Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Van Morrison: Burnt Out at 30?



The internet is a wonderfully messy exercise in freedom of speech despite efforts of people like the web sheriff. Consider the following thread stolen from somewhere which debates whether Van was burnt out by 30 years of age. In light of the recent Cyprus Avenue concerts the thread now seems ridiculous.  Every artist with a long career has someone suggesting burnout happened at some point. The same things have been said of Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Queen, etc. Here is that scintillating discussion about Van's alleged burnout:   

However old you are, consider that in 1968, when he was only 23 years old, Van Morrison released Astral Weeks. He followed that up at 25 with Moondance and then His Band and the Street Choir and then, at 26, Tupelo Honey.

What had you done by the age of 26? Me, not much. Then again, by the time he was 30, Van Morrison had creatively burned out, if you ask me though Ill concede that 1979s Into the Music and the glorious 1988 collaboration with the Chieftains are two arguments against that position.

Reader Comments

John Haas   -   Bob Dylan’s first album dropped when he was 20. By the time he was 26 he was all but retired. He’s had a few comebacks, though.

Jen   -   His collaboration in 2000 with Linda Gail Lewis I thought was outstanding. I wish they would release You Win Again as an MP3 because my CD is long gone, and it is out of print.

Socrates   -   “Then again, by the time he was 30, Van Morrison had creatively burned out.” Hymns to the Silence, perhaps the best Rock CD ever, was released in 1991, when Morrison was, I think, 46. There’s plenty of other work after that to refute your statement, but Hymns is a genuine masterpiece. Listen to Take Me Back and you’ll see what I’m talking about. And read the lyrics sometime, especially On Hyndford Street. Just beautiful.

John E   -    From the lyrics to Tom Lehrer’s Alma: “It’s people like that who make you realise how little you’ve accomplished. It is a sobering thought, for example, that when Mozart was my age, he had been dead for two years! “

Darwin's S-list   -   For his debut film, Orson Welles co-wrote, directed, and starred in Citizen Kane at 25, which is still on just about everyone’s short list of the greatest films of all time. Like Van Morrison, he flamed out pretty quickly.


Hosono   -   It’s cliched to say this and I know that the boomer generation’s dewy nostalgia for the 1960s is very irritating, but musically it will be remembered for 100s of years. I really believe this. So many people who at such young ages made massive, soulful transcendent music. Van Morrison, Neil Young, David Crosby, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, the list goes on and on.

Hector_St_Clare   -   I gotta wonder how much longer a lot of these wonderful artists’ careers would have continued, and how much great music from Van Morrison or Bob Dylan we could have enjoyed, if they had stayed away from the drugs (and excessive drinking).

One of my favourite bands from the late 1960s, who are still actively touring, is the Jamaican reggae group Toots & the Maytals. It’s perhaps no accident that Toots Hibbert is a Seventh-Day Adventist, and they don’t drink, smoke, or do hard drugs. He still looks healthy, vigorous, and not burned out, even at 66.

Mitchell Young   -   Some of us are pacing ourselves.

Mark   -   You’d be amazed how many artist, writers and musicians have had their clear moments of creative genius in their 20s only to burn out or fade away. Ive pondered this before but have come up with no answers.

AnotherBeliever   -   And still, there’s so much more left to do and see and experience. Life is short, and no one gets out alive, anyway. You’ve got nothing to lose. Take the red pill: “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill — the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill — you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.” 

Brian Kaller   -   I have to say, I would rank Avalon Sunset and Enlightenment among his best, although perhaps those were the ones I heard when I was in adolescence.

Ken   -   I love Toots and the Maytals too, but Morrison has not been known for excessive drinking or drugging and Dylan quit drugs in the 60s, appeared to have a drinking problem only for short while in the early 90s, and released brilliant records in 1997 and 2001.

AnotherBeliever   -   Psychedelic drugs may account for some of the genius. Seriously. There was some evidence of this, but most of this line of research stopped when the drugs were criminalized. Naturally, the drugs have their own very real risks, but still.

Peter H   -   When I have fears that I may cease to be before accomplishing much other than having fathered two children, I think of John Keats, who, by the time he died at 25, had secured a place for himself in English poetry.

Elizabeth   -   What you talking about? Beautiful Vision and Inarticulate Speech of the Heart are gorgeous.


Rob   -   There’s no one-size-fits-all pattern for musicians’ development. Mozart, Mendelssohn, Saint-SaĆ«ns, and Rachmaninoff were creative and executant geniuses as kids. And yet Beethoven and Wagner didn’t reach their full powers until their 50s, nor Bruckner till his 60s, nor Verdi till his 70s. Richard Strauss had the best of both worlds, in that he started composing admirable stuff when only in his teens, but didn’t experience his greatest creative flowering until his 70s and 80s. (None of the above did booze or drugs, incidentally.) By all accounts the octogenarian John Lee Hooker, at least when on stage, was still one pretty rip-roaring m*f* as well.

Lulu   -   Too Long In Exile, When that Rough God Goes Riding, Why Must I Always Explain . . . Nineties Van was a Totally different-sounding Van from his glorious Astral Weeks and Moondance days, but . . .

