This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Van Morrison’s breakthrough solo hit, “Brown Eyed Girl.” Nowadays the song’s ubiquity and relative lightness have diminished its power in comparison to the rest of Morrison’s imposing catalog. But “Brown Eyed Girl” offers Morrison’s first great synthesis of imagery from Morrison’s Northern Ireland homeland with the propulsive rhythms of American soul music. Here’s the word about the song’s origin and its legacy from the Wiki…
The song’s nostalgic lyrics about a former love were considered too suggestive at the time to be played on many radio stations. A radio-edit of the song was released which removed the lyrics “making love in the green grass”, replacing them with “laughin’ and a-runnin’, hey hey” from a previous verse. This edited version appears on some copies of the compilation album The Best of Van Morrison. However the remastered CD seems[clarification needed] to have the bowdlerised lyrics in the packaging but the original “racy” lyrics on the disc. Lyrically, it “shows early hints of the idealized pastoral landscapes that would flow through his songs through the decades, a tendency that links him to the Romantic poets, whom Morrison has cited as an influence” according to music journalist Erik Hage.
Morrison’s original recording of “Brown Eyed Girl” remains widely familiar today, as the uncensored version is regularly played by many “oldies” and “classic rock” radio stations. In 2005, Van Morrison received a Million-Air certificate by BMI as a “Top European Writer” for reaching 7 million US radio and television airplays for “Brown Eyed Girl” and again in 2007, Morrison was awarded another Million-Air certificate by BMI for 8 million air plays of “Brown Eyed Girl”. In 2009, “Brown Eyed Girl” was at the top of the list for most played songs at the BMI London awards winning a Million-Air certificate for nine million air plays. In 2011, “Brown Eyed Girl” joined an elite group of songs as it was honoured for having 10 million US radio air plays and therefore becoming one of the ten songs that have been registered with BMI that have received that number of radio plays. As of 2015, “Brown Eyed Girl” remains the most downloaded and most played song of the entire 1960s decade.
Paul Williams included “Brown Eyed Girl” in his book Rock and Roll: The 100 Best Singles, writing that:
” I was going to say this is a song about sex, and it is, and a song about youth and growing up, and memory, and it’s also — very much and very wonderfully — a song about singing. ”
This song proved to be the impetus for Morrison’s career. It was his first single after leaving his position as lead singer for the Belfast formed Them and led to his relocation to the United States and an eventual contract with Warner Bros. Records, where he recorded his career-defining album, Astral Weeks.
For fans and newbies, here’s a great doc about Van the man’s early years…