Today is the birthday of singer Van Morrison, who was born in Belfast,
Northern Ireland 52 years ago. Known for his combination of Irish bardic
spirit and deep soul voice, Van Morrison has been hailed as a master
songwriter for at least three decades. As a lad, Morrison was surrounded by
music; his mother sang in jazz groups while his father collected blues and
jazz records. He quit school at 15 to serve as saxophonist for the Monarchs,
an R&B group that toured Europe. Later he formed Them, a popular group
which became the house band in Morrison's own Belfast club at the Maritime
Hotel. Them released albums -- like 1965's Them and Them
Again -- which saw singles hit the British Top 10.
Them disbanded in 1966, but reformed without Morrison soon after. Morrison,
sick of corporate music manipulativeness, formed his own Bang Records and
recorded singles of his own, including "Brown Eyed Girl." He toured, fueled
by the success of his first American hit, and then recorded his first
full-length album, 1968's Astral Weeks. Moondance followed in
1970, including hits like the title track, "Into the Mystic" and "Caravan."
This early period also included landmark albums like Tupelo Honey and
Hard Nose The Highway. After Morrison's divorce from wife Janet
Planet, he went on a recording hiatus from 1974 to 1977.
With the success of subsequent albums Wavelength (1978) and Into
the Music (1979), Morrison's continued stage fright -- and resulting
temper -- made him a difficult act to book. In 1982's Beautiful
Vision he paid homage to many blues legends, including Leadbelly and
Blind Lemon Jefferson. Through the 1980's, Morrison's albums were
increasingly literate, drawing inspiration from favorites like William
Blake. His most recent work continues to honor bluesmen; The Healing
Game, released earlier this year, is based on inspiration gleaned from
John Lee Hooker's work.
Other birthdays: Glenn Tilbrook (Squeeze), 40; Rudolf Schenker (Scorpions),
49; Rick Roberts (Firefall), 48; Gina Schock (Go-Go's), 40; Tony DeFranco
(DeFranco Family), 38; Debbie Gibson, 27; Lawrence Waddell (Mint Condition)
and Gerard Love (Teenage Fanclub).