- 18 Sep 20
As part of our celebrations for Van Morrison's 75th birthday, Reevah, Brian Kennedy, and Una Healy share their reflections on Van's music and legacy.
Derry-based indie-folk artist Reevah (aka Aoife Boyle) dropped her acclaimed debut EP Hummingbird in 2018, and has been steadily rising through the Irish music ranks ever since. Her 2020 EP release A Different Light garnered Reevah plenty of praise, after she nabbed high profile support slots for the likes of SOAK, Wyvern Lingo and Lisa Hannigan.
I heard Astral Weeks for the first time when I was nine and visiting my father in Boston. I’ll never forget that moment, it was a summer’s night and we were driving around Somerville listening to the album. From then on, I knew I had a deeper interest in music.
I’ve covered ‘Ballerina’, which is a beautiful track. The instrumentation and phrasing make it really unique.
Initially coming to prominence as a member of fellow Belfast native Van Morrison’s touring band, Brian Kennedy is one of Ireland’s most celebrated solo talents – appearing as the featured vocalist in Riverdance on Broadway; performing at George Best’s funeral; featuring as a coach on the first series of The Voice of Ireland; and representing Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006.
My uncle was a massive music fan, and had a record player and all his albums stashed in his bedroom. We were forbidden to enter – so, naturally, when I was visiting Granny Kennedy, I made it my business to sneak in, and browse his incredible collection while he was out.
I didn’t find out for ages that Van was actually from the same city as me. When I first heard ‘Moondance’ and ‘Crazy Love’, I thought he was American.
Unbelievably, I ended up touring with him for six years, as a featured vocalist in his blues and soul revue show. I also feature on six of his albums. Every night was an incredible masterclass in singing, playing and improvisation. The spirit of that early tour is captured beautifully on the double live album A Night In San Francisco. I have so many incredible memories of singing with him, Bob Dylan, and most excitingly for me, Joni Mitchell. I have so much to thank him for still.
I feel connected to Van for all kinds of reasons. We’re both from Belfast, albeit from opposite sides of the city, and from completely different generations. I used to love hearing him talk with Georgie Best at our shows in Manchester, about a Belfast I didn’t know. I’ve only known my home place through the lens of war – whereas he and Georgie knew it in peacetime, when people sang under streetlights at night, and there was an incredible music scene in the town.
Van came from a time when people really studied their craft, and toured relentlessly. He became successful globally because of his incredibly original songwriting, singing and interpreting skills. He’s a totally unique artist. He’s the best of the best, and I was privileged to see that up close every night on stage and in the recording studio. He would always say to me, “You’re only as good as your last gig”. He challenged us musically every single night.
Originally rising to fame as one-fifth of The Saturdays, Tipperary singer Una Healy signed to Decca Records in 2017, with her debut solo album The Waiting Game arriving in February of the same year. She recently released ‘Never See Me Cry’ and follow-up track ‘Strangers', ahead of her upcoming sophomore album.
When I was doing the pub scene in the noughties, I had a two-hour set. One of the most requested songs was ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ – it always went down really well and had everyone singing along. I also did a mash-up of Rudimental & Jess Glynne’s ‘These Days’ and ‘Days Like This’ on a recent tour. I have a feeling ‘These Days’ took inspiration from the Van song, as they marry so well.
Van’s incredible songwriting and original sound are what make him such a legend. You instantly know it’s him when you hear his voice. His songs are so heartfelt and all tell a story – I just love songs like that. I feel very proud that he is Irish and has become such a superstar all over the world.
In terms of covering ‘Reminds Me Of You’, as soon as I heard the opening chords, I said to myself, “This is right up my street!” The melody and lyrics are similar to the style of songwriting I’m really into. I can also hear my good friend Brian Kennedy’s beautiful voice on the record, so it’s extra special.
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.