My favorite Van Morrison song is “Caravan”, from his 1970 album, Moondance.
The song–indeed, the entire album–is full of great moments, but I’m especially fond of the ones that open the song. I experience Jeff Labes’ piano trill as an invitation of sorts, a quick beckoning of the finger. I’m intrigued, move toward the beckoner, then with that first rap on the drum kit, I trip and tumble, along with the syncopated piano line, down into a rabbit hole that delivers me to a world of gypsies, and music on the radio, and of soul, friends and infectious joy.
In 2002, the writer Nick Hornby issued an essay collection, Songbook, about 31 of his favorite songs, including “Caravan.” He specifically wrote the essay about a live version of the song that appeared on the 1974 double album It’s Too Late To Stop Now, but for me this description applies to the version on Moondance as well:
“…it sounds to me like it could be played over the closing credits of the best film you’ve ever seen; and if something sounds like that to you, then surely by extension it means that it could also be played at your own funeral. I don’t think this is overdramatizing the importance of one’s own life….you’d have to have been pretty unlucky, at least in our part of the world (and if you walked into a bookshop and bought this book, you live in the part I’m talking about), not to have experienced a few moments of joy or pure hope or clenched-fist triumph or simple contentment amongst all the drudgery and heartbreak and pain. To me, “Caravan” recognizes and synthesizes all of it, and just because what it produces from the whole extraordinary mess is something that sounds cheerful, it doesn’t mean that the song’s trite.”
More moments: From 1:42 to 2:03:
I long just to hold you tight so I can feel you
Sweet lady of the night I shall reveal you
What woman wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of lines sung with such emotion?