Tuesday, April 17, 2007
There is an interesting article by Tom Nolan in the Friday, April 13 edition of The Wall Street Journal, proposing that Madame George, the central character in the song of that name on Van Morrison's landmark 1969 album Astral Weeks, was in fact Madame George Yeats, wife (from 1917-1939) of the Irish poet W.B. Yeats. (Unfortunately, I can neither post the article nor link to the article, since The Wall Street Journal offers no Internet access unless one is a paid subscriber.)
Nolan makes a convincing argument, based not only on the character's name, but on some key lines in the song that talk about the spiritualist activities of the main character. (Madame George Yeats was famous for her seances.)
When you fall into a trance
A sitting on a sofa playing games of chance
Up to now, the most popular theory concerning the character's identity was that Madame George was a Belfast drag queen. See Lester Bang's fairly famous piece on the subject in Stranded from 1979.
One thing about which we can be pretty certain, Van Morrison is never going to enlighten us. Whoever Madame George is, however, the discussion is a good excuse to revisit a great song.
Van Morrison - Madame George