by Sean Smith
Irish born singer/songwriter Van Morrison is set to release a new album this week. His 36th studio album is called Keep Me Singing, and it includes mostly new and original material. The only exception being a cover of the blues standard “Share Your Love with Me,” previously popularized by Aretha Franklin in 1970.
The 71-year-old Morrison recently sat down for an interview with Rolling Stone where he talked about amongst other things, releasing new material.
“There’s a lot more than what you’re hearing. I have so much unreleased stuff it makes my head spin. I’ve got a lot of unreleased music I need to get out, from all periods. And I’ve got loads of really good live stuff from the last 10 years. It’s just getting an outlet. I’m not going to do it through a major label. I’m just going to do it independently – websites or whatever.”
Along with releasing his new album Keep Me Singing, Morrison is also keeping up a steady touring schedule. Over the next several months he will be playing a number of dates in the United States as well as in the UK. A full list of tour dates can be found on his website.
Van Morrison grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland and fell in love with music through listening to his father’s collection of country, blues and gospel. He played in a number of bands as a teenager before finally creating the band Them in the mid 1960s. That band found success with songs like “Gloria,” “Here Comes The Night” and “Mystic Eyes” before Van Morrison ultimately embarked on a solo career.
Working with Them producer Bert Berns, Morrison started recording solo material in 1967. He signed with Bang Records, owned by Berns, and on the very first day of recording for his solo material he recorded what many perceive to be his signature song “Brown Eyed Girl.” Although that was not its original title. Originally the song was called “Brown Skinned Girl,” but over the many numerous takes it took to record the song it morphed into “Brown Eyed Girl.” There is a rumor that the title was changed by Bang Records to appeal to a wider audience, (keep in mind that in the 1970s interracial dating wasn’t too popular with all Americans) however Morrison himself has debunked that rumor over the years.
Written by Van Morrison and produced by Bert Berns, “Brown Eyed Girl” was released as a single in June of 1967. The song charted well in the U.S. reaching as high as the #10 spot on the mainstream Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was included on Morrison’s first solo album Blowin’ Your Mind, which Morrison was initially unaware was even released. The singer had not sought legal advice before signing his Bang Records contract, and it turned out to be not such a good contract for Morrison.
When Bert Berns died in 1967, Morrison got into a dispute over his contract with Berns’ widow, which put a halt to Morrison recording and performing. He later ended up recording and eventually signing a deal with Warner Bros. Records, who bought out his contract with Bang Records. However, due to his previous bad contract with Bang Records and Bert Berns, he had to first submit 30 plus original songs to a publishing company that Berns owned. In order to satisfy this contractual obligation he went and recorded 31 original songs in one day, and they were purposefully not his best work. Berns’ widow called the songs “nonsense” and did not use any of them. Those recordings are now referred to as his “revenge” recordings.
While “Brown Eyed Girl” may be Van Morrison’s defining song to many music fans, it is by no means Van Morrison’s favorite. In a 2009 interview with Time, Morrison stated that “it was like a throwaway song. I’ve got about 300 other songs I think are better than that.” However, to this day the song remain one of the most popular songs in his catalogue, and a favorite in popular culture. It has been featured in films like The Big Chill and has been covered by many other popular artists like Bob Dylan, Everclear and Bruce Springsteen.
So with Van Morrison releasing his new album Keep Me Singing this week, today we remember his 1967 hit “Brown Eyed Girl.” Enjoy.
“Brown Eyed Girl”