At some point in the mid-1960s, music journalist Pat Egan received a phone call at the offices of New Spotlight magazine in Dublin. At first he thought it was the writers "Sammy Smyth and Donal Corvin winding me up pretending to be Van Morrison".
This time, however, it really was Van. In his gruff speaking manner, he said, "Drop down to the house tonight and have dinner." Pat asked Van to repeat the invitation as he didn't believe it.
"Van had rented a country house near Navan," Pat, who went on to become a famous music promoter, remembers. "I got there about 7pm-ish in my VW Beetle, wearing my coolest leather jacket."
After writing about Van for so long in New Spotlight, Pat was excited about meeting the great man. The housekeeper let him in to a big drawing room and told him Mr Morrison would see him shortly.
After close to an hour waiting, the housekeeper returned and informed an ashen-faced young Pat: "Mr Morrison has decided to dine alone."
"She handed me an autographed photo," recalls Pat, nearly six decades later, "and showed me out the front door."
In the summer of 1994, I had a more pleasant dinner experience with Van and his girlfriend, Michelle Rocca, and Michelle's late brother, Patrick, in La Stampa on Dawson Street in Dublin. Although he kept his baseball cap and his dark glasses on throughout the meal, he was mostly charming, if remote.
He was, of course, an absolute gentleman to Michelle, even when she scowled at him when he suggested we split the sizeable bill at the end of a two-hour meal.
We all ended up in Lillie's nightclub on Grafton Street before going to a house party on Park Avenue in Sandymount until dawn, a party at which Van played guitar and serenaded the woman with whom he was so transparently in love. I thought they were made for each other.
Michelle was good for Van. She brought out the best in him. She calmed him down. Thanks to Michelle (and her friend, fashion director Ian Galvin), Van dressed better and, around her, appeared less of the grump of international legend. He was good with Michelle's three young kids (Danielle and Natasha by ex-Arsenal footballer John Devine, and Claudia by Cathal Ryan, son of Ryanair founder Tony Ryan). He would on occasion sing to them.
If Michelle was good for him, Van was not without his qualities either. Van was the emotional rock who stood by Michelle when she took Cathal Ryan to the High Court in 1997.
Van appeared to be on his best behaviour with Michelle as an influence, as a girlfriend. This was in stark contrast to the irascible curmudgeon, short of leg and temper, whom author Salman Rushdie once wrote of meeting late one night in Bono's house in Killiney and being allegedly "treated to the rough edge of the great man's tongue".
Salman also noted that Van "has been known to get a little grumpy towards the end of a long evening". Or a short evening. Pre-Michelle, Van was a world-class moaner. "For years people have been saying to me - you know, nudge, nudge - 'Have you heard this guy Springsteen'," he said to The New Age magazine in 1985. "And he's definitely ripped me off ... (and) I feel p****d off now that I know about it."
"There was one time Van didn't say a word for three days," Jackie McAuley of Them (Van's group from 1964 to 1966) recalled in Johnny Rogan's book Van Morrison: No Surrender. "He wouldn't even mumble. That would just drive everybody mad."
The point was, Van was seldom - if ever - any of those things around his raven-haired inamorata, Miss Ireland 1980. He doted on Michelle. He did things around her that none of us could have scarcely imagined Van Morrison doing, because he was mad about her.
One night in the Conrad Hilton in Dublin, after a show at the National Concert Hall across the road, Michelle had Van gave an impromptu singing lesson to her mother, Maureen, and other guests, among them actress Alison Doody's mother, Joan.
Close bond: Violet Morrison, Van Morrison’s mother, entertains members of the Age Concern Day Centre at North Road, Belfast in 2003
"Anyone can sing!" Van declared as we all looked on, apart from Michelle who insisted Van continue the singing lessons.
One commentator compared famous recluse Van on the cover of his 1995 album Days Like This - walking the dogs with Michelle - as "almost a Hello! magazine moment". She had also been immortalised on the cover of the No Prima Donna album in 1994.
Michelle softened Van, made him likeable in company, more open and trusting. "My father was a collector," he told Michelle when she interviewed him for London rock magazine Vox in 1994. "There were probably only 10 big collectors in Belfast and he was one. He had Charlie Parker's first-ever record."
He also talked about his mother to Michelle and me one night at their base in Clyde Lane in Dublin. (They would eventually move to a big house in Dalkey). You'd sometimes wonder that, after Michelle, the real love of Van Morrison's life was his mother, Violet Stitt.
In 1978, he told Rolling Stone magazine that "my mother was a great singer - and still is. She could sing anything from Al Jolson to Ave Maria."
There is a possibly apocryphal story: in the early 1960s, when Van for a time played saxophone in a showband called The Olympics, before a gig in Derry, the band's minibus drove up outside Van's house at 125 Hyndford Street, east Belfast. Alfie Walsh, the lead singer, got out and rang the door bell. Opening the door, Violet politely sent Alfie packing.
"Yer man can't play," Alfie told the rest of the Olympics. "His ma says he's not coming out. He's upstairs in his room, writing poetry."
A few years later, in 1966, during Van's time in America, Pat Egan recalled receiving "a lovely letter" from Violet in Belfast, "thanking me for including him in my column in New Spotlight every week".
Violet and her husband George's only child, George Ivan Morrison, was born on August 31, 1945. Van's parents were Protestant. His mother was, for a time, a Jehovah's Witness. "For a while, a brief encounter, that was all," Van said.
He wrote about Violet attending Jehovah's Witness meetings in the song Kingdom Hall from his 1978 album Wavelength: "Down at the Kingdom Hall/They were havin' a party/They were havin' a ball/Bells were ringing out/And the choir was singin."
