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Can You Feel the Silence? Van Morrison: A New Biography


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 ...
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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.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Entreatingly chatty . . . Deepens the enigma and gives the tortured genius myth a kick in the Astral Weeks." Village Voice

“Absorbing, intriguing, thought-provoking, [Can You Feel The Silence is] overflowing with interviews from across the Morrison time spectrum.”  —Johnny Rogan, author, Morrissey & Marr and Timeless Flight

“Heylin is a thorough biographer [who allows] a picture [to] emerge of a man to whom the world is either an audience, or it is nothing.”  —Charles Shaar Murray, author, Crosstown Traffic

Rolling Stone
Meticulously researched.
Entertainment Weekly
Terrific . . .should prove indispensable for Morrisonites and a must for anyone who enjoys tales of tortured stars behaving badly.
Heylin analyzes his every lyric . . . nobody can doubt his attention to the music."
The Onion
Heylin reveals himself as a fastidious, evenhanded researcher.
Village Voice
Entreatingly chatty . . . Deepens the enigma and gives . . . the tortured-genius myth a kick in the Astral Weeks."
Boston Globe
Plenty of good stuff, especially a wonderful chapter on Van's brief Boston interlude.
Book News
Recounts the life of the notoriously reclusive singer.
Shepherd Express
A portrait of an artist who shuns intimacy . . . frozen in the emotional adolescence.
Boston Herald
Provides page after page of examples of Morrison's bad behavior.
Irish American Magazine
An engaging book.
An engrossing read.
The most thorough account of this complex artist in years.
Dirty Linen
If you're a huge Morrison fan, you might be compelled to read the whole thing.
Hartford Advocate
The most thoroughly researched and documented portrait of Morrison we are ever likely to have.
Publishers Weekly
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.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
"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 Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556525179
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/30/2003
  • Edition description: United States Edition
  • Pages: 576
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.41 (d)

Meet the Author

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.
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Don't bother!

    Van Morrison is a talent unto himself. Gifted? No doubt! His life was a roller coaster ride, and open to the public, for the most part. This book was a he said/she said, blow by boring blow of the most mundane and ponderous points on Van's rise and fall and rise and fall, etc. If the author would have possibly just wrote about the statements given by those he interviewed, I would have been more interested. Way too much ho-hum details of a "not so much" boring man. A real yawner!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2003

    Why Must I Always Explain?

    Pathography masquerading as biography, Heylin's new bio of one of contemporary music's most difficult, enigmatic, and private of artists, is--despite its impressive research and hefty length--fatally marred by the author's critical inability to bring to his subject and its matter anything approaching an evenhanded or insightful interpretation of the man, his music, or their place in pop cultural history. Instead, we are treated in mindless and tedious detail to anecdote heaped upon anecdote intended, apparently, to prove the far from original thesis that while Mr. Morrison may on occasion make some nice music, in real life he is quite a nasty fellow indeed. This is old news. What is worse, it is mind-numbingly boring news. Mr. Heylin gets five stars for his research, but as a interpreter of human nature, a critic of popular art forms, and a literary stylist, he is, regrettably self-evidently both out of his league and in over his head vis-a-vis the transcendant richness and complexity of his material. The definitive biography of George Ivan Morrison is yet to be written. This one, while essential reading for Van fans, fails to answer the very questions such fans most hanker to know: Is the music likely to endure? Does the artist's personal behavior bear in any meaningful way upon his art? If it does, how and in what measure? What is the source, not only of the transcendant quality of the artist's music, but of the peculiarly deep, ongoing, and apparently irreconcilable disparity or contradiction between the sublime joyousness so often on display in the music, and the apparent joylessness on display in his private life? Heylin's no hack, the book is no hatchet job, but both fail in this instance to get at anything like the whole truth about the subject at hand. Sad.

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