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.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes, which did not affect the content of my review.