10 Best Van Morrison Songs
The Top 10 Van Morrison songs showcase one of the most recognizable voices in music, with emotion dripping from each and every track. It was unreasonably hard to narrow down a list of this Rock and Roll Hall of Famer's greatest moments -- chosen from such classic records as 'Moondance,' 'Astral Weeks,' and 'Tupelo Honey -- down to just 10. Somehow, standout tracks such as 'Wild Night,' 'And it Stoned Me,' 'Sweet Thing,' 'Real Real Gone' and even 'Gloria' somehow wound up on the outside looking in. We know, we know... get ready for our sure-to-start fights Top 10 Van Morrison Songs list.
'Caravan' makes our list of 10 Best Van Morrison Songs due to its importance not only for the singer himself, but also for its appearance in the Band's 'The Last Waltz' concert film, where the singer reprises the track with Robbie Robertson's crew. Van's fascination with the gypsy lifestyle, as well as his own experiences growing up in a rural house in Woodstock, New York factor into the lyrical content through his expressive voice. The Counting Crows, playing for Van Morrison at his 1993 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, performed 'Caravan' as their homage to the singer.
Before his solo career, Van Morrison's distinctive vocals led the way for Them, an early '60s breakout band. One of their biggest hits was a cover of the Big Joe Williams blues classic 'Baby Please Don't Go,' which was penned back in 1935. One key note on the Them version is the fact that then-unknown guitarist Jimmy Page provided rhythm guitar on the song. The track, which was released as a single, also had a pretty successful B-side, as 'Gloria' went on to achieve hit status as well.
'Days Like This' is a very significant song in the Van Morrison history book. The vocalist showed he still had hit-making potential nearly 30 years into his career with this track, which cautions about the highs and lows that come with life and advises the listener not to get overly concerned with either. The song also became the official anthem for the peace movement in Northern Ireland, with the track playing as the theme music for a TV ad promoting the cease fire in the country.
Van Morrison's soulful 1970 ballad was no doubt playing in the background as many a baby was being made. The tender track has been one of the most covered songs throughout the years, as Robbie Robertson, Aaron Neville, and Brian Kennedy all had their versions featured on film soundtracks. Rod Stewart, Bryan Ferry, Helen Reddy, and Michael Bolton have also covered the track. Ray Charles had the pleasure of inducting Van into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by singing the track with him, and Charles enjoyed it so much, he later added it to his 'Genius Loves Company' duets record.
'Here Comes the Night' is another gem out of Them's early catalog. The track was a favorite of the band, who reportedly got upset with their label when it wasn't the follow-up single to 'Baby, Please Don't Go.' Keyboardist Phil Coulter remarked of the song, "I knew it was a smash. It was the first time I'd ever hear a hit record in its emerging state." The song is also significant for the fact that guitarist Jimmy Page, who had played on 'Baby Please Don't Go,' lent his guitar skills to this song as well.
There's definitely a lot of soul in the delivery of Van Morrison, and he stated that '50s soul singer Jackie Wilson was a key influence in developing his style. So when the opportunity arose to pay tribute to one of his heroes, Van took it. The upbeat ditty was inspired by a line in Wilson's song 'Reet Petite' and speaks to the joy and elation one can get from listening to their favorite song. The track has been covered several times over the years, with Dexys Midnight Runners having the most success with their version.
The title track to 'Moondance' earns a spot on our list of Van Morrison's ten best songs thanks to the singer's ability to step out of his blues forte and try out this jazzy nugget. The song is driven by the walking bass sounds of John Klingberg, while sax, flute and piano also feature prominently as Van scats about his favorite season, autumn. Morrison says he envisioned 'Moondance' as a sophisticated track that wouldn't feel out of place with Frank Sinatra singing it. The track itself had a bizarre trajectory, as it was finally released as a single seven years after the album came out.
This upbeat ditty finds Van Morrison once again paying tribute to one of the greats, as he penned the track as a nod to Fats Domino. Morrison lets loose on the song for one of the most infectious sounding cuts of his career. The singer wrote the track in 1968, but some believe he held onto it until 1970 knowing its hit potential and not wanting it to fall under a publishing deal in which he would have given up half the profits to the song. 'Domino' holds the distinction of being the singer's highest charting track ever.
You can't have a Van Morrison 10 Best Songs list without including 'Brown Eyed Girl.' While it seems unfathomable that the song was ever named anything else, Van reveals that the track was initially called 'Brown Skinned Girl.' He remarked, "That was just a mistake. It was a kind of Jamaican song. Calypso. It just slipped my mind, and I changed the title." Morrison says it wasn't until later when looking at the tape box that he recalled he'd made the improvisation, but luckily it stuck. In January 2007, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Van Morrison wants to rock our gypsy souls, and he did so with such grace and style that 'Into the Mystic' became an instant classic. The singer takes the listener on a spiritual quest, though even he admits he's not sure the exact direction he wanted to take. Morrison revealed that much like 'Brown Eyed Girl,' this track underwent some changes before submission and that the song had two sets of lyrics as well as the alternate title 'Into the Misty.' The ethereal feel led to the title change, and Van says that both sets of lyrics are essentially about being part of the universe.