The beautiful song by Don McLean called "Vincent", often known as "Starry Starry Night" was one of the most popular songs of the early 1970s. It's lyrics are deep and meaningful and blended together with an almost eerie and yet reflective music score, tell a story about a man who lived in an era and culture that was unable to accept or understand him.
Vincent van Gogh is recognized today as one of history's greatest artists. However, his fame was never realized during his own lifetime. In fact, Vincent was a much misunderstood and troubled man. He was afflicted by schizophrenia and depression and although he came from a wealthy family, they did not accept or love him because of this condition. Eventually, it got the better of him and he took his own life.
Don McLean's song reveals that he was deeply impressed with the man. Much of the lyrics describe various paintings of the artist, which included landscapes - "sketch the trees and daffodils ... in colours on the snowy linen land" ... "morning fields of amber grain" and not to forget the namesake painting after which the song was named - The Starry Night. His famous painting "Sunflowers" receives a mention in the song - "flaming flowers that brightly blaze".
The artist also created a number of self portraits which were not recognized during his lifetime and so were, "hung in empty halls, frameless heads on nameless walls". But his observations of the plight of the poor - "ragged men in ragged clothes".... "weathered faces lined in pain" - were his passionate message to the privileged of his day.
But contrasted through all the beauty of nature, was the "darkness in my soul" of a tormented and rejected man. Compassionate to the struggle of the poor, through the message in his work, he "tried to set them free". But alas, "they did not listen, they did not know how". Van Gogh was unrecognized for his work until after his death.
Finally, there is a reference to Van Gogh's ultimate suicide. The pain of depression and rejection could not overcome the love he had for his art. Being not completely insane but yet suffering recurring emotional pain, he "suffered for his sanity". Van Gogh and his art were like lovers in a relationship, but "they could not love you" and eventually "you took your life as lovers often do".
Don McLean was clearly impressed by the man himself and so, wrote his song as a tribute, after reading a book about the life of the artist. He felt he understood the man and so wrote: "And now I understand...and now I think I know ..." He was clearly touched by the soul of the artist and his words, written in the first person, summarize his feelings: "I could have told you Vincent, the world was never meant for one as beautiful as you".
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