Andrew Hidas’ post called Hearts Like Wheels: The Melancholy of Linda Ronstadt and Van Morrison contains some interesting perspectives about both artists. Below is some of the Van material from the post. Click above for the full piece.
I was talking with a friend recently about my previous post on Van Morrison and his mood-laden song, When the Leaves Come Falling Down. (Also “stolen” or re-posted by this blog!) He was telling me how another Morrison mooder, Melancholia, is reportedly Morrison’s only truly autobiographical song and, indeed, also represents my friend’s truest and deepest stance toward life. This surprised me a bit, inasmuch as my friend, whom I’ve known pretty well for most of my adult life, presents a rather relentlessly cheerful public persona, far removed from the dark brooding pathos of Melancholia. Yet it also put me on notice, again, of the deep sadness that underlies so much of life and so many people, a sadness virtually everyone meets on various and shifting terms throughout the peaks and vales of our brief tenures here.
For Van Morrison and his own melancholia, the longing is for nothing as distinct and potentially attainable as a love object. No, his darkness is in his DNA, something no earthly love or other indulgence is apparently capable of overcoming:
Well it’s in my blood and it’s in my veins
Here it comes again, when I’m in the rainIn the wind and rain, well the sun don’t shine
Well it’s always mine, all of the time
And it’s in my life and it’s all the time
It doesn’t go away when the church bells chime
In the evening time when I drink my wineIn the evening time when it’s on my mind
Morrison is a master of prayerful incantation; one can almost smell the incense as dark-robed and hooded monks shuffle down the aisle at the Midnight Office, chanting: melancholia, melancholia, melancholia…To examine Morrison’s vast body of work—running frequently to titles such as Sometimes We Cry, In the Midnight, Underlying Depression, No Religion, Wasted Years— is to be reminded of how close he seems to sidle up to that edge, and how it is perhaps only his writing and singing that keep him on this side.
Loren Webster - If I were to venture a guess, I’d say that it’s quite possible Van Morrison is a manic-depressive, or, at least, that his songs give that impression, moving from incredible highs to incredible lows. Songs like Full Force Gale, Domino, etc. are about as happy as I can handle in a song contrasting with the melancholy masterpieces he’s written. I’ve always thought that one of the most remarkable things about Van’s music is how he can take blues rhythms and translate them into uplifting songs.
As far as being his most biographical song, I don’t think you get more biographical than Cleaning Windows or New Biography where the narrator complains about phony biographies. Oh and then there’s numerous songs where he complains about record producers cheating him, if they aren’t autobiographical one has to wonder why Van would think that they would appeal to 99% of his listeners. On the other hand, I don’t trust any of his songs to accurately reflect his true views. I believe Van when he claims that he’s a song writer and his main concern is producing a great song. In the end, though, don’t all writers write from their own personal experience, even if they claim otherwise?
Robby Miller - As the sometimes melancholy fellow in question, I can say that every morning I wake up and realise that I have the choice to choose the ugliness of life or the beauty. Now, more often than not, I choose the beauty. The ugly is still there, and still needs to be confronted, but the day begins with an affirmation of all that is good.