Van Morrison almost quit music in the Seventies.

The iconic performer - whose real name is George Ivan Morrison - became disillusioned with the music industry in his early twenties, but revealed he was inspired by his support act, 72-year-old blues star Taj Mahal, who gave him the confidence to continue to perform live.

He recalled: ''In the early Seventies, I was trying to get out of the music business but promoter Bill Graham kept pressuring me to do gigs. He says, 'Why don't you do one more gig before you retire?'

''I said, 'I can't do this' and I was going off. Then Taj came on the stage, took the microphone and said, 'Can you turn the f***ing lights off?'

''So they did it because this guy was about 6ft 6in. I could do the show.''

However, nowadays the 69-year-old singer/songwriter - whose 35th studio album 'Duets: Reworking the Catalogue' is out now - confessed performing live in small venues is ''like breathing'' because it has become such an important part of his life.

Speaking to The Sun newspaper: ''I can't do tours any more ... too exhausting.

''Even when I was in America doing big gigs, I still did small clubs as well. I've always done it. For me it's like breathing, something I need to do.''