Van Morrison has been often labeled a grumpy man. Much as I understand his gruff public persona attracting such a caricature, I believe that it is lazy judgement. I honestly believe that Sir Van is a very shy individual and is perhaps haunted by social anxiety. Consider that that is your personality and you get hurled into the world of rock stardom. It has not been easy for our East Belfast son.
And do not be lazy twice and suggest that it was his choice. It wasn’t. When Van started playing the blues around Belfast in the early 60s there was no rock music industry. He honestly, as he has said time and time again over 60 years, was thinking that he would be “blowing his saxophone at the weekend in that down joint”. Celebrity and fame were never in his dreams or nightmares!
Now that is a Valentine’s Day song introduction! Where are you going with this Stockman? It is context! I often find it amazing that someone we can hastily judge so grumpy can have sent out into the world the most amazing array of love songs. From Brown Eyed Girl to Moondance to Crazy Love to Tupelo Honey to Have I Told You Lately to Someone Like You to Carrying a Torch to In The Afternoon. Goodness me but there would seem to be more evidence to call this man a natural born romantic than a gump!
For Janice and I, Van has always been our romantic singer. Avalon Sunset was the album he released in 1989 the year we fell in love and Have I Told You Lately was the single on the radio that most romantic of summers.
The other big song for us is Someone Like You from Poetic Champions Compose released two years earlier.
"I've been travellin' a hard road
Lookin' for someone exactly like you
I've been carryin' my heavy load
Waiting for the light to come
Someone like you makes it
All worth while
Someone like you keeps me satisfied
Someone exactly like you."
I sang that last line a lot on the London underground in August 1989.
Have I Told You Lately though is a rare and wonderful love song. Rare because of its acknowledgement of and thanks to God in a love song. The recommitment to the lover is enveloped in prayer and the realisation that the love between lovers is a gift from a God who is love.
The Scriptures tell us that we can only love because God first loved us. Here we have Van Morrison at his most romantic and spiritual in the same classic song. You can see why we were so drawn to it.
Janice will tell you that I am not much of a romantic. Perhaps the most romantic thing I have ever done was phoning Janice when she was still working in London… and then… as she answered… saying nothing… and just… playing this song down the line. It has been one of our songs ever since! Before it became illegal, we were known to repeat that romantic moment it if it came on the car radio.
And tonight, no doubt i will sing, or at least say the words again…
“And it's yours and it's mine
Like the sun
At the end of the day
We should give thanks and pray to the One
Have I told you lately that I love you
Have I told you there's no one above you
Fill my heart with gladness
Take away my sadness
Ease my troubles, that's what you do”
Van Morrison? Call him what you like. For us he’ll be our romantic soundtracker!