Van Morrison: I wouldn’t touch religion with a 10-foot pole

Van Morrison celebrates his 70th birthday with a concert on Cyprus Avenue in east Belfast
Van Morrison celebrates his 70th birthday with a concert on Cyprus Avenue in east Belfast

As he prepares to celebrate his 70th birthday with a concert on the street made famous by his song, Van Morrison has said that his only ambition as a young man was to have his own blues club in Belfast.

The talented son of east Belfast will on Monday night play Cyprus Avenue – the street in which the late Ian Paisley lived – in a unique concert which will be broadcast live on BBC Radio Ulster.

In a major interview published at the weekend, Morrison opened up about his long professional life as a musician.

Speaking to Fintan O’Toole in the Irish Times, Morrison said that fame makes the creative process more difficult.

He said that “you need to freely look at what’s going on and observe people: what they’re doing, what they’re saying. And it’s very difficult to do that when people are focusing on you. You don’t have the anonymity which is important for creativity.

“This is the part that’s never mentioned, because the propaganda doesn’t mention this, you know. It mentions that being famous is great, but it’s not for the creative process. Not for me, anyway.”

Morrison said that his only ambition had been to have his own blues club in Belfast but that early in his career for several years he had been “manipulated by the puppet masters” of the music business.

The singer, whose music has drawn heavily on gospel influences, also spoke candidly about his views on faith. Speaking of religion, he said: “I wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole. In one of my songs I do now, ‘politics and religion, superstition go hand in hand’.

“That’s my take on it, but nobody knows that song, you know, because they don’t play it on the radio.”

Morrison said that in his mind he separates religion from spirituality.

He said: “Spirituality is one thing, religion ... can mean anything from soup to nuts, you know? But it generally means an organisation, so I don’t really like to use the word, because that’s what it really means. It really means this church or that church ... But spirituality is different, because that’s the individual.”

And the singer-songwriter said that black gospel music is “really great stuff” but added: “Except that you have to ask yourself what was before they started putting Jesus in it [gospel music].”