Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Beyond the brogue

For those without closed captioning software:

Dick Clark, host of "American Bandstand": "What do you do when you have a moment off? Do you work?"

Van Morrison: "No, I kinda like just walk about ... Y'know, parts of cities ... In the rain and things like that."

Morrison left Belfast for the States in August of 1967, taking up residence in New York City with Janet Rigsbee and her son, Peter. For Morrison, who was already prone to episodes of oddball, cloistered behavior, America only thickened the walls of his long-established personal cocoon. There were friends and acquaintances and colleagues in New York and later in Woodstock, but they invariably sensed that reaching Morrison meant crossing an expanse that could never be successfully crossed. Like all the various individuals in Morrison's life were traipsing the same broad path as him and at a steep rise, they glimpsed Morrison standing at the rise just ahead of them. So they quickened their pace to close the distance, only to reach that rise and find Morrison standing atop the next one. So they quickened their pace once more ...

In Belfast, the perpetually introverted Morrison frequently collapsed in on himself like a dying star. In America, he did so with such intensity that he swallowed the light of those around him. Rigsbee and others crumpled with exasperation. His worsening alcoholism was to blame, as well as a deepening distrust of the music business. And perhaps most shattering of all, language failed him; his words became blunted and broken tools with no use. (Like in the clip posted above; Dick's got no idea what Van's talking about). Friend Jon Gershen described the Morrison from this time period:
Really out of his element ... Far away from home and ... Very unsure of himself. And when he starts talking, most people don't know what he's saying because of his accent, so now he's reaching a point where maybe he should not bother talking because it's too painful.
One cliche that promises to make me wretch: "Such-and-such spoke to us through his music!" However, with Morrison, it was certainly thus.

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