Van Morrison's career almost over before it began

Wed Jun 10, 2009 5:53pm EDT
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By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Van Morrison hates the fame game so much that he would have abandoned his music career 40 years ago if one of his early albums had made him a superstar.

The album in question is his second solo release, "Astral Weeks," which failed to crack the U.S. or British pop charts when it came out in 1968 but is now regarded as one of the greatest musical works of the rock era and is generating new interest more than 40 years since its release.

Undaunted by the initial commercial setback, the Irish soul singer says he "just moved on" to his next project: The 1970 album "Moondance" whose title track is one of his best-known songs.

If "Astral Weeks" had generated the sales commensurate with its eventual stellar status and transformed him into a huge pop star, Morrison is in no doubt about his reaction.

"I would have quit the business had that happened," he said in an email interview with Reuters. "I am not one who has ever taken well to fame and what that attracts. It's a drag. I just wanted to be a songwriter and a singer. I did not bargain for all the rest of it."

Morrison, now 63, has spent his entire career trying to dodge "all the rest of it," in the process becoming one of rock's most unknowable figures. A hugely influential artist who was in turn inspired by Ray Charles and Lonnie Donegan, Morrison has earned a reputation as a grumpy old man and has zero tolerance for showbiz frivolity. He even failed to turn up to his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1993.


But Morrison remains proud of "Astral Weeks," which ranks at No. 19 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the greatest albums of all time and is now a steady seller along with the rest of his vast catalog.   Continued...

<p>Irish musician Van Morrison performs during a concert at the 41st Montreux Jazz Festival July 18, 2007. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse</p>