Van Morrison’s 1969 Pop Reggae

All these years I’ve naively assumed “I Shall Sing” to be a Judy Mowatt early reggae original (and 1974 Jamaican chart-topper, according to this Los Angeles Times piece from 1986).  And yet that same Times piece makes clear, Judy Mowatt was taking her musical inspiration from Miriam Makeba (not Art Garfunkel), as “I Shall Sing” turns out to have come from the pen of Van Morrison, who first recorded it November 11, 1969 for his Moondance album – but ultimately binned it!

Van Morrison sheet musicOn October 8, 2013, Mojo would make a rather big to-do over the premeire of this Caribbean-flavoured “never-before-released” track:

“I Shall Sing” (take 7)     Van Morrison     1969

Check out the fresh arrangement, especially the offbeat intro that kicks off the version sung by Judy Mowatt:

“I Shall Sing”     Judy Mowatt     197

Miriam Makeba’s Warner Brothers single was originally selected by Billboard for its Top 60 Pop Spotlight (i.e., predicted to reach the Top 60 of the Hot 100 Chart) in its July 4, 1970 edition:

“This happy Van Morrison swinger serves as potent material for the top stylist.  Her most commercial outing in some time this could prove an out and out smash.”

Van Morrison - Miriam Makeba 45-aMowatt’s version may have topped the Jamaican charts in 1974, but her recording had originally been released in 1971 using at least two music aliases — Julian (in Jamaica) and Jean and the Gaytones (in the UK) — as well as her own name.  Imagine this music blogger’s delight in discovering “Musical Fight” by The Crashers to be the flip side of the Jean and the Gaytones 45 released by Trojan!

Van Morrison - Judy Mowatt 45-a1971 would also be the year France Gall would give the song the Schlager treatment for the German market.

Toots and the Maytals, meanwhile, would arrange a stellar roots reggae version for 1976’s Reggae Got Soul album, while Marcia Griffiths would revive “I Shall Sing” in 1993 in a modern roots style.

Art Garfunkel would have the most success with “I Shall Sing” in the States (#38 Pop) in 1973 — Billboard would select Garfunkel’s 45 as one of the “Top Single Picks” for the week of December 15, 1973 and have these words of praise:

“A zesty tune from Art’s current album brings us a happy picture with a Caribbean flavor.  This is hand clapping, joyous music with Garfunkel’s dueting with himself and lots of infectious music behind his saga of always singing as a way of staying happy.”

Van Morrison - Art Garfunkel 45-a