“Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison was originally titled “Brown Skinned Girl.” The title of the song was changed in the interest of greater airplay (Van Morrison has called this “a mistake.”) Some radio stations still banned the song because of the line “Making love in the green grass.” Can you imagine if they had heard some of the pop songs of today? Remember, this song came out in 1967. A song about an interracial couple was definitely pushing the societal norm of that era.
His Backing Vocals Sang with Elvis
The backing vocals on the song were performed by The Sweet Inspirations. The group performed with a ton of other artists (plus their originals). Sweet Inspiration sang on “Chain Of Fools” by Aretha Franklin and “I Say a Little Prayer” by Dionne Warwick. The Sweet Inspirations became Elvis Presley’s female backing singers in 1969. They toured and recorded with Elvis until his death.
The song was awarded a “Million-Air” certificate at the 2009 BMI London Awards. The certificate is given in recognition of songs by European artists that have reached multi-million US radio and television performances. “Brown Eyed Girl” topped the 2009 list with an astounding nine million performances. By 2011, the song had passed 10 million plays.
Who was the “Brown Eyed Girl?“
No one knows for sure and Van Morrison isn’t talking. Despite it being considered his signature song, Van Morrison tends to downplay it.
If you’ve been to a Van Morrison concert, you probably didn’t hear “Brown Eyed Girl.” In 2009 Time magazine interview, he said, “‘Brown Eyed Girl’ I didn’t perform for a long time because for me it was like a throwaway song. I’ve got about 300 other songs I think are better than that.” Here’s Morrison performing the song in 1967:
Van Morrison as an Artist
Van Morrison was only 22 when this song was released and it became his first American Top Ten single. From my knowledge base of Van Morrison’s history, he is private and eccentric. He’s one of the most gifted Irish poets of our time, but he’s also a pain in the neck to work with.
Bang Records, Bert Berns, had worked with Morrison previously and produced “Brown Eyed Girl.” Berns brought his pop sensibilities to the table. Van Morrison wasn’t necessarily pleased by this. “I never wanted to be commercial, and suddenly, “Brown Eyed Girl” was making me even more commercial.” Morrison was signed to Bert’s label, Bang Records. his deal included management, production, and publishing. The deal went south fast over creative differences. Van Morrison left Bang records and legal disputes raged for years. Bert Berns died from a heart attack in December of 1967. Morrison signed with Warner Bros. and released Astral Works in 1968.
Van Morrison was one of the first artists to hire a Web Sheriff back in the early 2000s. Web sheriffs policed sites to make sure that content wasn’t defamatory, incorrect, or unprovable on behalf of their clients. He has always been fiercely private.