into The Music, 1979

From the dark end of the street
To the bright side of the road
We'll be lovers once again on the
Bright side of the road

Little darlin', come with me
Won't you help me share my load
From the dark end of the street
To the bright side of the road

Into this life we're born
Baby sometimes we don't know why
And time seems to go by so fast
In the twinkling of an eye

Let's enjoy it while we can
Won't you help me sing my song
From the dark end of the street
To the bright side of the road

Though I own a lot of his albums, there are still some I need to complete my collection. Some people point to one or another as "the best." Some people speak of certain periods of his writing as "the best." To me, it is all of a piece. It is his "oeuvre." One album flows into another, one year flows into another.

I am a fan, not a scholar, but I could happily ensconce myself in a wood-paneled study for the rest of my life and "study" Van's work. There is so much there, so much symbolism, so much passion, so much of both the material and the spiritual world, that one could listen forever and never know it all. Just like Shakespeare or Yeats or Keats or Donne. He's in good company. And he is worthy.

The song playing is Star of the County Down from an album done with The Chieftains.


  1. I love the Man, too! There's no way I could name one song as my favorite, but oh, I love Into the Mystic. And, Brown-Eyed Girl.

  2. I couldn't name a favorite either. :<)

  3. I am so glad to see you honored Van on his 62nd Birthday! I am about the do the same on my blog, GMTA! I have been playing his music all day today in his honor. I was able to get a recording of his live performance from earlier this month as the Abbey in Glastonbury. I've seen him in concert twice in the last year. It is hard to name a favorite song, but as far as album goes No Guru, No Method, No Teacher or Common One are up there. Into The Mystic remains my favorite song, but Summertime in England is up there, or maybe In the Garden, or Haunts of Ancient Peace. He is a genius, there's no doubt about it.

  4. And how I envy you! I've seen him only once in my life.

  5. I love to hear when people are rabid fans of something!!!! Love the enthusiasm! I know we have a best of Van CD around here...I want to hear that Bright Side of the Road song right now!!!

  6. Bright Side of the Road is one of my faves, Laura!


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