“Vincent” by Don McLean
Vincent Van Gogh painted “Starry Night” during one of the most difficult periods of his life, while he was locked up in an asylum at Saint Remy. He wanted to paint it outdoors, but had to paint the scene from memory. Van Gogh mentioned “Starry Night” only twice in his letters to his brother, Theo. Ever since it has been painted, it has been the most mysterious and interesting pieces Van Gogh has made. Don McLean wrote “Vincent,” also known as “Starry, Starry Night,” in the fall of 1970, while he was working for the Berkshire School District. He was living in the Sedgwick House, a Federal style house in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The Sedgwick family included Edie Sedgwick, an interesting figure that Andy Warhol filmed in the 1960s. McLean wrote “Vincent” in his apartment, which was full of antiques. After looking at a book about Vincent Van Gogh one morning, the inspiration for “Vincent,” came to him. He studied a print of Van Gogh’s painting “Starry Night,” then he realized that a song could be written about Van Gogh just by looking at the painting. Once Mclean found the book and the painting, he said: “The more I thought about it, the more interesting and challenging the idea became. I put down the book and picked up my guitar, which was never far away, and started fiddling around, trying to get a handle on this idea, while the print of “Starry Night” stared up at me. Looking at the picture, I realized that the essence of the artist’s life is his art. And so, I let the painting write the song for me. Everyone is familiar with that painting.” The song shows more than just admiration for Van Gogh’s work, but also McLean’s admiration for Van Gogh himself. Lines such as "sketch the trees and the daffodils" and "morning fields of amber grain" are references to the landscape in the painting. McLean makes a reference to Van Gogh’s self-portraits, with lines like "weathered faces lined in pain / are soothed beneath...
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