"My mother was what you would describe as a free thinker," Van once said. "She would check things out and read about things, but she never joined anything. I got interested in studying the religious thing, because it was never shoved down my throat, whereas most of the people I grew up with, or went to school with, it was really imposed on them."
Violet, who was in her 90s, died on May 31, 2016, at Richmond Private Nursing Home in Holywood (Van's father died in 1998). The funeral service was held at St Donard's Parish Church on the Beersbridge Road, where Violet and George were married on Christmas Day 1941.
Surely, one of the saddest photographs ever published of Van and Michelle - the last time they were photographed together in public - was at Violet's funeral. The look on Van's face seemed as much of profound sadness at the loss of his mother as, in a sense, the loss of the other woman most dear to him in the world, Michelle Rocca.
Six short years earlier, with echoes of the George Jones' song Things Have Gone to Pieces Van once covered, Van's relationship - and child - with Texan blonde, Gigi Lee caused no end of headlines across the world.
It caused Van's wife no end of inner pain, too. Michelle, who has two children with Van, learned that Gigi gave birth to George Ivan Morrison III on December 28, 2009.
What made this worse was Van issuing a statement on December 31, 2009: "For the avoidance of all doubt and in the interests of clarity, I am very happily married to Michelle Morrison with whom I have two wonderful children. We spent a quiet Christmas all together in Dublin."
Tragically, George Ivan Morrison III died after suffering a diabetic coma on January 25, 2011 at Gigi Lee's home in Fort Worth, Texas. The baby was 13 months old. His 44-year-old mother died in October, 2011, of throat cancer in the Marie Curie hospice in Belfast. Gigi was diagnosed with cancer two months before her son was born.
Turning 75 on August 31, Van remains one of the true giants of music. There is no doubt that Van, when he was a very young man in 1968, wrote one of the greatest albums ever recorded, Astral Weeks, "a long goodbye, both to his younger self and to the city of his youth, a prelapsarian Belfast untouched by bomb or bullet," as Sean O'Hagan put it in The Observer.
American critic Lester Bangs famously remarked: "Van Morrison was 22, or 23, years old when he made this record; there are lifetimes behind it."
It is a lifetime that has been much pored over. In 1991, on his album Hymns to the Silence, Van stated his position. "And I never turned out to be the person that you wanted me to be," he sang. "And I tell you who I am, time and time and time again/Tell me why must I always explain?"
Were such lyrics inspired by the women in his life? There's no doubt that, in the late-1970s, when Van met Danish woman Ulaa Munch, she became his muse. They lived on the fourth floor of a nondescript apartment block with no lift in the Vanlose district of Copenhagen.
Inspired by his love of Ulaa and his new home life, Van wrote the song Vanlose Stairway (from his 1982 album Beautiful Vision) about finding the Gita and a stairway that "reaches up to the moon and comes right back to you".
Laura Barton, in 2011 in the Guardian, wrote that not only was "much of the material" from Beautiful Vision inspired by Ulaa, but also that Van had referred to Vanlose Stairway as "a Twenty Flight Rock" - a nod, said Barton, to Eddie Cochran's "fabulously euphemistic 1957 hit about climbing 20 flights to see his "baby", only to find on his arrival that he is too tired to "rock".
Like Michelle Rocca would be many years later, Van's first wife, Janet Rigsbee (Van nicknamed his flower child Janet Planet), was immortalised on his album covers like Tupelo Honey in 1971. She even wrote the liner notes to the Moondance album in 1970 ("Once upon a time, there lived a very young man who was, as they say, gifted. His gifts were diverse, and as he gave of them to others - for gifts are for giving - he found that they were most readily accepted and much desired.")
Van and Janet, who had a son, Peter, from a previous relationship, were married in the late-1960s in New York. Their daughter, Shana Morrison, was born in Woodstock on April 7, 1970. They were to divorce in 1973.
"I would have done anything for the man who wrote those songs, who whispered in the night that they were true," she said. "I wanted more than anything to make him happy. But I just couldn't do it."
In Van's defence, Janet was never the most conventional of wives. In 1971, goes the story, she told Van at their home in California to pack everything they owned into their Audi. Their daughter's babysitter had been told by a fortune teller that astronauts had seen a piece of California fall off into Pacific.
Van drove Janet and Shana as far as Albuquerque - a 16-hour, 1,100-mile drive - until, as Janet told the LA Times in 1998, "some astronauts circling the Earth at the time landed".
Van has written some of the most beautiful love songs
Almost as cosmic and beautiful as spacemen orbiting our planet was Van made Janet immortal in the poetic lyrics of Tupelo Honey ("She's an angel of the first degree/She's as sweet as tupelo honey" - though later Van would sometimes dedicate it to Michelle), Beside You, Crazy Love, You're My Woman. Brown Eyed Girl, Ballerina, and The Way Young Lovers ("In the sweet summertime, The way that young lovers do/I kissed you on the lips once more.")
"Van has to have written some of the most beautiful love songs in the world," singer Brian Kennedy tells me. "Someone Like You has to be one of the best love songs ever," said broadcaster Marty Whelan. Marty, who met the singer in the mid-1990s and became a friend, added that: "In the right company, he can be very comfortable and chat away, but if he is not engaged he's away off. He can be like the Irish weather - changeable. But all my times in his company have been warm and friendly."
In her 1964 novel Girls in Their Married Bliss, Edna O'Brien wrote that the "protocol" of wakes and funerals was made bearable by "the wreaths and the roses and Mozart and Van Morrison". Edna would later say: "That voice which I listened to, for over 40 years - rugged, elegiac, confrontational and ghostly - speaks to me enduringly of love, love as the crux of lost mankind."