114 Facts About Van Morrison


Sir George Ivan Morrison was born on 31 August 1945, and known professionally as Van Morrison, is a Northern Irish singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist whose recording career spans six decades.

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Much of Van Morrison's music is structured around the conventions of soul music and early rhythm and blues.

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Van Morrison's albums have performed well in Ireland and the UK, with more than 40 reaching the UK top 40.

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Van Morrison has received two Grammy Awards, the 1994 Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music, the 2017 Americana Music Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting and has been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

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George Ivan Morrison was born on 31 August 1945, at 125 Hyndford Street, Bloomfield, Belfast, Northern Ireland, as the only child of George Morrison, a shipyard electrician, and Violet Stitt Morrison, who had been a singer and tap dancer in her youth.

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Van Morrison's family were working class Protestants descended from the Ulster Scots population that settled in Belfast.

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When Lonnie Donegan had a hit with "Rock Island Line", written by Huddie Ledbetter, Van Morrison felt he was familiar with and able to connect with skiffle music as he had been hearing Lead Belly before that.

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Van Morrison's father bought him his first acoustic guitar when he was eleven, and he learned to play rudimentary chords from the song book The Carter Family Style, edited by Alan Lomax.

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In 1957, at the age of twelve, Van Morrison formed his first band, a skiffle group, "The Sputniks", named after the satellite, Sputnik 1, that had been launched in October of that year by the Soviets.

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In 1958, the band played at some of the local cinemas, and Van Morrison took the lead, contributing most of the singing and arranging.

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Now playing the saxophone, Van Morrison joined with various local bands, including one called Deanie Sands and the Javelins, with whom he played guitar and shared singing.

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Van Morrison attended Orangefield Boys Secondary School, leaving in July 1960 with no qualifications.

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At age 17, Van Morrison toured Europe for the first time with the Monarchs, now calling themselves the International Monarchs.

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The new club needed a band for its opening night; however, Van Morrison had left the Golden Eagles, so he created a new band out of the Gamblers, an East Belfast group formed by Ronnie Millings, Billy Harrison and Alan Henderson in 1962.

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Van Morrison played saxophone and harmonica and shared vocals with Billy Harrison.

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Van Morrison has said, "Them lived and died on the stage at the Maritime Hotel", believing the band did not manage to capture the spontaneity and energy of their live performances on their records.

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Van Morrison concentrated on writing some of the songs that would appear on Astral Weeks, while the remnants of the band reformed in 1967 and relocated in America.

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Van Morrison flew over and signed a contract he had not fully studied.

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Van Morrison said he only became aware of the album's release when a friend mentioned that he had bought a copy.

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Van Morrison was unhappy with the album and said he "had a different concept of it".

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Van Morrison moved to Boston, Massachusetts, and faced personal and financial problems; he had "slipped into a malaise" and had trouble finding concert bookings.

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Van Morrison regained his professional footing through the few gigs he could find, and started recording with Warner Bros.

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Van Morrison recorded them in one session on an out-of-tune guitar, with lyrics about subjects including ringworm and sandwiches.

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Van Morrison said he originally intended to make an all country album.

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Van Morrison released his next album, Hard Nose the Highway, in 1973, receiving mixed, but mostly negative, reviews.

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Speculation that an extended jam session would be released either under the title Mechanical Bliss, or Naked in the Jungle, or Stiff Upper Lip, came to nothing, and Van Morrison's next album was A Period of Transition in 1977, a collaboration with Dr John, who had appeared at The Last Waltz concert with Van Morrison in 1976.

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Much of the music Van Morrison released throughout the 1980s continued to focus on the themes of spirituality and faith.

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Van Morrison's 1983 album, Inarticulate Speech of the Heart, was "a move towards creating music for meditation" with synthesisers, uilleann pipes and flute sounds, and four of the tracks were instrumentals.

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In 1985, Van Morrison wrote the musical score for the movie Lamb starring Liam Neeson.

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Van Morrison entitled the album as a rebuttal to media attempts to place him in various creeds.

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Van Morrison can be heard calling out the change of tempo at the end of this song, repeating the numbers "1 – 4" to cue the chord changes .

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Van Morrison often completed albums in two days, frequently releasing first takes.

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The decade began with the release of The Best of Van Morrison; compiled by Morrison himself, the album was focused on his hit singles, and became a multi-platinum success remaining a year and a half on the UK charts.

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Van Morrison continued to record and tour in the 2000s, often performing two or three times a week.

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Van Morrison formed his own independent label, Exile Productions Ltd, which enables him to maintain full production control of each album he records, which he then delivers as a finished product to the recording label that he chooses, for marketing and distribution.

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Van Morrison accepted a full apology and comprehensive retraction which represents a complete vindication of his stance from the outset.

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Also in July 2005, Van Morrison was named by Amazon as one of their top twenty-five all-time best-selling artists and inducted into the Amazon.

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Later in the year, Van Morrison donated a previously unreleased studio track to a charity album, Hurricane Relief: Come Together Now, which raised money for relief efforts intended for Gulf Coast victims devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

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Van Morrison composed the song, "Blue and Green", featuring Foggy Lyttle on guitar.

