- 15 Sep 20
As part of our celebrations for Van Morrison's 75th birthday, Hozier shares his reflections on Van's music and legacy.
I must have been an infant when I first heard his work – I can’t remember what age exactly. I remember listening to his A Night in San Francisco live album in my dad’s car when I was very young and being really taken in by his voice, the arrangements and the musicianship of the band even then.
His influence on me was significant. It offered an example of how soul music could be interpreted through an Irish outlook and voice. Something that really stuck with me in particular was his referencing of artists in the blues tradition throughout his work – each one was like a breadcrumb trail for my young ears to follow.
In that live album mentioned above for example, he might weave in phrases or sections from old standards which were like windows of discovery into music I may not have heard before.
“Ray Charles said it this way…” he might ad-lib, before tearing into a few lines from 'Fool For You’.
The attack of his voice is also so distinct; the way he hits certain syllables and vowels. It definitely left its mark on me.
His work walks an indefinable line between the classic rhythm and blues tradition and that yearning sense of Celtic mysticism that sits in our collective consciousness. It’s both free spirited and yet deadly serious about the traditions it’s drawing from. It seems to reach to the sacred roots at soul music’s gospel source, albeit with rain beaten Irish hands. As such, at times it seeks out God, and finds him in the places John Moriarty might tell us to look; down here on the verdant, common and sacred earth.
His contribution to the canon of Irish music is enormous, I imagine it would be hard to find Irish songwriters who aren’t touched by his legacy somewhat.
I certainly feel a connection to his work personally, it was a source of joy, curiosity and discovery long, long before I aspired to being a musician. In that sense, my relationship with his work simply as person, listener and lover of music takes precedence over that of my relationship with it ‘as an artist’, and that, to me means far far more.
The Hot Press 'Rave On, Van Morrison' Special Issue is out now. Pick up your copy in shops now – or order online below:
You can find all the 'Rave On, Van Morrison' performances on the Hot Press YouTube channel.