Sunday, November 16, 2008


A fusion of two artists , one saluting the other! Simply amazing!


In October 1971, came out an album titled “American pie”, that featured a song “Vincent” written by don Mclean as a tribute to Vincent Van Gogh. It is popularly known by its opening line, "Starry Starry Night", a reference to van Gogh's painting Starry night. This beautiful song elaborately takes us to a glimpse of different paintings by van Gogh. This song was written by don Mclean in the year 1971 after he got inspiration reading a book based on the life of the artist. Then this lyrically masterpiece poetry was recorded in the form on a 4 minutes : 3 seconds song under the label BGO in the production of ed freeman from May 1971 to June 1971. The following year, the song became the No. 1 hit in the U.K. and No. 12 in the U.S. Then for several years, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam played the song everyday. Moreover, a copy of the sheet music is in a safe beneath the museum, along with a set of van Gogh's paint brushes, the hat he wore while painting Starry Night, and various other items. The song clearly demonstrates a deep-seated admiration for not only the work of van Gogh, but also for the man himself.

In each chorus, McLean pays tribute to Van Gogh by reflecting on his lack of recognition: "They would not listen / they did not know how / perhaps they'll listen now," except in the final verse, McLean says "They would not listen / They're not listening still / Perhaps they never will." This is the story of van Gogh: unrecognized as an artist until after his death. The lyrics suggest that van Gogh was trying to "set [people] free" with the message in his work. McLean feels that this message was made clear to him: "And now I understand what you tried to say to me," he sings. Perhaps it is this eventual understanding that inspired McLean to write the song. Many believe that the song is a touching tribute to van Gogh in respect of the hardship he faced with regards to his mental illness and his admirable good natured ways. Throughout his life, van Gogh was plagued with mental disorders, particularly depression. He "suffered for his sanity" and eventually "took his life, as lovers often do." The word "lover" puts into context how McLean saw the relationship of van Gogh with his art - a relationship of love. This love was strong enough for van Gogh to persevere with his art even without acceptance from his contemporaries: "For they could not love you, but still your love was true."

Below are the lyrics to Don McLean's hit song Vincent (Starry, Starry Night) and a comparison to Van Gogh's Actual Life.

Expressing Van Gogh's inspiration for the painting. However, one line says :
"Look out on a summer's day."
which is a false statement as Van Gogh was in an asylum at Saint-Remy, and was not able to paint picture from an actual view point, it is strictly from his mind.

Starry, starry night.
Paint your palette blue and grey,
Look out on a summer's day,
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.
Shadows on the hills,
Sketch the trees and the daffodils,
Catch the breeze and the winter chills,
In colors on the snowy linen land.

These are references to other Van Gogh paintings.

  1. Flaming Flowers: The sunflower series

  • Swirling Clouds: Starry Night

  • Field of Amber Grain: Wheat Field with Crows

  • Weathered Faces: The Potato Eaters.

Starry, starry night.
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze, Swirling clouds in violet haze,
Reflect in Vincent's eyes of china blue.
Colors changing hue, morning field of amber grain,
Weathered faces lined in pain,
Are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand.

This is Van Gogh's tragic Death. Even though he loved painting, his paintings could never love him back.

Van Gogh attempted suicide by shooting himself in the chest, which ultimately led to his death two days later.

For they could not love you,
But still your love was true.
And when no hope was left in sight
On that starry, starry night,
You took your life, as lovers often do.
But I could have told you, Vincent,
This world was never meant for one
As beautiful as you.

Van Gogh's artistic legacy is contained within his paintings, drawings and writings. They are everlasting and will never "forget" the style that created them. They are Van Gogh's eyes that watch the world. This is all metaphorically speaking though.

Starry, starry night.
Portraits hung in empty halls,
Frameless head on nameless walls,
With eyes that watch the world and can't forget.
Like the strangers that you've met,
The ragged men in the ragged clothes,
The silver thorn of bloody rose,
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow.

Finally we come to the conclusion of realizing Van Gogh's eternal struggle with insanity.

Now I think I know what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they're not listening still.
Perhaps they never will...

"Vincent" has been featured on the soundtracks of several TV shows, including Heart of Greed Nip/Tuck, and The Simpsons. This song was the favorite of the legendary British Footballer George Best and was sung at his funeral in 2005 by Brian Kennedy. Other famous cover versions of the track include artists like Josh Gorban, Tori Amos, Julie Andrews, Justin Hayward, Jane oliver and Julio Iglisias. It is perhaps one of the most lyrically soothing song melodies that I have ever come across and wanted to share it with the readers of my Blog, for true creativity lovers this is an ultimate fusion of two forms of art that brings us closer to almighty, here “music” saluting “painting”. Awesome! I must say!


Chrissy said...

An excellent post, I enjoyed your comparison of the song and the artists life. I do consider that this was a fabulous song by Don Maclean. I can rememebr being knocked out by the lyrics although i was not very old.

Engr. Mee said...

Nice post.

I think it's time to pay a visit again.


khushi said...

Nice post usual I enjoyed reading your point of view. looking forward for more.
take care.

Me-Me King said...

I always liked that song, and even knew the words. Sadly, I had no idea it was about Van Gough.

dreamer said...

I was looking at your photo gallery and must say it's impressive.
Have a nice day!!:)

PULKIT said...

@ chrissy - thanks a lot for the appreciation, glad to have u as a reader to this post!
keep visiting!

@ Engr. Mee - thanks! glad to have ur comment!

@ khushi - thanks a lot yaar, u had always been a reader of my blog and ur presence in this comment inbox and ur feedback means a lot to me! love u!

@ me-me king - i am happy to hear that my blog was helpful for u to improve ur knowledge regarding the background of the story behind the song

@ dreamer - i knew it that u will notice it! thanks yaar, u too have a nice day! and thanks, the way i have modified my blog's outlook has a sure impression of my inspiration from "roses and thorns"

leafless said...

Van Gogh was a true genius. Very interesting.

paramveersaini said...

"They would not listen / They're not listening still / Perhaps they never will"..................
interestingly distinguished way to pay tribute to the genius.

DIVYA said...

wow swthrt wat an incredible change in ur blog!! n ths new article is quite knwledge providing n thot provoking!

Salman said...

well, its been ages since this post was written but like they say "better late then never".

Firstly, if this was "your" comparison of the song and the painting then I must say..your a true genius :)

else of course another very nicely compiled article for which I am sure you researched every possible corner of the Internet..

nice work..