Van Morrison turns 66 today.

It’s no secret how much I love the music of Van Morrison. I started listening to his music back in 1996, actively. Of course I knew many of his songs but only the radio friendly ones. But in 1996, I took a plunge from which I have to emerge. How it all started is a pretty good story.

It was a Saturday morning and I was bored. Particularly I was bored with my music and wanted something new and different. If there was an internet, I knew nothing of it. So I drove over to the record store at Century Plaza Mall. I walked around the store over and over looking for something interesting.

I can remember stopping in front of the Van Morrison CDs and picking up his Greatest Hits. As I looked at a memory of something my friend Jay had once said shot from out of the forgotten like a bullet. “Van Morrison’s music seems to be a quest for beauty.”

Jay was not what you would expect. We worked together at Chuck’s BBQ in Opelika and were both students at Auburn. He described himself as redneck trailer-trash. Prone to depression and ridiculous kindness, he was an enigma. His major was Russian Lit and he played the guitar about as well as anyone I’ve ever known. When he played it felt…. it felt like it was coming from this great longing for some unknown beauty in the midst of all the ugliness.

It was the blues mostly.

So as I sat there holding that CD, this is what kept me from putting it back – this longing for something beautiful. I went home and put it in. And I listened. I sat on the couch all day and listened. And I can remember the feeling of wanting – needing to plunge deeper each time. The feeling was so profound, even though I have over 60 Van Morrison albums, I still listen to that Greatest Hits disc because of that experince on that day.

You might be tempted to think I was being lazy or wasteful of my time by listening to an album over and over for nearly a whole day. But it was not. Not only did I walk into a storehouse of music which will take me a lifetime to explore. But I found beauty.

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