Lit Up Inside: Selected Lyrics

Gruff Irish soul man translates onto the printed page

Music Gift Guide: Books
Music Gift Guide: Books

Lit Up Inside: Selected Lyrics

by Van Morrison
City Lights, 230pp., $18.95

Saw a rock & roll song in half, separating lyrics from the music, and one of the Siamese twins likely dies. Guitar, bass, and drums are self-sustaining, so pen the other's obit in advance. "Into the Mystic," "Tupelo Honey," and "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile)" remain singular moments in vocal history, barked and crooned with stony Irish soul by Van Morrison. Nonetheless, the latter's "Dadada da da da, dada da da da," repeated four times on the page, matches the poetry of San Francisco free press City Lights only while humming the tune as you leaf through a Lawrence Ferlinghetti anthology. The swirling, clapping, do-do-doing radio ricochet of "Wavelength": "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah/ With your wavelength/ Oh your wavelength/ With your wavelength/ With your wavelength." And yet, if you've heard Morrison's marble gruff, it booms in your ears while reading Lit Up Inside, 107 song lyrics selected by the Belfast bad boy himself. Between expressly autobiographical bookends "The Story of Them" and "Why Must I Always Explain," the before and after of fame, the philosophy ("Brown Eyed Girl"), cinematic drama ("TB Sheets"), and passion of Morrison ("Moodance") whisper and stomp a travelogue moving out of the Emerald Isle into the arms of Socrates and Plato, Whitman and Yeats, Rembrandt and Rimbaud – Sidney Bechet, Sonny Terry, and Brownie McGhee. Epic ballads ("Summertime in England"), songs of worship ("Whenever God Shines His Light"), Celtic history ("On Hyndford Street"): Lit Up Inside, a roaring jukebox of the printed page.

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