Northern Ireland news

I'm a huge fan of Van Morrison says Ian Paisley as Astral Weeks album celebrates 50th anniversary

Ian Paisley backstage with Van Morrison after one of his gigs
By Mairead Holland

THEY grew up streets and, in many ways, light years apart but Ian Paisley has revealed that he is one of Van Morrison's biggest fans.

As the acclaimed singer songwriter's iconic album Astral Weeks celebrates its 50th anniversary, the DUP MP has spoken of his admiration and unwavering support for his east Belfast neighbour.

And he has shed light on a quiet bond of friendship between the two men.

The musician grew up in a terraced house in Hyndford Street, just 10 minutes from leafy and affluent Cyprus Avenue where the Paisley family lived and which has been made famous by the Van Morrison song of the same name.

Said Mr Paisley, "I have been a huge fan of Van since I first heard him as a teenager. I have attended every concert I have been able to get to - in the Whitla Hall, the Ulster Hall and the King's Hall, all over in fact.

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"He did one at a jazz club in London about a year-and-a-half ago and invited me backstage. I went to another concert in the Europa Hotel - there were fewer than 200 people there - and he very kindly included my name in one of the songs.

"It was about people's perception of other people and whether they are grumpy or not and he sang, 'He's not grumpy, he's my friend'. I was really chuffed about that."

He added: "I am honoured that he knows me and recognises me and I am honoured that if I bump into him that we are able to have a civilised chat.

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"He is of the greatest blues/jazz/soul singers ever to come out of Northern Ireland, one the best in the world. He is a remarkable guy and has become an ambassador for music and for Northern Ireland."

Astral Weeks, released when Morrison was just 23, is considered to be one of the seminal albums of the 1960s.

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