Van Morrison was born in Belfast in 1945, the son of a shipyard worker who collected American blues and jazz records. Van grew up listening in the music of Muddy Waters, Mahalia Jackson, Lightnin' Hopkins and John Lee Hooker, As a teenager he played guitar, sax and harmonica with a series of local Irish showbands, skiffle and rock'n'roll groups before forming an r&b band called Them in 1964.
In 1967 he began his solo career in New York where he recorded an LP titled Blowin' Your Mind with the producer Bert Berns, who had previously produced Them. Following Berns' death in 1968 Morrison recruited a group of jazz musicians to record Astral Weeks, a timeless classic which brought together elements of Celtic music, improvised jazz and r&b.
Based initially in Boston and then California, Morrison produced a string of albums including Moondance, Tupelo Honey and St Dominic's Preview while touring extensively with his band the Caledonia Soul Orchestra. His 1974 live set It's Too Late To Stop Now marked the end of this prolific early phase as Van returned to Ireland to explore further his Celtic roots. The ensuing album, Veedon Fleece (1974) featured a quieter, more pastoral sound and was to be his last release for three years.
He returned to the public eye in 1977 with the aptly titled A Period Of Transition, an album co-produced by Mac 'Dr John' Rebennack. Following his re-location to London he released Wavelength (1978) and Into The Music (1979) by which time Morrison's interest in spiritual matters was finding regular expression in his recordings.
The theme of spiritual…