Michael Dorf Presents The Music of Van Morrison
New York, NY
March 21, 2019
"I know he doesn't like this version, but I'm thanking him anyway," so stated a sly Patti Smith at New York City's Carnegie hall before launching into her classic version of Van Morrison's anthem "Gloria" at the tribute concert to Belfast's favorite son on a cool rain-soaked late March evening.
The founder of City Winery, Michael Dorf, has promoted an annual tribute show/benefit concert for the past 16 years. Each year honors an iconic artist or band. In 2018, the tribute honored Led Zeppelin. Other past honorees include David Bowie, David Byrne and the Talking Heads, Paul Simon, Prince and Bob Dylan.
The 2019 concert honored Sir George Ivan Morrison (known far and wide as Van Morrison) and featured over 20 performances of "classic" tunes made famous by the iconic Irish singer-songwriter, instrumentalist and record producer. Dorf's concert which provides music education to underprivileged youth, benefits a large number of music related institutions, causes and programs including: The Center For Arts Education, The Church Street School of Music and Art, The D'Addario Foundation, Fixing Instruments For Kids In Schools, The Grammy Music Education Coalition, Jazz House Kids, Little Kids Rock, Midori & Friends, The Orchestra Now, Sonic Arts For All! and The VH1 Save The Music Foundation. According to Dorf, the benefit concert series has raised $1.6M over the course of its sixteen years.
Van Morrison's professional career began when he was a teenager in the late 1950s. He plays a vast number of instruments including guitar, harmonica, keyboards and saxophone. In the mid-1960s, Morrison first came to prominence as the lead singer of the R&B band Them, with whom he recorded the original version of "Gloria." In 1967, Morrison began his solo career with the release of the hit single "Brown Eyed Girl." His Astral Weeks
album which was released in 1968 on Warner Brothers Records is a classic. Though the album is currently considered a masterpiece, it did not sell well upon release. Morrison's musical canon is a magnificent mélange of soul, R&B, rock, pop, Celtic rhythms, folk, gospel, country, blues, jazz and fusion. His most popular songs are often seen as a foundation of "a music of your life" playlist. In addition to "Brown Eyed Girl," Morrison has brought the world "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile)," "Moondance," "Into The Mystic," "Caravan," "Madame George," "Wavelength," "Crazy Love," "Domino," "Have I Told You Lately," "Wild Night" and many others. He has received two Grammy Awards, the 1994 Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music and the 2017 Americana Music Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting, He was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame
in 1994 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame
in 2003. In 2016, he was knighted for services to the music industry and to tourism in Northern Ireland.
Over the years, Morrison has released forty studio albums, six live albums, six compilation albums and over seventy singles. His latest album, The Profit Speaks
(Exile Productions Ltd.) was released in 2018. He is known to his fans by the nickname "Van the Man."
The evening began when Michael Dorf appeared on the prestigious and historic venue's Isaac Stern Auditorium stage and eloquently spoke about the concert series, the foundations that benefit from the proceeds and the evening's honoree. After his short speech, the evening was all about the performances.
Gaslight Anthem singer Brian Fallon took over and delivered an acoustic, somber take on "High Summer." The Blind Boys of Alabama were up next and gave the evening its first taste of gospel when they took the sold-out crowd to church with a stirring five-part harmony version of "By His Grace."
The two-hour-plus show, featured a diverse roster of artists (old and new) including Lee Fields, David Johansen, Glen Hansard, Bettye LaVette, Low Cut Connie, Amy Helm, Anderson East, Valerie June, Shawn Colvin, William Elliot Whitmore, Little Kids Rock featuring local high school singer Jayri Alvarez, John Paul White, Secret Sisters, Marc Cohn, the Resistance Revival Chorus, Robert Earl Keen and many more. The performances were backed by an amazing house band that featured guitarist Smokey Hormel, bassist Tony Garnier, keyboardist Leon Pendarvis and drummer Steve Jordan. The horns were provided by members of the Brooklyn Afrobeat collective Antibalas.