What have a grumpy and chunky Irishman with a liking for fedoras (that would be Sir George Ivan “The Man” Morrison) got in common with a very cheerful and annoyingly slim Englishman who spends half his time dwelling on his Scottish roots (Sir Roderick “Rod the Mod” David Stewart) got in common? Apart from the fact that they’ve both earned a decent rock-and-roll-and-pop-and-blues-and-more crust for more years than even they probably care to remember, Van and Rod share a place in the annals of excellence for their renditions of the classic romancer, Have I Told You Lately (That I Love You)?

It’s unlikely that the man whose stage presence makes Bob Dylan’s performing persona seem like a stand-up comedian (Ivan) and the geezer who these days risks putting his hip out by still kicking footballs into his adoring crowds of fans (Roderick), ever thought they would share anything other than the year in which they were born – 1945 (Rod in January and Van in August). Rod may have made it out of the maternity ward first but it’s Van who claims first dibs on Have I Told You Lately.

An ever decreasing number of people will, of course, recall that he can’t claim the same got-their-first rights on the song’s title. He may have written the song more modern pop pickers recognize for his nineteenth studio album Avalon Sunset (1989) but a song of the same name had been doing the rounds since Scotty Wiseman wrote it in the mid 1940s with later versions of it recorded by such luminaries as Bing Crosby with the Andrews Sisters in 1949 and later by rockers Eddie Cochran and Elvis Presley.

It’s claimed to have originally been written as a prayer and most of its original lyrics could certainly double as a hymn. For example:

“Oh the morning sun in all its glory
Greets the day with hope and comfort too
And you fill my life with laughter
You can make it better
Ease my troubles that’s what you do.”

More recently though it has been adopted as the song most likely to be played as the first or sometimes last smoocher at weddings. After all, it’s a hard heart (or a short lived groom) who can resist the sentiment of:

“Have I told you lately that I love you
Have I told you there’s no one above you
Fill my heart with gladness
Take away my sadness
Ease my troubles, that’s what you do.”

Proof? Well In August 2006, Van’s original recording was voted number six on a list of the Top 10 First Dance Wedding Songs, based on a poll of 1,300 DJs in the UK and in October 2007 he received a Million-Air certificate for over four million air plays of Have I Told You Lately at the BMI awards ceremony in London.
Not bad for a number which spent just one week in the UK singles charts – peaking at number 74 in 1989. Rod’s version did better – reaching number 5 in June 1993 and spending nine weeks in the charts. He had originally covered the song for his album Vagabond Heart (1991) but it was the live version from his album Unplugged…and Seated (1993) whish caught the public’s imagination – and certainly rang the changes from the Jack the Lad image created on the likes of Hot Legs and later Do Ya Think I’m Sexy.

He can probably even be forgiven for the subtle secular lyric changes:
“There’s a love that’s divine, And it’s yours and it’s mine” becoming “There’s a love less defined, And it’s yours and it’s mine.”
With umpteen other covers and revivals even the normally taciturn Morrison might occasionally have been tempted to rename the song Have I Told You Lately That I Love the Royalties.

WRITERS: Van Morrison
PRODUCER: Van Morrison
GENRE: Celtic, Folk Rock, Soft rock
ARTIST: Van Morrison
LABEL Mercury
RELEASED 5 June 1989
COVERS Rod Stewart