Ireland’s George Ivan “Van” Morrison was the son of a tap-dancing mother and an electrician father who owned an enormous record collection. After years of absorbing what he could from those records and playing in local bands, Van went on to international fame as the leader of his own group, Them — which was named after the 1954 sci-fi movie of the same title. In 1965, three of Their singles landed on the Hit Parade, “Gloria,” “Here Comes The Night” and “Mystic Eyes.”
Going solo 1966, Van Morrison went solo, reaching the Top 10 on his own with “Brown-Eyed Girl,” a 1967 Bang single written by label owner Bert Berns (the composer of “Here Comes The Night”). One thing which allowed “Brown Eyed Girl” to become a hit was the edit demanded by Gene Taylor, program director of Chicago’s powerful 50,000 watt AM station, WLS. Uneasy about broadcating a “racy” second verse about “making love in the green grass,” Gene insisted that Bang to replace that phrase with a repeat of the “skippin’ and a jumpin’” line from the first verse. The change was made — on some pressings — WLS added “Brown Eyed Girl” and the single went on to become not only a 1967 smash but one of the most broadcast oldies of all time. Today both the unedited original version of “Brown Eyed Girl” and the Gene Taylor remix turn up in different reissues.
Van went on to score ten more hits on the Warner Bros, label in the ‘70s — most notably “Come Running,” “Domino,” “Blue Money” and “Wild Night.” One 1972 single was a tribute to one of his heroes, “Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile”). Another, In 1977, was actually a track Van had recorded seven years earlier which had become an FM favorite: “Moondance.”
Morrison’s material has sometimes been called “Celtic soul” – his own blend of R&B, jazz and spiritual sounds. A lot of Van’s later output centered around faith, meditation and spirituality. He’s earned six Grammy Awards, the Brit Award and been inducted into both the Songwriters and Rock ‘n’ Roll Halls of Fame. Morrison continues to tour and record to this day.
Visit the Van Morrison website here.