HT   -   Man, I miss the sixties. You conservative young-uns have no idea. Just a few of the other albums released that year, with Van’s:

Music from Big Pink
The White Album
Beggars’ Banquet
Songs of Leonard Cohen
Bookends
Wheels of Fire
Traffic
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Sweetheart of the Rodeo
Cheap Thrills
Anthem of the Sun
Child is Father to the Man

Mike MacLeod   -   In his declination, when stimulated by drink, Rachmaninoff was supposed to knock on the doors of the houses of strangers and beg them to let him in to play their pianos. 1968 also saw The Doors’ Strange Days, HP Lovecraft’s obscure but wonderful live album, and Quicksilver Messenger Services’ finest work, Happy Trails.

Midnite On Pearl Beach   -   I would hardly say Van Morrison had burned out at age 30. That’s a pretty damn naive and stingy statement. Van Morrison continued on the path he has been on for 50 years. He’s made excellent music through every decade of his life since the 60s. I don’t need to defend his catalog…it speaks for itself and so do his live performances and bands he assembled. What is burning out anyway? Not selling millions of albums? Not creating what is declared magic by critics?

Vic Torino   -   I totally understand the burning out thing. By the time I was 30, I had released 23 albums and made my first billion. That was it. I haven’t done anything since. 


Sibwlkr   -   Don't know if I completely agree with Rod Dreher about Van Morrison creatively burned out by the age 30. But I will say Van set the creative bar pretty high for himself with his recordings of Astral Weeks, Moondance, His Band and the Street Choir and Tupelo Honey. Those four recordings alone easily put "Van the Man" in the Hall of Fame.

Emr   -   Makes you wonder when his drinking problems started; and what the cause/effect timeline was (ie did he drink cause his creativity was suffering - or did his creativity suffer because he was drinking) but; what separates the truly great from the near great is the ability to stay creative past the initial 3-4 recordings

TanDan   -   Van Morrison, burnt out? Never! Based on a run of great early albums? Wavelength stays on my CD player.


Hotlantatim   -   I have never been able to quite "get" Astral Weeks. The others mentioned absolutely do represent the peak of Van Morrison's album output. Not a weak track on any record. However, not unlike the amazing tracks the Brothers have recorded beyond 1969-1973, Van has created some of his best music since that run of albums, including some of my absolutely favourite tracks. It's understandable that the records since 1972ish wouldn't be as deep as that magical run he was on the three previous years....you can't maintain that level forever.

Karma   -   Like TanDan said, Wavelength is an excellent record. But so is The Healing Game, in fact in my opinion it's overall one of his better records, and it didn't come out until 1997. I also like Keep It Simple, which came out in 2008.

To me anyone who criticises Van at all must think they're behind reproach themselves. The man is a legend in my book. Wait a minute here, I just realised something. The "critic" here didn't even mention Saint Dominic's Preview (1972) as one of Van's great early records. That to me causes him to lose ALL credibility. That's my favourite Van Morrison record!!

JimSheridan   -   It's a rare act that can match the early magic. I think one sign of the Stones' excellence is that Exile came out maybe 10 years into their recording career, and it is a fave - and then they still did Some Girls and Tattoo You.

Vanistheman   -   Like TanDan said, Wavelength is an excellent record. But so is The Healing Game, in fact in my opinion it's overall one of his better records, and it didn't come out until 1997. I also like Keep It Simple, which came out in 2008. To me anyone who criticizes Van at all must think they're behind reproach themselves. The man is a legend in my book.Wait a minute here, I just realized something. The "critic" here didn't even mention Saint Dominic's Preview (1972) as one of Van's great early records. That to me causes him to lose ALL credibility. That's my favourite Van Morrison record!!

Agreed. And what about Veeden Fleece? That may be my favourite of all of them. Streets of Arklow and Fair Play are amazing songs. If the point is that Van didn't stay as creative over the past 35 years as he did in his first several, then OK...I'll entertain that. I would not say he burned out though, certainly not from '72-75...or in the early nineties where he had a nice resurgence. The tours that produced A Night in SF , as well as the jazzy record with Georgie Fame are both noteworthy. I think in the end, it may be more helpful to look at the fact that many musicians were tapped into something special in the late '60s and early '70s. A very fertile period where pop music benefited from the fusion of blues, jazz, folk, bluegrass, soul, funk, country, and early rock and roll. .....and at the same time more progressive and "art" rock was born.

Pete   -   The Healing Game is a fantastic record. So is Days Like This for that matter.


Werner   -   I know for sure that Mr Van Morrison is the greatest tunesmith in modern music. How about the epic Hymns To The Silence, how about Enlightenment, The Healing Game, Down The Road, Back On Top. Van Morrison's body of work is unbelievable, both in quantity and quality. Van Morrison is incomparable, he is a gift of God to mankind, he is the best, plain and simple!

Rainy   -   I don't know too much about any one thing.. but I do know what I like and what feels and sounds good to me.. and I dig Van the Man.. always have... good, good music.. with soul brothers and sisters.. Oh Yeah..   

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