Sometime in the early Fifties — that seems to be as much as anyone knows — Van Morrison’s father, George Sr., moved to America. Specifically to Detroit. 40-some years later, his son wrote a song about it.

If I’m parsing this correctly, the idea seems to be that George intended to make it big in the colonies — maybe at an auto factory — and then send for the rest of the family. Instead, he returned home a broken man.

Well you came back home to Belfast
So you could be with us like
And you lived a life of quiet desperation on the side
Going to the shipyard in the morning on your bike

Well the spark was gone but you carried on
Well you did just the best that you could
You sent for us one time but everything fell through
But you still kept on choppin’ wood

And that must have been how it felt at the time, though I am told that George Sr. later owned a record store in Marin County, which hardly qualifies as a life of quiet desperation. I wonder, in fact, if he didn’t end up spending all the money he made in Detroit on records — because legend has it that he returned to Belfast with a gold mine of American R&B that would prove hugely influential on his son’s musical style.

What records exactly? I’m working on that. More in the days to come.