The Birthday Honours list contained one name that made me sit up, well metaphorically anyway. Van Morrison is a knight.
Ok, he’s not a member of the Order of the Garter or anything, but bloody hell. Sir Van. Coo. I wonder if he could ever get upgraded to life peer? I am trying to imagine him on those red benches, standing to make a speech opposing cuts in the arts or something. I can’t see him taking prisoners.
Apparently he got it “for services to the music industry and tourism in Northern Ireland”.
That last bit made me chuckle. He has probably done more to put bits of NI into the imagined map of the country than anyone else, but it would be far from intentional. The idea of Van being the face of NI tourism belongs to something penned by Armando Iannucci. Can you imagine it, Van’s face scowling out from beneath his pork pie hat on billboards encouraging you to visit the sights. No, far better let his words and music do the work.
Still, City Airport has already been renamed Georgie Best Airport, so why shouldn’t Aldergrove, aka Belfast International, a destination I am heading for again in a few short weeks, become Van Morrison Airport? They could play his music in an endless loop, which would make me very happy.
And It Stoned Me should prepare anyone for a stay in NI, especially the weather.
There was a piece in the Belfast Telegraph last year about VM themed walking tours. It’s well worth reading, and I do like the word Vanorak. Read it here.
I haven’t yet got up to speed on the BT’s reaction to the knighthood, but that’ll be something to savour I hope.
Van Morrison is an unlikely hero. He’s a poet who hides himslf away from a world he celebrates in song. As it says in the article, he guards his privacy like Fort Knox. Cousin once saw him in a coffee shop he evidently patronises regularly. Outside, his car had an array of headgear at the ready to pull down and obscure his face from curious passersby. To listen to his music is to fly with the gods. For someone who comes across as having more than his fair share of complexes, as gruffly shy – can you imagine an eager autograph hunter approaching Van and surviving the impact? – his music is a soul laid bare. and it’s a pretty good soul.
I am struggling to put into words how important a musician I think he is. I believe he is someone whose music will be listened to far in the future because he does what only great artists do; he connects us with ourselves, with our pasts, with our possibilities. But before my prose gets too purple, it’s time for another song. The best: Mdame George.
It’s years since I saw Van live, but I hope, I dearly hope, there’ll be a next time.
Arise, Sir Van. I salute you.