The Art Critic, Part I

Van Morrison Has a Million Dollar Brain

Van Morrison is filthy rich but fears he’ll become three car garage poor and summer home impoverished by the time this pandemic is over. He is Ireland’s Sir MIGA hat troubadour calling out the “pseudoscience” around coronavirus. Could it be that the accomplished singer songwriter and heather poet of sentimentality now has a PhD in epidemiology? I hear he’s interning at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. My God, what an over-achiever! Couldn’t just sit back to watch the sun rise and set on a well-earned fortune and die out like every other human being on earth. No. He decided to use his influence to help along the weak to an early grave. Van the man. Van the Antichrist.

I have very little patience during the holiday season with a millionaire pretending to give a shit about “artists” in an “industry” where he sits at the top. Van the superstar loving the people who are hurting because they can’t make money performing before a live audience. Not the kind of money Van is used to—the hundred dollar a ticket audience. He doesn’t care if fans catch coronavirus at his concert to go home and cough on Grandma. Actually, Grandma is the fan, and now has three weeks to live. Van has his private plane to help him get away from it all. Or, at any moment he can be chauffeured down to Monte Carlo to think about more money. He’s right that musicians are going broke. And so are managers and janitors of everywhere. Small business owners too. Financial misery taking its toll the world over. Tough guy Van Morrison using the desperation of the working class musician to get what he wants, which is more money. Always more money. What a greedy little man. And I thought he was a poet. Got played by the millionaire again Mr. Throop. When will you ever learn?

It’s universally understood that 99.999% of performing artists won’t ever see for themselves the thousands of dollars Van halls in nightly at concert halls on major world city tours. The super majority of musical artists, like poets and painters and dancers without a city ballet or Broadway, have been in a long term relationship with financial failure long before the coronavirus pulled Morrison’s greed chain.

People love live music and will attend performance by any half decent garage band, especially if there is free pizza and beer. To give an example of how lucrative Van’s “industry” is to the stage musician in my neck of the woods, I give the example of the open mic set in any mid-sized city of upstate NY. Rose and the Amateurs is our band name, and before coronavirus, we were the hot novice group on the open mic scene. Our first gig ever was in January 2020, and our debut set of four songs, literally unplugged with cheap guitars and Walmart harmonica, went off splendidly. Our hosts were gracious. It helped that the whole audience consisted of a bartender and the five other musicians waiting for their turn to play. I made sure to tell the room that this was our first live gig ever, so the critics would be kind and supportive. I knew they weren’t getting much, but we were giving our all. (Side note: One of our covers was “I Wanna Roo You (Scottish Derivative)” by Van Morrison). After that night we played open mic venues once every two weeks until the coronavirus put a block on our path to fame and fortune.

I noticed that these amateur nights attracted a sizable group of very talented, professional musicians, songwriters, and performers. Rose and the Amateurs they were not! In fact, I felt intimidated and very uncomfortable each time. Stage fright aside, I was a bit peeved that these accomplished musicians filled up amateur night just to practice or show off. Couldn’t they get their own paid gigs? Wasn’t Van’s music “industry” set in the thick of things, busy supporting those talented musicians willing and able to work? Or was it always a low-paying, desperate career option for dreamers and fools? Were the talents of these guys and gals a dime a dozen, and therefore unable to secure enough gigs to make a living? Or were they just as I suspected, the used and abused believers in an imaginary world Van created with his big fat millionaire lies?

The average pay for a salaried musician in the U.K. is roughly £28,000 ($38,000 U.S.)/year. Obviously, the majority of these employed musicians are not creative pop singers like Morrison. Think of oboe players in a city symphony, or a baritone at the Royal Opera House. Also, the average salary is skewed a great deal because of rock anomalies like Elton John, Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey and Morrison himself, whose net worth combined amounts to 1.5 billion U.S. dollars (I could name another 10 British Rock Star fortunes to double this number.) In 2019, 52,000 people in Great Britain claimed musician to be their sole occupation. I couldn’t find how those numbers broke down into specific genres (e.g. stage performers, studio musicians, tuba players, etc.) however, we can make a layman’s guess that the ratios did not favor original rock and roll performers, the self-styled and self sustaining ones—like Morrison—and not the hacks playing weddings and reunions covering tried and true classics like “Moondance” and “Have I Told You Lately?”. Those who could become popular like a Van Morrison, the original artists, comprise a low segment of the 52,000 total U.K. musicians. 1,000 would be my estimation. (This is completely unscientific. I base the assumption on numbers of performing artists I have known in my lifetime. One creative, original, and talented, self-supporting musician per fifty sounds about right).

Van Morrison has a net worth of 90 million dollars.

It appears then that science-denier Sir Van is rich enough to cover a year’s worth of salaries for the original musical talent of the U.K. His fortune could supply weekly stimulus checks to cover food and rent for the thousand struggling creators, with enough left over to keep his pool cleaners employed. Van can use his wealth to become his own temporary branch of the music industry! Oh no, not that! It’s much more lucrative to team up with another multimillionaire like Eric Clapton (net worth $450,000,000) and chastise the weak for being meek. “Stand and Deliver” is their lockdown protest song.

Check out these lyrics to see how a half billion bucks of talent respects a fat man’s lungs drowning in intensive care:

“Do you wanna be a free man
Or do you wanna be a slave?
Do you wanna be a free man
Or do you wanna be a slave?
Do you wanna wear these chains
Until you're lying in the grave?

I don't wanna be a pauper
And I don't wanna be a prince
I don't wanna be a pauper
And I don't wanna be a prince
I just wanna do my job
Playing the blues for friends”

I just wanna do my job playing the blues for friends.

