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Freedom of Belfast for Van Morrison

Van Morrison is to be granted the Freedom of Belfast.

The 68-year-old singer-songwriter, who was born in the east of the city, is likely to receive the accolade next year.

Belfast City Council is expected to agree the honour - the highest it can bestow -at a meeting next month.

Morrison, affectionately to fans as "Van the Man" has taken inspiration from his home city for a number of hits, including Cypress Avenue and Hyndford Street, which have sold millions worldwide.

His professional musical career began in the 1950s when he played a variety of instruments, including the harmonica and saxophone, for a number of Irish showbands. He then went on to join the band Them and enjoyed success with their breakthrough hit, Gloria.

But it was the hugely popular solo hit Brown Eyed Girl, released in 1967, and his second album, Moondance, which propelled the shipyard electrician's son to global stardom.

Throughout his lengthy career he has enjoyed critical acclaim, winning s ix Grammy Awards, a Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music and places in both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Despite his achievements, Morrison has not forgotten his working-class roots and has continued to play intimate gigs across Northern Ireland - most recently at Dunluce Castle, a medieval ruin on the north Antrim coast, this summer. Last year he headlined the community-run East Belfast Arts Festival.

Morrison has previously been awarded honorary doctorates from Queen's University and the University of Ulster and during the 1990s was given an OBE for services to music.

It is understood the proposal to grant him the Freedom of Belfast has received the full backing of the council but some of the 51 elected representatives have privately expressed concern that he may not attend a civic ceremony.

"No-one is going to oppose it but some members have expressed reservations. They are concerned he might not turn up to get it," said one source.

In May, Olympic gold medallist Dame Mary Peters received the freedom of the city in recognition of her sporting achievements and contribution to Belfast life.

The pentathlete was the first person to receive the honour in a decade.

In 2002 the Merchant Navy was given the Freedom of Belfast by former Lord Mayor Jim Rodgers.

Other recipients include poet John Hewitt, artist Sir John Lavery and wartime prime minister Winston Churchill.

A council spokesman declined to comment on the Morrison proposal.

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