Van Morrison's 10 greatest songs, ranked

24 January 2024, 15:08 | Updated: 25 January 2024, 10:25

We've ranked the ten very best Van Morrison songs.
We've ranked the ten very best Van Morrison songs. Picture: Getty

By Thomas Edward

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He possesses one of popular music's most enduring voices.

Throughout his storied career, Van Morrison has traversed as many numerous musical styles as he has life-affirming themes.

From his earlier teenage days ripping it up with garage rock band Them, to the radio-friendly R&B that would establish him as a star, to the soul-searching sound of his latter days, the Northern Irish singer-songwriter has been hugely influential across genres like jazz, blues, R&B, and folk.

Renowned as a difficult and outspoken artist away from the stage, that hasn't overshadowed the success and adoration Van Morrison has received throughout his sixty-year plus career in music.

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, Morrison has also won two Grammy Awards, the BRIT Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music in 1994, and the Americana Music Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting in 2017.

Not to mention the countless records he's sold - no doubt most people own a copy of his 1968 album Astral Weeks in their record collection, often considered his masterpiece.

That said, we've ranked the ten very best Van Morrison in order from ten to one:

  1. 'Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile)'

    Van Morrison - Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile) (Official Audio)

    On his 1972 album, Saint Dominic's Preview, Van Morrison paid tribute to one of his greatest musical influences: Jackie Wilson.

    Morrison's drummer Ricky Schlosser later recalled an interview with Uncut magazine how the song fortuitously came together in the studio:

    "We ran through it once or twice, and the first recorded take is what's on the album. It was all over the place, but somehow it worked. Even when he ad-libbed at the end -'One more time'- somehow we all kept it together. At the end, Van was smiling like a Cheshire Cat."

    In 1982, Dexys Midnight Runners took 'Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile)' to number five in the charts after covering it for their album Too-Rye-Ay.

  2. 'In The Garden'

    In the Garden

    One of Van Morrison's later and most celebrated songs is 'In The Garden', a gentle, sprawling track that sees the singer question faith and dogma.

    Rejecting his previous forms of belief, throughout the song Morrison sings about reconnecting with aspects of life he's had an enduring affinity with: spirituality, nature, and a connection to the past.

    Himself describing the song as a "meditative process", 'In The Garden' unfurls with piano and acoustic guitar parts that twinkle like dewdrops hanging on the leaves in the morning sunlight.

    Released on his 1986 album, No Guru, No Method, No Teacher, Morrison's ode to life remains a highlight of his live performances.

  3. 'Crazy Love'

    Crazy Love (2013 Remaster)

    One of Van Morrison's most romantic moments is 1970's 'Crazy Love', a song that has no doubt soundtracked many a candlelit, love-fuelled evening.

    Written about his wife Janet Planet after they'd recently married, the expressive and poetic song describes how love can turn bad times good and make the good times even better.

    It's a frequent song played at weddings - just don't inform the happy couple, as Morrison and Janet divorced only three years later.

    Not that the sentiment was lost, with artists such as Rod Stewart, Bryan Ferry, Michael Bolton, The Band's Robbie Robertson, and even Michael Bublé covering it.

  4. 'Baby Please Don't Go' with Them

    Baby, Please Don't Go

    Before Van Morrison broke out as a solo star, he spent two years with the garage rock band Them, and had several hits to boot.

    Songs like 'Gloria' were widely adored and influenced bands like The Doors, though it was 'Baby Please Don't Go' that became a riotous rock music staple.

    Re-working the 1935 penned by Big Joe Williams, Them brought Delta blues into the present and scored a major hit with it.

    The iconic intro riff still sounds as frenetic now as it did after its 1965 release, even featuring a pre-Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page on rhythm guitar funnily enough.

  5. 'Domino’

    Domino (1999 Remaster)

    Born in Belfast, Van Morrison adored the music being made across the Atlantic, and his 1970 hit 'Domino' was another tribute to one of his idols in Fats Domino.

