I've been a huge Van fan since the early 60s when he was the lead singer and front man for the band Them. I don't know of another singer with the talent to not only write terrific songs but to interpret others' so wonderfully. To listen to his music over the decades is to explore popular music itself - from R&B to pure blues, to jazz, to soul to country. Van can take a song and make it his own while still remaining faithful to the spirit of the original.
For 30-some years now my answer to the question, "What one record would you take with you if stranded on a desert island?" has remained the same: Van's 1974 double-live album It's Too Late To Stop Now.
If you've never heard it you're in for a treat. Go buy it. Right now. I'll wait.
When you have a quiet couple of hours to yourself, pour your favourite belly-warmer and put on the first side. Listen to them in order. You'll hear familiar songs that you've never heard before.
And the previous sentence will make sense.
What brought this particular musing to the fore was my recent discovery of a blog devoted to Van and his music. The blogger, John Gilligan, has dug up news, information and best of all, video clips, of Van over the years. I was sorry to read some of the stories that indicate Van can be a rather unpleasant person. Over the years I'd learned he could be a difficult interview, prickly and unwilling to open up but wanted to believe that he was just shy. Apparently there's more to it than that.
What matters to me though, and his many fans, is the music. Van has always been about the music.
Go visit Mr. Gilligan's blog and see/hear for yourself.