Their next two verses unwritten?

Then me and Eric go sit by the pool
Robert the butler serves caviar and cognac
and you paupers with heart conditions
lie dead in a bed

Stand and deliver
Our money or your life?
We just wanna play the blues for friends
With our money and your life

Full circle back to open mic hit sensation Rose and the Amateurs, who really do just play the blues for friends, without expectation of getting paid. Because of COVID’s penchant for cell destruction and its multimillion people success in the Death and Despair industry, we set up our stage in a garage, social distance, and, weather permitting, invite a friend or two to stop by and watch from the driveway. We drink bourbon and beer, order pizza, and play for six hours straight. “Reminds Me of You” is my signature Van Morrison cover. Rose and I sing a lusty “The Way Young Lovers Do” duet with Mike on the bodhran. The band looks forward to these nights with relish. We don’t worry so much about “the industry”. We know that deadly microbes come and go—it’s what the paid scientists are telling us. There will be a future freedom around the corner, and the group doesn’t feel any indoor swimming pool upkeep need to infect strangers in a stadium or bar with our oh so obvious pathetic and disgusting greed.

Sir Van Morrison is an exceptional talent and amazing songwriter. I am glad he’s been awarded the fame and fortune he so much deserves. But if he’s got a problem with the fate of struggling artists, and his solution is to sicken the weak (any person with lungs) in order to pay the strong (himself and Eric), then maybe it’s better social science to commandeer the Morrison-Clapton fortune and distribute their grotesque wealth to those musicians who might prefer a secure month of food and shelter instead of just playing the blues for friends.

To tangent:

Edgeworth Johnstone is my idea of a U.K artist from tip to toe. (Go here please!) He is an inspired and talented songwriter and performer, a painter and printer with verve and energy to be admired and supported by the science-denier Sir Van Morrison. I don’t know Edgeworth’s take on the virility of the coronavirus, and I’d rather not he tell me because it doesn’t matter. He hasn’t amounted to the influencer power of a Sir Van Morrison. The latter who, in a day, can reach the eyes and ears of a million people. His state of the art is all about wearing his laurels to confuse and kill off a good right number of innocent citizens.

Go to Hell Van Morrison. And thanks for all the great tunes.

Eric Clapton, you’re a tenth of the creator Van is, yet 5 times richer. What should that tell you about yourself and the world? Go eat cheese creative poser.

Thanks Edgeworth Johnstone for keeping art, art. I hope you get paid some day.

Now for Rose and the Amateurs on Amateur Night when all the accomplished musicians come out to make feel small the amateurs. These were our first and fourth gigs ever, weeks before the virus came to kill. Van’s message thinks I should have pointed to the most unhealthy looking chap or chapette in the room and shouted, “You die next so I can express myself! Sacrifice for the blues! Sacrifice for the blues!”

At the first venue, neither Rose nor the instruments were amplified. I was hitting the strings so hard with my tennis elbow arm that I drowned out the one talented musician. Mike’s fiddle can barely be detected (using my ears anyway), but he sounded great, as you can see by the confident bowing. I sing out of key often, but that’s expected. I nearly suck. There are better recorded tunes with Rose lead singing, but this is a Van Morrison chastisement, so I chose his songs to highlight.

My blood is boiling. Representative John Katko (NY-24) has been vaccinated before a child. Before my mother, my father, residents of nursing homes, supermarket cashiers, ambulance drivers. Untold arrogance! Photographed with a smug look, and a thumb’s up. I have never been so disgusted with another human being. And I carry this rancor over to my small-minded neighbors hiding in their self-satisfied fear bubbles. Those who vote cowards the power to decide who lives and who dies. What a tragic time! The winter of our discontent and season of cowardice!

A story out of Africa.

Long ago in a barren land, a man and his family were starving. The husband, a skilled hunter, set out each day to bring home supper, even a carcass if he could. No such luck. Every sun-down he returned empty-handed. The land was shedding its life. One day, while hunting mirages far from home, he came upon a berry bush growing in the shade of a large boulder. He couldn’t believe his good luck and ate as much as he could, estimating there were enough berries to feed the family for at least another week. Suddenly the thought crossed his mind that if he kept this find to himself, then the food source could last a month or more and enable him to continue the hunt. “Why spread out the rations and weaken us all,” he thought, “when I can stay strong and provide for the family?” He knew very well the berries were a day’s walk away, and that there would be no time for hunting and gathering if he hoped to reach the boulder and return to the hut before sundown and the arrival of the angry spirits of the night.

He would not tell his wife about the discovery. No berries for his family. In the morning he set off and walked a half day to the berry bush, ate his fill, and returned with nothing, telling his wife that the animals had abandoned them. Time passed and the children were noticeably suffering. However, the man had stamina even after miles and miles of walking each day. The wife had her suspicions but kept them to herself. He learned of the death of their first child on the evening the berries had nearly run out. The next day he arrived at the boulder for the last time. The spirits were friendly here. They left him these berries did they not? He would brave the night and get a fresh start in the morning to head further west than he had ever been. He awoke safe and sound and fed himself to the last berry on the bush. No longer starving, he was hopeful for a good hunt in a better land.

The end.

Merry Christmas unto us fools of the 24th. Our Congressman got vaccinated. Glory be to Washington D.C.

Please forgive me for a shortened Friday Freeflow. It’s Christmas Eve Day morning. I have a pie to bake, shrimp to clean, and an attitude to adjust.

May the new year stick a jagged tungsten needle through the heart of coronavirus, and turn.