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Van Morrison Mocks His Alma Mater

Van Morrison's face bears the lines and concaves of a 62-year-old man. But in his new "School of Hard Knocks," his voice sounds as youthful and swaggering as it did when he was doing a moondance more than 30 years ago.

"School of Hard Knocks," from Morrison's new disc Keep It Simple, has all of the Irish bard's hallmarks. The rich and mellow voice still has just the right hint of upper-register edge and lower-register gravel. Now and then, words are slurred with a devil-may-care attitude. The song features a steady keyboard vamp, melancholy guitar licks, and some righteous backup singers who seem to have stepped out of a church choir.

As for the self-composed lyric, it's slightly incomprehensible in that mystical Van Morrison way, yet full of real rue. This School of Hard Knocks alum laments his post-graduation plight: "no wavelength, no mileage, no current currency, no answers — just silence." Some things never change; the ability of Van Morrison to seep into a listener's soul is one of them.

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This story originally ran on April 23, 2008.

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Marc Silver
Marc Silver, who edits NPR's global health blog, has been a reporter and editor for the Baltimore Jewish Times, U.S. News & World Report and National Geographic. He is the author of Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) During Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond and co-author, with his daughter, Maya Silver, of My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks: Real-Life Advice From Real-Life Teens. The NPR story he co-wrote with Rebecca Davis and Viola Kosome -- 'No Sex For Fish' — won a Sigma Delta Chi award for online reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists.
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