AKA George Ivan Morrison
Birthplace: Belfast, Northern Ireland
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: Northern Ireland
Executive summary: Central figure of the Belfast blues scene
The son of an Irish shipyard worker, Van Morrison received his musical education by way of his father's extensive jazz and blues collection, as well as from his mother who worked as a professional singer. His earliest experiences as a performer took place when he was 12, when he started a two-year stint with a local skiffle group. By 15 he had dropped out of school to tour with The Monarchs, an R&B outfit that made the rounds of U.K. military bases and recorded a single for the CBS label before ceasing to exist. Once the Monarchs fell apart, Morrision returned to Belfast to form Them with former members of a band named The Gamblers; with Them, Morrison managed to establish a reginal following, releasing well-received singles such as Baby Please Don't Go and Here Comes The Night -- the latter also featuring the frequently-covered Morrison tune Gloria. By 1966, however, the frustrations of the music business had become overwhelming, and following a tour of the U.S. he made the decision to put his recording career behind him.
Not long afterwards, the former producer for Them coaxed the singer out of his brief retirement and onto a plane bound for New York to begin a solo career; the resulting sessions yielded Brown-Eyed Girl -- one of Morrison's most enduring compositions, issued by Bang Records in 1967 on the album Blowin' Your Mind. Despite the success of the song, the arrangement with Bang quickly soured and Morrison made the return trip to Belfast. A deal was later secured with Warner Brothers and a second solo effort, Astral Weeks, was completed in 1968. Upon its release the record did not generate much public interest, but in later years it was widely acknowledged as one of the most significant works of its time. Its 1970 follow up, Moondance, at last provided the commercial breakthrough that gave Morrison's career some forward momentum.
Later in 1970 Van Morrison moved with his family to California, where he produced some of his best-loved work -- most notably the albums His Band and the Street Choir (1970) and Tupelo Honey (1971); but by 1973 he was once again motivated to bring things to an end (this time both his band and his marriage) and make yet another return trip to Belfast. The album Veedon Fleece (1974) surfaced in the wake of these break-ups and was followed by an extensive period removed from public activity. This silence wasn't broken until 1977's A Period of Transition, after which Morrison relocated to London and recorded Wavelength (1978) and Into The Music (1979). The first attempt at a tour in over five years was made between the two releases, occasionally proving more than the stagefright-addled performer could endure.
Throughout the 80s and 90s, Morrison maintained a regular output, supported for the most part by his firmly-established fan base but occasionally making an impact in the charts, as occured after the release of his duet with Cliff Richard, Whenever God Shines His Light. Other notable collaborations were also undertaken during this period, including a full album recorded with The Chieftans and a duet with American blues mainstay John Lee Hooker -- both of which earned Morrison a Grammy award. In 2001 a rumor surfaced that he would be performing at the inauguration of president George W. Bush, but this claim was quickly and vehemently refuted by the singer's representatives. An active schedule of recording and performing has continued into the 00s.
Father: George Morrison (shipyard worker)
Mother: Violet Stitt Morrison
Wife: Janet Minto (jeweler, aka "Janet Planet", m. 1967, div. 1973, one daughter)
Daughter: Shana Morrison (b. 1970)
Wife: Michelle Rocca (model, together since 1990s, two children)
Them Vocalist/Saxophonist (1964-66)
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 1993
Songwriters Hall of Fame
Grammy 1995 (pop collaboration with vocals, with The Chieftans)
Grammy 1997 (pop collaboration with vocals, with John Lee Hooker)
Sexual Harassment per lawsuit filed by Linda Gail Lewis, later withdrawn
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
The Wall: Live in Berlin (1990)
The Last Waltz (26-Apr-1978) · Himself
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