Caravan

Album: Moondance (1970)
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Songfacts®:

  • "Caravan" is a song full of gypsies, travel, and community. It's a song about the open road and music, a general celebration of freedom, but Morrison actually wrote it during a stationary period of his life.

    Morrison moved to Woodstock, New York, shortly after recording his second studio album, Astral Weeks, in 1968. Even in 2021 Woodstock remains a small town out in the Catskills, but in 1968 it was doubly so. Morrison moved there for the silence and the art community, but also because Bob Dylan had moved out there not long before. Morrison's first wife, Janet Planet, said Dylan was the only contemporary musician Morrison felt was worth his attention.

    Morrison's house was a mile away from any other houses, but while living there he swore he could hear a radio playing as though it were in the same room ("turn up your radio and let me hear the song"). This mystery fascinated Morrison, who at one point hypothesized that he was hearing the radio being played in someone else's house, which he thought might be coming to his home through the tunnel that supposedly ran under his house (according to some locals).

    No traces of the mysterious tunnel radio story remain in "Caravan," but that's where the radio references were inspired. In the song, they become a general celebration of music and friends.

    In our modern age of streaming, ever-present music, such an elevation of radio might seem odd. For the musicians of the '60s, though, radio made up the bulk of the music they heard, especially while growing up in the '40s. Many people didn't even have record players in the '40s, and music was truly new when it hit the radio. Morrison captures that magic in this song.
  • "Caravan" was never released as a single but became one of Morrison's most popular songs and a staple of his concerts. It's included on his third album, Moondance, and also on his popular 1974 double live album, It's Too Late to Stop Now.
  • Morrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. He was the first living musician to miss his own induction ceremony. In his place, the Counting Crows performed "Caravan."

    Robbie Robertson accepted the Hall of Fame award in Morrison's name. There's a connection with "Caravan" there, as well.

    Robbie Robertson was frontman of The Band, whose farewell show was a lavish one titled The Last Waltz, captured on a film directed by Martin Scorsese. It remains one of the preeminent music documentaries ever made.

    Morrison played "Caravan" at The Last Waltz, and his performance is widely considered one of the best of that show (Eric Clapton said it was one of the best live performances ever captured). It's also considered the ultimate Morrison performance of "Caravan," exceeding the original studio recording on Moondance.

    Music journalist Greil Marcus credited Morrison's "Caravan" with turning the energy of the show around and sparking a strong second half of performances by Bob Dylan, Neil Young, the Band, and others.
  • In 2007 Morrison included the performance from The Last Waltz on a compilation album titled Van Morrison At The Movies - Soundtrack Hits.
  • Morrison recorded the Moondance version at Mastertone Studios in New York City on July 30, 1969. Lewis Merenstein, who also worked on Morrison's Astral Weeks album, produced the song.

Comments: 1

  • Bill from UsOne bio I read said that Van had to be kicked out on stage for the last Waltz because he wanted to back out. Hard to believe that is true considering the performance.
    Moondance showed that even though Van had to channel transcendent musical ideas that not all radio stations would play, like Astral Weeks and St. Dominic's Preview stuff (early pre FM radio popularity) he could certainly write top 40 "AM" hits that were, well, more.
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