Veteran singer Van Morrison said he was “honoured and delighted” to have been granted the freedom of his native Belfast as it was announced he will play a free concert in the city to mark the accolade.
The 68-year-old musician will perform for fans in November after being awarded the civic title at Belfast’s Ulster Hall.
City councillors voted unanimously on Monday night to bestow the honour on Morrison.
“Belfast is my home. It is where I first heard the music that influenced and inspired me, it is where I first performed and it is somewhere I have referred back to many times in my songwriting over the past 50 years,” said the singer songwriter.
“I am delighted and honoured to receive the freedom of the city.”
The conferment ceremony and concert has been billed as the highlight of the fourth annual Belfast Music Week.
Morrison, a shipyard worker’s son, is only the second person in 10 years to receive the accolade – the highest a council can bestow.
Known to fans across the world as “Van the Man”, Morrison has drawn inspiration from streets where he was born and raised for hits such as Cyprus Avenue and On Hyndford Street.
During his 50-year music career Morrison has risen from the Irish showband scene to global stardom winning six Grammy Awards, a Brit as well as places in both the Rock and Roll and the Songwriters Halls of Fame.
In May former Olympic champion Dame Mary Peters was awarded the accolade.
Previous recipients include the Merchant Navy who were given the Freedom of the City in 2002, the poet John Hewitt and former British prime minister Winston Churchill.
Lord mayor of Belfast Mairtin O Muilleoir said he hoped the November 15 concert would help deliver the best Belfast Music Week yet.
“The music sector in Belfast has grown significantly over the past three years, and now plays a key role in the overall economic development of the city,” he said.
“With a rise in the number, and quality, of musicians and bands making headlines and enjoying success in the international marketplace, and new and innovative music businesses based in our city, events such as Belfast Music Week, and the council’s support for it, have a significant role to play in developing the music industry, appreciating the ongoing success stories which make us proud of our unique, indigenous music scene and showcasing this on the global stage.”
Other highlights of Belfast Music Week, which runs from November 11-17, include a series of special Ulster Hall concerts, showcasing local acoustic, heavy metal, and dance music, culminating in a special tribute to late poet Seamus Heaney with the Ulster Orchestra.