    'Domino' sees Morrison at his most vibrant and carefree, especially as he ensured he wouldn't be questioned about the hidden meaning of this song, which frequently occurred with his other work.

    Having written the R&B jaunt in 1968, the Northern Irish singer held on to it for two years to avoid losing out on half of the profits because of a publishing deal he was in the middle of.

    Turns out, it was a savvy decision - 'Domino' became Van Morrison's highest-charting song in the US.

  6. 'Sweet Thing'

    Sweet Thing (2015 Remaster)

    When Van Morrison did romance, he did it superbly. Case and point with 'Sweet Thing'.

    Though his hugely influential album Astral Weeks didn't spawn any successful singles after its 1968 release, 'Sweet Thing' has gone on to be one of his most beloved compositions.

    So much so, that the term "sweet thing" became incorporated into popular vernacular as a term of endearment.

    Though, it wasn't written about anyone in particular, with Van Morrison revealing: "It's a romantic love ballad not about anybody in particular but about a feeling."

  7. 'Have I Told You Lately'

    Van Morrison - Have I Told You Lately (Official Video)

    Not to be confused with the 1945 song covered by Elvis Presley and Bing Crosby, Van Morrison's 1989 song 'Have I Told You Lately' became one of the artist's most critical acclaimed songs.

    Written initially about his relationship to faith, the song later translated as a ballad, often played at weddings.

    It received greater success after Rod Stewart covered 'Have I Told You Lately' in 1993 for his MTV Unplugged special, taking it to number five in the charts both in the UK and the US.

    The Chieftains' cover in 1995 also won Van Morrison a Grammy Award.

  8. 'Into The Mystic'

    Into the Mystic - Van Morrison (Remastered 2022)

    This gorgeous song sees Van Morrison at his most hopeful and inspiring.

    Written from the perspective of a sailor at sea, he hears a foghorn - which is usually a sign of danger - though he knows he's close to land and close to being reunited with his lover.

    His soulful voice reaches its spiritual zenith on 'In The Mystic', conjuring images of land, the sea, and everlasting love.

    Strangely enough, it was voted one of the most frequently picked songs by surgeons to listen to whilst performing surgery because of its soothing aesthetic.

  9. 'Moondance'

    Van Morrison - Moondance (Live) (from..It's Too Late to Stop Now...Film)

    'Moondance' is Van Morrison at his jazziest, and how he came upon the idea for the song framed how it would eventually sound.

    His songs came from various sources of inspiration, but 1970's 'Moondance' from his album of the same name started out as a saxophone instrumental in which Morrison played sax himself.

    Pianist Jeff Labes who played on the recording recalled: "He liked to sing live along with the track, because Sinatra did that. He loved having a first-take vocal. He was looking for the magic."

    It certainly was magic, and remains of one Van Morrison's most recognisable hits still.

  10. 'Brown Eyed Girl'

    Van Morrison - Brown Eyed Girl (Official Audio)

    It's undoubtedly his signature hit song, which is why we've placed 'Brown Eyed Girl' as Van Morrison's very best.

    The artist himself would likely loathe 'Brown Eyed Girl' being considered his greatest song, given he attempted to avoid being pigeonholed as a radio-friendly singer throughout his career.

    In 2009 he told Time magazine: "'Brown Eyed Girl' I didn't perform for a long time because for me it was like a throwaway song. I've got about 300 other songs I think are better than that."

    But despite his protestations, it followed Van Morrison everywhere and he soon began performing his timeless classic live once again.

    Released in 1967 on Van Morrison's debut solo album, Blowin' Your Mind!, 'Brown Eyed Girl' was swiftly associated with the "summer of love" which the singer despised.

    Nevertheless, his song captures the nostalgic joy of youth and young love, and coupled with its feel-good sing-a-long chorus, 'Brown Eyed Girl' has been celebrated by generations of new fans over the past fifty plus years.