If I had to think about it—which I don’t—I guess I would say that Van Morrison is my favorite Irish singer. And if forced to choose—which I’m not—I suppose I’d name Patrick Kavanagh as my favorite Irish poet.
Morrison and Kavanagh meet and shake hands, figuratively speaking, when Van sings “Raglan Road,” a poem that Kavanagh wrote for the old Irish air, The Dawning of the Day. It’s available on Van’s classic album with the Chieftains, Irish Heartbeat, and can currently be heard via the YouTube clip below.
Why Patrick Kavanagh instead of W.B. Yeats? Well, I think I prefer Kavanagh over Yeats in the world of Irish poets in the same way that I prefer Lorenz Hart over Oscar Hammerstein II in the world of lyricists for Richard Rodgers. Hart’s lyrics are a little rougher-edged, sprinkled with irreverence, insouciance and unpredictability. Hammerstein’s words by comparison are how I think of Yeats’ poetry: more formal and grand. (Still good, mind you.)
Of-course, you can take such comparisons too far, and I have no doubt that I already have.
Some might not think that Van Morrison should be in the running as a favorite Irish singer, given his global stature, the fact that he grew up a non-Catholic in Belfast, and that his chief musical influences have been black Americans. But all that is of no account to me.