Van Morrison – Tupelo Honey

Today, October 8th 2022, marks the 5th anniversary of your Kiki’s (my mom) passing. She was initially diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 17 years old.  She would go on to have one recurrence, a full mastectomy and 2 other original malignant tumors.  I knew her with cancer longer than I knew her without.  If I can think of one beautiful thing that came out of her battles with this horrible disease, it was that she started living life the way she wanted to and not the way others expected her to.  She playfully dabbled in the spiritual and astral, she re-traveled the world (sometimes with a psychic at her side), and she dove head first into music.  It seemed like every few months, she was trying her hand at some new instrument, none ever taking.  The saxophone stage was a particularly brutal phase for your granddad.  She somehow got close to the artist Liz Phair and her band….it’s not often your 60 something your old mom takes you backstage after a show to hang out.  But she really had 2 obsessive muses during this period, Elvis Presley and Van Morrison.  She would tell me that Elvis was her spiritual connection (for almost 10 straight years she would visit Graceland on the day of his death) and Morrison the musical one.  None of it she took too seriously.  She lived in and for the whimsical.  

This is a happy album.  Sweet and sappy.  Sometimes I jokingly feel that the Belfast cowboy woke up one morning and said, “Ah fuck it, I’m just going to make an album chalked full of ‘our songs’ for couples and ‘first dance songs’ for dads at their daughter’s wedding.  Just watch me.” Tupelo Honey catches Van Morrison arguably at his peak,  enjoying domestic delight.  Living reclusively but happily in Woodstock, NY then in remote CA, Morrison produced an album that is a crazy combo of his trademark blue eyed soul, rock, blues, some jazz and a good bit of country.  The album captures the essence of the simple pleasures of young love and family. The sentimentalist in me can’t help but love the lyric, “Daddy’s Home.  Give my child a squeeze” on “Old Old Woodstock.”  Sadly this bliss was fleeting for Van Morrison.  If I could distill this album into one phrase it would be…want what you have.

Being diagnosed with cancer was not a death knell for KiKi.  Instead, I think she chose to live how I assume Van felt when making this album.  Cancer allowed her to “start a new life.”  She was happy, determined and cheerful.  She also became a different kind of recluse.  She did not feel compelled to attend or participate in any activities simply because she feared what other people would say in her absence. It wasn’t always as “sweet as tupelo honey.”  There were so many difficult days, but she never outwardly showed that pain.  She never felt sorry for herself or even asked for sympathy.  TCB, that was her adopted motto.

Her death was the finality of her physical presence in my life, but I have never felt like she is truly gone.  She is still with me every day, through music, her wisdom and mainly her whimsy.  To this day, I will have people come up to me and say, “You know your mom made me a mixed CD of Van Morrison.  It’s awesome.”  Who knew.  I didn’t.  But that was KiKi.  You got to meet her, but you may not remember her.  She loved you so much, and you possess so many of her qualities.

I wrote her obituary.  If you’d like to read it and I hope it’s still accessible, it can be found here .

Favorite Tracks: “Moonshine Whiskey” “(Straight to Your Heart) Like a Cannonball” “Wild Night” “Old Old Woodstock”

Pressings: Warner Brothers – WS-1950. Original Pressing. Santa Maria. 1971.

Warner Brothers – WS-1950. Gatefold.  Winchester. 1973