Study Guide

Brown Eyed Girl

Brown Eyed Girl Introduction

In a Nutshell

Is there a person alive who can't remember when we used to sing "Sha la la la la la la la la la la dee dah"?

We're feelin' confident in our answer of "no," probably because we're all still singing this one.

The 1967 classic "Brown Eyed Girl" is regularly included on DJ lists of most frequently requested songs. It's been covered by artists as diverse as Jimmy Buffett and Everclear. And at one time or another it's been performed by Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Green Day, Reel Big Fish, and that ol' achy breaky Billy Ray Cyrus.

But Morrison once referred to "Brown Eyed Girl" as a "throwaway song" and claims that he has written hundreds that are better. (Source) Is the song too light for the famously introspective artist? Is he disappointed that millions of karaoke singers have failed to find the deeper, grittier meaning that some claim to have found in his sha la las? Or is he disappointed in himself and the uncharacteristic loss of nerve that some say lie behind his girl's brown eyes?

Some real thought provokers right there. In fact, sometimes "we're overcome thinking about" it.

About the Song

ArtistMorrison, Van
Year1967
LabelBang Records
Writer(s)Van Morrison
Producer(s)Bert Berns
Musician(s)Van Morrison (vocals, guitar) Eric Gale (guitar), Al Giorgioni (guitar), Russ Savakus (bass), Paul Griffin (piano), Gary Chester (drums)
Learn to playTablature
AlbumBlowin' Your Mind

Music Video

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Influences on Morrison, Van

Ray Charles
Jelly Roll Morton
Muddy Waters
Lead Belly
Woody Guthrie
Hank Williams
Jimmie Rodgers
The Carter Family

Influenced by Morrison, Van

Elvis Costello
Bob Segar
Thin Lizzy
Bruce Springsteen
Ray LaMontagne
Counting Crows
John Mellencamp
U-2
Rod Stewart
Tom Petty

Brown Eyed Girl Resources

Books

Clinton Heylin, Can You Feel the Silence?: Van Morrison: A New Biography (2004)
This is for the hardcore fan, the reader who won't be content with an abbreviated look at the Irish artist's life. Almost 600 pages long, the tome follows Morrison from his working-class roots through "the dark end of the street" at the turn of the century.

Greil Marcus, When That Rough God Goes Riding: Listening to Van Morrison (2010)
There are literally dozens of books about Van Morrison. The newest, and possibly the best, is by cultural critic and Rolling Stone regular, Greil Marcus.

Albums

Blowin' Your Mind (1967)
This album has always bothered Morrison. Recorded in just two days, its eight songs were packaged and released by producer Bert Berns without Morrison's approval. One cut, "Brown Eyed Girl," became a classic; the rest of the album drew mixed reviews. But it's Morrison's first solo effort after leaving Them, so students of the artist should have a listen.

Astral Weeks (1968)
Morrison followed up Blowin' Your Mind with Astral Weeks, an introspective, ruminating mixture of jazz, blues, folk, and classical music. Many fans were more confused than thrilled by the ambitious project. Critics, though, were impressed, and grew even more enthusiastic about the album over time. Today, critics consider it one of the great albums of the last half-century—they just can't decide exactly how to label the music.

Moondance (1970)
Morrison gave his less cerebral fans something to work with in this 1970 release. It contains some of the most recognizable Morrison hits ("Moondance," "And it Stoned Me," "Caravan," "Into the Mystic," and "Come Running").

St. Dominic's Preview (1972)
After a series of fairly accessible albums, Morrison reminded his fans that he could get complicated. He tapped more deeply into his Celtic roots and produced an album that Rolling Stone called even more ambitious than Astral Weeks. Some cuts were too demanding for the casual fan. But even these responded well to songs like "Jackie Wilson Said."

A Sense of Wonder (1985)
During the 1980s, Morrison explored a series of religious themes in his work. This album, issued in the middle of this phase, offers a nice introduction and summary of this period.

Images

Them
Van Morrison and the band with which he recorded "Gloria" in 1964.

Blowin' Your Mind
The 1967 album, released without Morrison's approval, that included "Brown Eyed Girl."

Movies & TV

Van Morrison: Live at Montreux, 1980/1974 (2006)
This official DVD includes two Van Morrison performances at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.

Websites

Van Morrison Official Website
This is the official Van Morrison site. It may be as cryptic as the complex artist himself.

Life and Discography
An extensive discussion of Morrison's life, as well as an album-by-album review of his work, can be found here.

Video & Audio

Van Morrison Interview, 2009
A Time Magazine interview with Morrison is available here.

"Brown Eyed Girl" (Live)
Morrison performs "Brown Eyed Girl" in 1973.