Van Morrison

Start Your Free Trial

Download Van Morrison Study Guide

Subscribe Now


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Van Morrison 1945–

Irish songwriter, singer, and musician.

Morrison's best lyrics take emotion as their subject. His most compelling visions are mystical and unusually poetic. There is an authenticity to Morrison's images and projections that can only be attributed to his having deeply experienced the emotions they describe. Although many critics have found his lyrics at times strained and ambiguous, most believe that they convey true feeling. Morrison's statement, "you don't create, you go into," is the basis for his songwriting, and this ability accounts for Morrison's acclaim.

Morrison began singing when he was twelve and by the age of thirteen was learning to play guitar, saxophone, and harmonica. At sixteen he dropped out of high school to tour Europe with a rock group called the Monarchs. At nineteen he returned to his native Belfast and formed the band Them. With Morrison as lead singer, the group developed a strong following. Them had several hit singles in England, and Morrison's own "Gloria" was a commercial success in the United States in 1965 and 1966. Although Them disbanded in 1967, Morrison's "Brown-Eyed Girl" was successfully introduced in the same year. In 1968 Morrision signed a contract with Warner Brothers and moved to the United States.

His first album for that company, Astral Weeks, was a radical departure lyrically and stylistically from the work Morrison had done with Them. A moving document of one man's spiritual anguish, Astral Weeks introduced the kind of "mystic visions" Morrison has pursued on many of his subsequent albums. Astral Weeks was a tremendous critical success and resulted in a cult following for Morrison. His next album, the lyrical and intense Moondance, was successful commercially and critically, as was the later His Band and Street Choir. Tupelo Honey outsold all previous albums and seemed to climax favorable critical opinion of Morrison's work. This album presents a note of optimism and hopefulness sometimes evident but never dominant in his earlier work. It also reveals an emotionally confident Morrison, a...

(The entire section is 503 words.)