To mark his 75th birthday on August 31 – in a world first – Ireland’s Hot Press magazine has curated musical tributes by 75 exceptional artists, to be broadcast to the world via YouTube, in August and September
Van Morrison, and his extraordinary work as a songwriter, are to be celebrated in a remarkable music extravaganza, created by Ireland’s Hot Press magazine, to mark the 75th birthday of the Irish songwriting legend. Titled Rave On, Van Morrison, the musical tribute will be broadcast via YouTube throughout August and into September, with a full schedule set to be announced shortly.
Rave On, Van Morrison is the title given to what is an historic World First: a celebration of one artist’s music, involving 75 of Ireland’s leading and emerging singers and musicians, who pay simultaneous, personal homage by recording, and performing to camera, songs written by Van Morrison.
Van Morrison – full name George Ivan Morrison – was born in Belfast on August 31st, 1945. An only child, he grew up on Hyndford Street, in East Belfast. He is widely recognised as one of the finest and most important songwriters in the world, having produced and released a unique and powerful body of work over the past sixty years, including over 40 original albums – and this is reflected in the quality of the cast assembled by Hot Press for this special, extended YouTube showcase.
Among those who have recorded tracks for broadcast is the President of Ireland, Michael D.Higgins, who has performed ‘Rave On, John Donne’ – the spoken word track, which first appeared on the album Inarticulate Speech of the Heart (1983) and from which the celebration derives its name. This extraordinary rendition of what is a powerful Morrison song is completed by Bill Whelan, the creator of the global musical phenomenon, Riverdance, who conjures a beautiful musical tapestry around the President’s distinctive and emotional reading.
Rave On, Van Morrison will also be supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and its global diplomatic network, and by Tourism Ireland.
President Michael D. Higgins said: “Van Morrison is one of the outstanding songwriters and performers of the past 60 years and has been a powerful inspiration to successive generations of musicians and artists all over the island of Ireland, and abroad. It is a great privilege to be part of this extraordinary celebration of Van’s work, on the occasion of his 75th birthday. Long may he continue. Rave on, Van Morrison.”
Other artists who will perform Van Morrison songs as part of Rave On, Van Morrison include at least two of the four Irish artists who have achieved US No.1 albums, Hozier and Sinéad O’Connor. Also performing Van’s songs are leading Irish music lights like Imelda May, Bob Geldof of The Boomtown Rats, Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol, Andrea Corr of The Corrs, Glen Hansard, Paul Brady, Damien Dempsey, Una Healy of The Saturdays, Damien Rice, Gavin James, The Academic, Moya Ní Bhraonáin of Clannad, Loah, Mick Flannery, Mary Stokes, Altan, Eleanor McEvoy, David Keenan and the rising young Dublin rapper, Malaki, among many more.
MOBO-nominated drummer and composer David Lyttle, from Belfast, has recorded ‘On Hyndford Street’, featuring the voice of acclaimed Irish actor Liam Neeson. And the multi-garlanded fiddle player Martin Hayes of The Gloaming delivers a marvellous interpretation of ‘Moondance’ on fiddle.
Having created and curated the musical extravaganza, Hot Press will also publish a special Van Morrison tribute issue of the magazine in August, to mark the occasion. An historic publication, it will include special contributions from Irish and international musicians on the genius of Van Morrison.
• “Van Morrison is one of the most important and influential artists in modern music,” the founder and editor of Hot Press, Niall Stokes, said. “A true original, he has made extraordinary albums and written countless great songs in his long and illustrious career to date. As a result, he has been – and is – a wonderfully enduring inspiration for Irish musicians, songwriters and artists.
“On the occasion of his 75th birthday, we wanted to celebrate the joy that he and his music have created for so many, and to highlight the wonderful, timeless works of art he has created.
“That he is right up there among the towering musical greats is indisputable. His songs will still be sung and played in a hundred years time. But we wanted him to know now just how much those songs mean to people – and what better way than to get a whole community of musicians involved in recording songs of his specially, in time for his 75th birthday.
“Putting Rave On, Van Morrison together has been an amazing adventure,” Niall Stokes added. “It is, of course, a real honour to have the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins involved. The response from musicians has also been hugely heart-warming. We started out on this journey just as Covid-19 began to have an impact, but from the first phone call, it was clear that the artists wanted to get involved, as a way of expressing their gratitude to and appreciation of Van – and of hailing his outstanding genius.”
Dan Chalmers, director of Music YouTube EMEA, said: “Van Morrison is an icon performer and songwriter, and we are thrilled to host a celebration of his 75th birthday, and his decades of exceptional music, on YouTube. It’s fantastic to be able to support such a wonderful group of artists, brought together by Hot Press magazine, to recognise his contribution to the music industry – and to celebrate the extraordinary breadth of music talent in Ireland.”
• Hot Press set out to celebrate the living legacy of Van Morrison’s music – but the magazine also wanted to make a statement about Ireland as a place where great music and an appreciation of culture are seen as an essential part of daily life.
“Watching the videos as they come in really has been a joy,” Niall Stokes said. “There is a wonderful, personal, emotional quality about so many of them. I hope that, in addition to turning new people on to Van’s musical genius, the promotion of so many great Irish musical talents via YouTube, over the next two or three months, will also win new fans all over the world for the wonderful musicians and singers Ireland has produced and who participated so generously and with such thrilling effect to Rave On, Van Morrison.
“One of the things which I think people all over the world will sense from watching the videos, and from listening to Van’s songs reinterpreted afresh in this way, is that Ireland really is a remarkable island, where a high value is put on creativity, on inclusiveness, on community and in particular on the importance of music. Hopefully this celebration of one particular Irish genius– described by the world-renowned poet Paul Muldoon as ‘The Bard of Belfast’ – will help also to spread the word about the extraordinary depth of musical talent in Ireland.
“That has been, and will always be, a central part of our mission in Hot Press.”