Van Morrison’s collection of lyrics, Lit Up Inside*, is out today, and if you’re a fan, you’re going to want to pick it up. Famously private, Mr. Morrison doesn’t often comment on his work, so this selection (roughly 100), which is about a third of his total output, is itself a statement.
The lyrics chosen range from the famous early work (“Moondance,” “Gloria,” “Brown Eyed Girl”) to songs from his recent catalogue. Many are grounded in the singer’s native Ireland, in its cities and working people (the introduction by Eammon Hughes focuses in particular on urban geography), and of course in Van Morrison’s romantic lyricism and interest in the divine.
Like his music, the lyrics collected in Lit Up Inside often defy categorization; some are really lyrics alone, requiring music to reach their potential greatness; some read like Beat poetry; some are prayers. All of them made me want to listen to Van Morrison, which is perhaps the best compliment I can pay the book.
Thanks to Lit Up Inside, I just revisited two of my favorite albums. Astral Weeks is just plain brilliant, and who doesn’t love Moondance? “And It Stoned Me” is one of the best songs about childhood of all time. “Crazy Love” is on my top-five list of greatest love songs. “Everyone” was our wedding recessional, and now our son likes to dance to it on sunny Sunday mornings.
I have maybe five of his forty-odd albums, so I’m not a die-hard Van Morrison fan by any means, but this selection gave me the opportunity to focus on the lyrics alone, and thus Mr. Morrison’s engagement with literature, religion, history, and social concerns (reflected in Mr. Morrison’s choice of the venerable and independent City Lights as the United States publisher). But it also made me think about how poetry and music make each other, and I think for Van Morrison, even more than, say, Leonard Cohen, the two are inextricably linked. If you’d like to know Van Morrison better, I wholeheartedly recommend Lit Up Inside.
Here’s a link to “Into the Mystic,” which is the poem of the week.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes, which did not affect the content of my review.
4 thoughts on ““We were born before the wind”: Van Morrison’s Lit Up Inside: Selected Lyrics”
I’m very excited about this book! I am a fan already and this will likely just notch things up to bigger fanaticism. I found Van Morrison on lucky accident, having grown up with strict religious constraints on what music was allowed. Finally, as an adult, a co-worker recommended Jim Morrison to me, saying how I’d love Jim’s music and poetry. Innocently, at the Music Millennium, I picked up Van Morrison’s Moondance and rushed home to listen and became all gooey in love with his lyrics and music. I excitedly thanked my co-worker for the lovely recommendation! I mentioned that I loved best “And it Stoned Me” but that I had no clue what a jelly roll was. Puzzled my co-worker asked to see the album, which I showed him, and BAM. I had not picked up the recommended Jim, but instead luckily and providentially found Van instead. What a happy accident and I have been a lifelong Van fan ever since. (I also like Jim & The Doors but that’s a different thing entirely.) This is perhaps my favorite music love story of my life and I love to tell it, so thanks for indulging. And, yes! I can’t wait to get this book!
That’s a great story! I hope you’ll come back and tell me what you think of Lit Up Inside once you’ve had the chance to read it!
I agree with Carolyn O — who doesn’t love Moondance?
When Van Morrison was first popular, I didn’t like how his voice sounded, so I didn’t pay attention to him. It wasn’t until years later that I started listening to the lyrics. Oh, is he good! I think my favorite song is On Raglan Road.