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'Rave on': Irish president helps celebrate Van Morrison's 75th birthday

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish President Michael D. Higgins joined a virtual celebration of Van Morrison’s 75th birthday on Monday, namechecking U.S. civil rights champion John Lewis and author James Baldwin in a spoken-word rendition of one of the Northern Irishman’s songs.

Higgins, a part-time poet and onetime culture minister, is one of 75 Irish artists and musicians to record cover versions of the “Brown Eyed Girl” singer’s extensive back catalogue to mark the milestone in a weeks-long online series.

“Rave on Van Morrison. Rave on James Baldwin. Rave on John Lewis. The celebration will be held, racism defeated,” the 79-year-old Higgins added into a verse of the 1983 song ‘Rave On, John Donne.’

The president recorded the rendition from his official residence in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, accompanied by Bill Whelan, composer of the global hit Irish dancing show “Riverdance.”

Irish music stars Bob Geldof, Hozier and Sinead O’Connor were joined by actor and Morrison’s fellow Northern Irishman Liam Neeson in the performances that local music magazine Hot Press organised while COVID-19 keeps most music venues closed.

Morrison, who still performs, called on music professionals last week to join him in seeking a return to playing in front of full-capacity audiences, criticising what he described as the “pseudo-science” that has all but shut the live sector.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Peter Cooney

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