VAN MORRISON by Johnny Rogan


No Surrender
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Nearly breath-by-breath biography of the influential Irish musician who has made a dent in rock, blues, folk, country and jazz.

This comprehensiveness is particularly impressive considering that, in the more than 600 pages from music biographer Rogan (Neil Young, not reviewed), there is nary a word directly from the reclusive Morrison’s lips. Rogan’s analyses of Morrison’s musical palette, critical standing and public image are exhaustive yet never exhausting. Juggling social, political, musical, psychological and personal elements, he creates a shape-shifting portrait of the artist, whom he notes is, at his core, obdurate, independent, passionate, adventurous, blunt and spiritually uneasy. Among the book’s many riveting topics: Morrison’s embryonic intensity and raw, bluesy sexuality; his interlude in Woodstock while the Bogside burned; his gypsy apotheosis; and his Janus-like qualities. Most fascinating, however, is the author’s exploration of Morrison’s hometown, Belfast, which informed the musician’s “no surrender” attitude. This child of the ’60s, who has displayed “poor communication skills, aggressive impatience, and absence of empathy,” hoped for peace between his Catholic and Protestant neighbors and is not, in any case, a political animal. It was all about the music, singing with the ache of gospel and the joy of love, sharing the deep-running sentiment of his youth.

Sprightly despite its amplitude, a narrative of propulsive drive that is also a reflective, associative piece of social history.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2006
ISBN: 0-436-20566-1
Page count: 628pp
Publisher: Secker & Warburg/Trafalgar
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2006


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