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Van Morrison was a headline act at the international Celtic music festival, The Hebridean Celtic Festival in Stornoway, Outer Hebrides in the summer of 2005.

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Van Morrison released an album with a country music theme, entitled Pay the Devil, on 7 March 2006 and appeared at the Ryman Auditorium, where the tickets sold out immediately after they went on sale.

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Van Morrison selected the tracks, which ranged from the 1993 album Too Long in Exile to the song "Stranded" from the 2005 album Magic Time.

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Van Morrison promoted the album with a short US tour including an appearance at the SXSW music conference, and a UK concert broadcast on BBC Radio 2.

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Van Morrison released Born to Sing: No Plan B on 2 October 2012 on Blue Note Records.

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Van Morrison himself selected his best and most iconic lyrics from a catalog of 50 years of writing.

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Van Morrison released his 38th studio album, Versatile, on 1 December 2017.

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Van Morrison quickly followed up with his 39th studio album, You're Driving Me Crazy, released on 27 April 2018 via Sony Legacy Recordings.

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In October 2018, Van Morrison announced that his 40th studio album, The Prophet Speaks, would be released by Caroline International on 7 December 2018.

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Van Morrison had performed socially distanced concerts previously, but said that the shows were not a sign of "compliance".

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In November 2021, Swann sued Van Morrison for defamation, over his comments that Swann was a "fraud" and "very dangerous" during COVID-19 restrictions in 2020.

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In 2022, Van Morrison issued legal proceedings against Mr Swann over his criticisms of the singer, which were originally published in an opinion piece for Rolling Stone magazine.

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The album marked a return to the UK Top Ten for Van Morrison, making the 2020s the fourth consecutive decade in which he has achieved such success.

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Van Morrison's songs were used extensively in Kenneth Branagh's Oscar-winning 2021 film Belfast.

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Van Morrison became anxious on stage and had difficulty establishing eye contact with the audience.

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Van Morrison's first was a rendition of the classic Irish song "Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral".

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On 21 July 1990, Van Morrison joined many other guests for Roger Waters' massive performance of The Wall – Live in Berlin.

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Van Morrison performed before an estimated audience of sixty to eighty thousand people when US President Bill Clinton visited Belfast, Northern Ireland on 30 November 1995.

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Van Morrison continued performing concerts throughout the year, rather than touring.

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On 7 and 8 November 2008, at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, California, Van Morrison performed the entire Astral Weeks album live for the first time.

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In February and March 2009, Van Morrison returned to the US for Astral Weeks Live concerts, interviews and TV appearances with concerts at Madison Square Garden and at the Beacon Theatre in New York City.

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Van Morrison was interviewed by Don Imus on his Imus in the Morning radio show and put in guest appearances on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Live with Regis and Kelly.

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Van Morrison continued with the Astral Weeks performances with two concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London in April and then returned to California in May 2009 performing the Astral Weeks songs at the Hearst Greek Theatre in Berkeley, the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, California and appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

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Van Morrison filmed the concerts at the Orpheum Theatre so they could be viewed by Farrah Fawcett, confined to bed with cancer and thus unable to attend the concerts.

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Van Morrison was scheduled to perform at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 25th anniversary concert on 30 October 2009, but cancelled.

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Van Morrison performed for the Edmonton Folk Music Festival in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on 4 August 2010 as the headline act for the fundraiser and scheduled as second day headliner at the Feis 2011 Festival in London's Finsbury Park on 19 June 2011.

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Van Morrison appeared in concert at Odyssey Arena in Belfast on 3 February and at the O2 in Dublin on 4 February 2012.

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Van Morrison appeared at the 46th Montreux Jazz Festival as a headliner on 7 July 2012.

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Van Morrison recorded with Irish folk band the Chieftains on their 1995 album, The Long Black Veil.

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Van Morrison's song "Have I Told You Lately" won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals in 1995.

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Van Morrison produced and was featured on several tracks with blues legend John Lee Hooker on Hooker's 1997 album, Don't Look Back.

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Van Morrison additionally collaborated with Tom Jones on his 1999 album Reload, performing a duet on "Sometimes We Cry", and he sang vocals on a track entitled "The Last Laugh" on Mark Knopfler's 2000 album, Sailing to Philadelphia.

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In 2004, Van Morrison was one of the guests on Ray Charles' album Genius Loves Company featuring the two artists performing Van Morrison's "Crazy Love".

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In 2000, Van Morrison recorded a classic country music duet album, You Win Again with Linda Gail Lewis.

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Van Morrison has written hundreds of songs during his career with a recurring theme reflecting a nostalgic yearning for the carefree days of his childhood in Belfast.

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Also frequently present in Van Morrison's best love songs is a blending of the sacred-profane as evidenced in "Into the Mystic" and "So Quiet in Here".

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Van Morrison's lyrics show an influence of the visionary poets William Blake and W B Yeats and others such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth.

