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.
I would highlight a new artist but all I really want to listen to is Adele’s newest album. So here are 10 albums from 10 different artists I think I may be listening to 10 years from now:
1. 21 by Adele – I can’t stop listening to this album. It gets better every time I listen to it. It’s a sonic, vocal and musical masterpiece.
2. Moondance by Van Morrison – Flawless throughout, I never tire of these songs. So many moonlit nights had air filled with the sound of Van singing these tunes.
3. Live at Royal Albert Hall by Bob Dylan – This is easily my favorite Dylan album. These 2-disc piece of history marks his move from acoustic troubadour to bluesy pop icon.
4. Abbey Road by The Beatles – Genius.
5. Lady In Satin by Billie Holiday – Lady Day’s last recording, recorded just weeks before her death and released just after, it is a stunning, hypnotic piece of art. Though technically not her best singing, it is her singing that makes this one her best.
6. Blue Train by John Coltrane – Almost every sermon I’ve ever preached should should this album as a footnote.
7. Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys – I get chills every time Sloop John B starts. Every. Single. Time.
8. Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen – Americana. Gothic. Haunting. Beautiful. Stories.
9. Dusty In Memphis by Dusty Springfield – I’m not sure there would be a Duffy or an Adele without Dusty. Every song is incredible and full of heart-rending soul-deep beauty.
10. Mack the Knife: The Complete Ella in Berlin by Ella Fitzgerald – I bought this on my birthday while living in St. Louis. Autumn was in full swing, winter winds not far behind. And I can’t listen to this album without that moment. That was 10 years ago.
Sure, I could list more…what are some of yours?
1. I daily enter into the worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and coffee.
2. Did you even know, the Haiku was part of Zen? I had no idea.
3. After years of affection and intimacy. A diet of spicy food has turned against me.
4. If you were to ask me what the interpretive key to the Universe is, I would probably say “the Trinity.” But my second answer would have to be bacon.
5. Heard someone say, “When things don’t make sense to others they are contradictions. When they don’t make sense for us they are paradoxes.”
6. If I could write like Merton…
7. I kinda had this picture of sitting on the bleachers and watching Knox play t-ball. But I just realized that since I am now Coach Matt…oh wait, do I get a ball cap and jersey?!
8. The Reds are undefeated and the Red Sox are nothing but. Weird.
9. All the songs you’ve never heard by Van Morrison are better than all the songs you’ve heard by everyone else.
10. They will know we are Christians by the way we forward parodies of those we disagree with.