Cover image for Can you feel the silence? : Van Morrison, a new biography
Can you feel the silence? : Van Morrison, a new biography
Heylin, Clinton.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
Chicago : Chicago Review Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xvi, 560 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, portraits ; 24 cm
General Note:
"An A Capella Book."
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML420.M63 H49 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



This groundbreaking biography of a brilliant but disturbed performer explores the paradox of the man and the artist. Based on more than 100 interviews, this intelligent profile explores Morrison's roots; the hard times he went through in London, New York, and Boston; the making of his seminal albums such as Moondance and Astral Weeks ; and the disastrous business arrangements that left Morrison hungry and penniless while his songs were topping the charts. Detailed are the breakdown of Morrison's marriage, the creative drought that followed, and his triumphant reemergence. In addition, this biography attempts to explain the forbidding aspects of Morrison's persona, such as paranoia, hard drinking, misanthropy, as well as why, in the words of his onetime singing partner Linda Gail Lewis, Morrison's music "brings happiness to other people, not him." Also included is a Van Morrision sessionography that spans 1964 to 2001.

Author Notes

Clinton Heylin is the author of Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades , Bootleg: The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry , Bob Dylan: The Recording Sessions , and No More Sad Refrains: The Life and Times of Sandy Denny .

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Van Morrison first hit the charts in 1965 with the Irish rock band Them, but his 1968 solo album Astral Weeks, still one of rock's few universally acknowledged masterpieces, made him a critics' darling, and Moondance (1970) made him an FM-radio staple. Since then, he has been a prolific recording artist and a sometimes-incendiary live performer. Fusing R & B, jazz, blues, and Celtic folk, Morrison's music has grown increasingly to reflect the songwriter's spiritual quest. Legendarily cantankerous, Morrison is notoriously uncooperative with biographers and, for that matter, with most other humans, for which Heylin has compensated by talking with Morrison's many musical collaborators and perusing the three decades of previously published Morrison interviews. Fans whose interest flagged sometime during his lengthy career may find the last third of the book--largely a repetitive traversal of less-inspired, relatively nondescript later albums--rough going, but that's Morrison's fault, not his biographer's. Any popular musician who boasts highs as high as Morrison's best--not to mention his longevity--deserves a thoroughgoing biography like Heylin's. --Gordon Flagg Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Heylin's weighty new biography of enigmatic music man Van Morrison is an ambitious and prodigiously researched work. It is most gripping in the early chapters describing Morrison's rise from his working-class roots in East Belfast, Northern Ireland, to the top of the U.K. music charts with the hard-rocking R&B outfit Them, best known for their three-chord romp "Gloria." Heylin (Behind the Shades) paints a captivating portrait of the ambitious and driven young blues and soul enthusiast who would go on to play a historical role in the early 1960s British Invasion, alongside the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and The Who. But before Them could enjoy the success of its British musical peers, the rough-throated singer moved on, both musically and personally. Here the book gets bogged down, as Heylin chronicles Morrison's misbegotten business deals that leave him near destitute and endlessly bitter. Morrison flies through a succession of managers as fast as he shifts musical styles on such landmark albums as Astral Weeks and Moondance. To the reader, Morrison's reputation as a curmudgeon (seemingly well-earned from the anecdotal evidence presented here) doesn't compare to the transcendent experience of listening to his music. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

"I sincerely hope that this volume does not come across as the petulant riposte of a spurned writer," states Heylin, one of pop music's premier biographers (Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades Revisited), in the preface to his new work on Morrison, pop music's premier curmudgeon. Alas, Heylin's dislike for his subject has indeed tainted the results. Granted, his subject is difficult to like. Morrison, who earned lofty critical plaudits with his seminal Astral Weeks and Moondance albums, is renowned for his surliness, especially toward journalists. Heylin illustrates this in numbing detail, with scores of quotes from former Morrison associates (at least those who were not intimidated by Morrison's camp to back out of participating), verifying that the man, indeed, has a nasty temperament. Heylin is not nearly so generous in his praise, exerting far less energy educating the reader on Morrison's artistic importance and repeatedly reminding us that Morrison is not nearly as famous in reality as he believes himself to be. This begs the question: Why did Heylin spend so much effort, and over 500 pages, on such a disagreeable man who has apparently only shown flashes of (often muted) brilliance in a career of nearly 40 years? Fans will be angered, and those with a casual interest may be turned off, but it is unlikely that we'll see as detailed a biography of "Van the Man" again in the near future. Recommended with reservations.-Lloyd Jansen, Stockton-San Joaquin Cty. P.L., CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.