Van Morrison was born in Belfast in 1945, the son of a shipyard worker who collected American blues and jazz records. Van grew up listening to the music of Muddy Waters, Mahalia Jackson, Lightnin' Hopkins and John Lee Hooker. Surrounded by every kind of musical influence - country, blues, jazz, and folk - from 13 he was playing guitar, sax and harmonica with a series of local Irish showbands, skiffle and rock'n'roll groups. By the time he rose to the fore of Britain’s nascent blues-rock scene as leader of Them, Morrison had already pulled years in the trenches, singing and playing with some of Belfast’s cagiest combos. His music has always incorporated the widely-varied influences he heard and absorbed since his childhood days on the streets of Belfast - long before the bands of his youth and his initial 1964 breakthrough with the band he formed, Them.
Backed by The Jim Daly Trio, Morrison began his solo career in Belfast supporting Alexis Korner. He toured Holland singing with Cuby and The Blizzards before, in 1967, going to New York where he recorded an LP titled Blowin Your Mind with the producer Bert Berns, who had previously produced Them. Following Berns' death in 1968 Morrison recruited a group of jazz musicians to record Astral Weeks, a timeless classic which brought together elements of Celtic music, improvised jazz and r&b.
Based initially in Boston and then California, Morrison produced a string of albums including Moondance, Tupelo Honey and St Dominic's Preview while touring extensively with his band the Caledonia Soul Orchestra. His 1974 live set It's Too Late To Stop Now marked the end of this prolific early phase as Van returned to Ireland to explore further his Celtic roots. The ensuing album Veedon Fleece (1974) featured a quieter, more pastoral sound and was to be his last release for three years.