Monday, July 19, 2010

Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison

In 1967, radio stations banned “Brown Eyed Girl” from airplay on radio stations. Yes, one of the most beloved pop songs in our culture, a seemingly innocuous celebration of life and a quintessential “feel good” song was taken off the radio.



Why? Because the line “making love in the green grass” from the second verse was too explicit so it was overdubbed with a line from the first verse “laughin' and a-runnin', hey hey.”

As silly as that seems to us, it could have been a worse. When it was first being recorded Van Morrison sang this song as a “Brown Skinned Girl." In the 1960s there were many states that still had laws outlawing miscegenation (interracial marriage). That would have gone over REALLY well. Producers convinced Van Morrison to change it to “Brown Eyed Girl” inadvertently creating universal appeal to this song as most of the people on this planet have brown eyes.

What makes “Brown Eyed Girl” such a popular and meaningful song isn’t the once offensive reference in the second verse or even the fact that this song is about a girl that is characterized by a superficial feature. “Brown Eyed Girl” is a song that describes the great memory of sharing a song with someone that you love through a songs that we all can’t help but love.

The light and syncopated bass line creates a simple and relaxed groove. On top of this the guitar simply dances. After playing the opening, the guitar weaves and hops between the melody playfully outlining the chords expressing the feeling of freedom and joy that Van Morrison describes in the lyrics. If there were no singing in the song at all you would know exactly what this song was about.

It always gets to me when Van Morrison sings in the second verse “so hard to find my way, now that I’m on my own.” There’s a tint of frustration in his voice but he lets go when the chorus comes and he’s able to sing like he remembers in his memory.

The “Shalala” part is nonsensical but unapologetically joyful. When you sing along to this part you can’t help but smile allowing you to immediately understand what Van Morrison is singing about. Through this immediate connection to the music, we profoundly understand what is at the soul of this song.

Every time I listen to this song I can’t help but sing along. I know exactly what Van Morrison is singing about and because of his song reminds how great it is to share not only music but life with the people we love.

The only difference is I still have my brown eyed girl in my life.

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