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Indeed, Van Morrison is returning poetry to its earliest roots – as in Homer or Old English epics like Beowulf or the Psalms or folk song – in all of which words and music combine to form a new reality.

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Van Morrison is interested, obsessed with how much musical or verbal information he can compress into a small space, and, almost, conversely, how far he can spread one note, word, sound, or picture.

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Van Morrison has said he believes in the jazz improvisational technique of never performing a song the same way twice and except for the unique rendition of the Astral Weeks songs live, doesn't perform a concert from a preconceived set list.

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Van Morrison has said he prefers to perform at smaller venues or symphony halls noted for their good acoustics.

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Van Morrison's ban against alcoholic beverages, which made entertainment news during 2008, was an attempt to prevent the disruptive and distracting movement of audience members leaving their seats during the performances.

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Biographer Ritchie Yorke had pointed out already by 1975 that Van Morrison has referred to Caledonia so many times in his career that he "seems to be obsessed with the word".

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Van Morrison used "Caledonia" as a mantra in the live performance of the song "Astral Weeks" recorded at the two Hollywood Bowl concerts.

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Actor and musician Robert Pattinson has said Van Morrison was his "influence for doing music in the first place".

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Van Morrison has shared the stage with Northern Irish singer-songwriter Duke Special, who admits Van Morrison has been a big influence.

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Van Morrison has typically been supportive of other artists, often willingly sharing the stage with them during his concerts.

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Morrison has influenced the visual arts: the German painter Johannes Heisig created a series of lithographs illustrating the book In the Garden – for Van Morrison, published by Stadtische Galerie Sonneberg, Germany, in 1997.

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Van Morrison has received several major music awards in his career, including two Grammy Awards, with five additional nominations ; inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Irish Music Hall of Fame ; and a Brit Award .

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Van Morrison has honorary doctorates from the University of Ulster and from Queen's University Belfast .

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Van Morrison was the first living inductee not to attend his own ceremony, – Robbie Robertson from the Band accepted the award on his behalf.

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When Van Morrison became the initial musician inducted into the Irish Music Hall of Fame, Bob Geldof presented Van Morrison with the award.

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Van Morrison received two civil awards in 1996: he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to music, and was recognized with an award from the French government which made him an Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

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Van Morrison was voted the Best International Male Singer of 2007 at the inaugural International Awards in Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, London.

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Van Morrison has appeared in a number of "Greatest" lists, including the TIME magazine list of The All-Time 100 Albums, which contained Astral Weeks and Moondance, and he appeared at number thirteen on the list of WXPN's 885 All Time Greatest Artists.

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In 2000, Van Morrison ranked twenty-fifth on American cable music channel VH1's list of its "100 Greatest Artists of Rock and Roll".

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Van Morrison has been announced as one of the 2010 honorees listed in the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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On 15 November 2013, Van Morrison became the 79th recipient of the award, presented at the Waterfront Hall for his career achievements.

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On 2 September 2014, Van Morrison was presented with the Legend award at the GQ Men of the Year ceremony at Royal Opera House in London.

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On 13 October 2014, Van Morrison received his fifth BMI Million-Air Award for 11 million radio plays of the song "Brown Eyed Girl", making it one of the Top 10 Songs of all time on US radio and television.

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Van Morrison has received Million-Air awards for "Have I Told You Lately".

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Songwriter's Hall of Fame announced on 8 April 2015 that Van Morrison would be the 2015 recipient of the Johnny Mercer Award on 18 June 2015 at their 46th Annual Induction and Awards Dinner in New York City.

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Van Morrison was made a Knight Bachelor in the Queen's Birthday Honours List in 2015 for services to the music industry and to tourism in Northern Ireland.

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Van Morrison was chosen to be honoured by Michael Dorf at his annual charity concert at Carnegie Hall.

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The Music of Van Morrison was performed on 21 March 2019 by twenty musical acts including Glen Hansard, Patti Smith and Bettye LaVette.

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In 2019, Van Morrison received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement presented by Jimmy Page during the International Achievement Summit in New York City.

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Van Morrison lived in Belfast from birth until 1964, when he moved to London with the rock group Them.

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Van Morrison's wife appeared on the cover of the album Tupelo Honey.

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Van Morrison moved back to the UK in the late 1970s, first settling in London's Notting Hill Gate area.

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Van Morrison has a home in the Irish seaside village of Dalkey near Dublin, where legal actions were taken against Morrison by two neighbours who objected to Morrison attempting to widen his driveway.

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Van Morrison pursued the matter all the way to the Irish Supreme Court, but his appeal was denied.

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Van Morrison met Irish socialite Michelle Rocca in the summer of 1992, and they often featured in the Dublin gossip columns, an unusual event for the reclusive Van Morrison.

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Van Morrison's father died in 1998 and his mother, Violet, died in 2016.

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Van Morrison had been linked to Scientology in the early 1980s and even thanked its founder, L Ron Hubbard, in one of his songs.

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Van Morrison left Northern Ireland before The Troubles started and distanced himself from the conflict, although later "yearned for" Protestant and Catholic reconciliation.

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