Sir Van Morrison is one of the most influential artists of all time. Big names like Bruce Springsteen, Bono, Tom Petty, Rod Stewart, Elton John and Elvis Costello, to name an illustrious few, have cited him as a major influence. Then there’s Van’s namesake, Jim Morrison. In the mid-1960s, The Doors opened for Van’s band, Them, on a two-week stint at the famed Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles. At the time, Them’s big hit was “Gloria,” a song covered by The Doors and other '60s acts like Jimi Hendrix. Biographer and musicologist Brian Hinton explained how Jim soaked up Van’s mannerisms like a sponge:
"Jim Morrison learned quickly from his near namesake's stagecraft, his apparent recklessness, his air of subdued menace, the way he would improvise poetry to a rock beat, even his habit of crouching down by the bass drum during instrumental breaks."
These are some pretty heavy hitters to have under your tutelage, but they’re really not too surprising and for the most part common knowledge among rock fans and scholars. Here at AXS, we wanted to dig a little deeper and find some other artists influenced by Van Morrison that you may not be as familiar with. Here are five artists influenced by Van Morrison that might surprise you.
While Morrison certainly exhibited a light and dark side, a yin and yang if you will, to his music and personality, it’s doubtful that he ever would have merited the moniker “rock music’s “Prince of Darkness” as Nick Cave has. While Ozzy Osbourne might have something to say about this, Australian born Nick Cave—who is best known for his band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds—certainly dabbled in darker subject matter than Morrison ever did. And yet, Cave has named Morrison as a major influence.
The Twilight guy? The very same. Although it’s a shame that’s what he’s best known for as he is a talented actor. But what many may not know is that the English actor is also a talented musician. He has done numerous songs for film soundtracks, but perhaps most interesting is that he has gone on record saying that Van Morrison was his “influence for doing music in the first place.”
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you know who Ed Sheeran is. If you’re from England (or America for that matter), it’d be pretty tough not to catch a Morrison tune or two growing up or in the pub. But it’s a bit difficult to pin down where Van seeps into Ed’s music. Sure they both play guitar, but Morrison’s gravely voice, R&B sound, and mystical subject matter don’t seem to pop up in Ed’s crooning and seemingly girl crazed pop. But then again, growing up in Belfast, Northern Ireland in the 1950s and Framlingham, Suffolk in the 1990s were probably vastly different experiences. Nonetheless, Sheeran has named Morrison as an influence.
Morrison was known to dabble in American country music, which perhaps allowed him to reach a broader, more diverse group of artists in the U.S. American country music artist Hal Ketchum had a string of hits on the country charts in the 90s and 2000s and is still active today despite his battle with acute transverse myelitis, a illness similar to multiple sclerosis. Ketchum has said that “He [Morrison] was a major influence in my life.”
Joan Armatrading is a three-time Grammy nominated English singer and guitarist. She is a genre chameleon playing a wide range of styles from blues and jazz to pop and folk rock, which are very similar to the styles Morrison played and combined. Another similarity with Morrison is her value of privacy. In 2003 she told this to The Daily Telegraph. "People who like my music have a legitimate interest in me, but I need to retain some privacy, not to be telling people what's going on, or what I feel. When you go home, the reason it's beautiful is because it's personal to you and the people you want to include in it," she said. But no doubt most telling is that Van Morrison is the only artist she claims as an influence. High praise.