Music that means something – Day 2: Don Mclean

The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

I never really ‘got’ Van Gogh when I was younger. At junior school there were faded prints of his sunflowers and the chair which did nothing to explain why his work was so popular. Lots of people seemed to think a child could have painted half his paintings. It wasn’t until I saw one of them for myself that I began to understand the sheer passion of the man…and I was too young to ‘get’ that too. I only understood that his paintings were exciting to look at.

They didn’t tell us about his life either… we were way too young for the real story… but when Vincente Minelli’s film, Lust for Life, was shown on the old black and white TV, I learned a bit more. Years later I saw it in colour and was finally able to appreciate what Minelli had achieved visually, recreating something of the light, energy and colour that Van Gogh strove to capture on canvas at a time when he was breaking every rule in the painter’s book. It remains one of my favourite films for that reason…and for Kirk Douglas’ remarkable portrayal of the man, as well as Anthony Quinn’s Gaugin.

But even that film falls short of reading Vincent’s letters to his brother, Theo and getting an insight into a man whose passion, whose thirst for the sheer vividness of life, created some of the best-loved paintings in the world and changed the face of the very art that rejected him.

I can stand in front of one of his paintings and feel the urgency of his need to paint, to capture a single moment of light. You can see where the brush has been abandoned in favour of fingers. You feel the heat of the sun and the wind in the trees…and that he was always just too late; his hands could not keep pace with his vision or his spirit. He always felt that he was failing to portray what he saw and eventually took his own life… yet the sheer force of his passion now sings from his canvasses. Paintings that make me weep just to stand in front of them, with a nameless, aching, joy. They were right, only a child could have painted them… Only the vision of a child sees the energy of life with that pure clarity and has the inner and absolute freedom to express what he feels.  Yet he was a man and he had to live in a world that demanded he abide by its rules.

Van Gogh created over nine hundred paintings…and sold only one in his lifetime. That, for all starving artists and writers, may be worth remembering. He never lost the passion of his vision, and gave it all that he had and all that he was…

When I first heard Don McLean’s ‘Vincent‘ I loved the music and simplicity as much as the lyrics. McLean wrote:  “I was sitting on the veranda one morning, reading a biography of Van Gogh, and suddenly I knew I had to write a song arguing that he wasn’t crazy.”

 Like Minelli’s film, McLean captured a ghost of passionate beauty with his song.

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.
And now I understand 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 did not know how

Perhaps they’ll listen now.

Starry night
Flaming flo’rs that brightly blaze

Swirling clouds in violet haze reflect in
Vincent’s eyes of China blue.
Colors changing hue
Morning fields of amber grain

Weathered faces lined in pain
Are soothed beneath the artist’s
Loving hand.
And now I understand what you tried to say to me

How you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free.
Perhaps they’ll listen now.

(Click here for the full lyrics)

Written by Don Mclean • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group

My thanks to Willow who included me in this challenge.

The rules of the challenge:

Post a song a day for five consecutive days.
Post what the lyrics mean to you.  (Optional)
Post the name of the song and a video.
Nominate 1 or 2 bloggers each day of the challenge.

Today, I’ll ask Judy if she would care to join in 🙂

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
This entry was posted in Art, Love, Memories, Music and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

50 Responses to Music that means something – Day 2: Don Mclean

  1. Ritu says:

    Great song choice Sue!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What a beautiful tribute. So very sad that van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime.


  3. noelleg44 says:

    Perfect pairing, Sue. I’ve been lucky enough to see some Van Goghs in person – thank God for his brother, or we would be the poorer.


    • Sue Vincent says:

      Indeed, Theo’s belief and support was the only thing that kept him painting. I’ve seen a few of his works now…and every time, they get to me. In a room full of paintings, they are alive…windows on his world.


  4. willowdot21 says:

    I have again so enjoyed reading your post. Strangely enough I have read the letters between Van Gogh and his brother. Also a few months ago there was also a radio series on Van Gogh. I love the light and life and the tortured pain in his work. As for Don Maclean’s Vincent … Just a beautiful song. xxxx


  5. floridaborne says:

    Artists hear, see or feel what most of society can’t until we paint it on a canvas, write it on a page or create the melody. In terms of social mores, we are the ones who are broken, not those who are deaf, blind and unaware of that which we see clearly. If society can make a person crazy, the act of trying to explain why we are who we are to culturally deaf ears can do it.


    • Sue Vincent says:

      I agree. The vision of the artist, regardless of their skill or lack of it, can drive them to attempt to convey something that remains just out of their reach…and beyond the understand of those whith whom they try to share it. It is driven by passion and is what fuels great art of any kind…and great frustration also.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. A beautiful song indeed, it must have been awful to have been so tortured to the point of taking your own life,
    Thank you for the nomination Sue, It was lovely of you to consider me 🙂


  7. When we did art history at school it was so utterly dreadful you’d be lying across the desk begging for the lunch bell to ring, for anything to put you out of your misery. So like that I never got Van Gogh either but then I came across a card of one his paintings later in life and thought the colour was amazing. Then I helped someone edit their dissertation on him and what I was reading was so courageous I have adored his work ever since. As you say he painted with passion and the business of only selling one in lifetime is so sad. Thanks for a great post.


  8. Beautiful Sue. I saw his paintings through your eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Reblogged this on Art by Rob Goldstein and commented:
    from Sue Vincent

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Tortured, brilliant, one of my all time favorite artists. So many were depressed, isolated, misunderstood…”this world was never meant for one as beautiful”. How accurate and true. Don McClean captured the essence. This song always makes me cry. Great choice, Sue.


  11. Eliza Waters says:

    So far, it seems we listened to the same music. 🙂
    I read recently that researchers believe Van Gogh actually saw auras of energy and put them in his paintings. While we’ll never know for sure, looking at his work, it certainly seems plausible.
    Did you see BBC Film’s ‘The Impressionists?’ A three-part dramatization of contemporaries Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir and Cezanne, and their struggle to paint their passion despite the pushback of society.


  12. LydiaA1614 says:

    Awesome song and post. There were a few facts about Van Gogh that I didn’t know before. I have always felt that Don McLean seemed to capture the essence of the artist better than any one else.


  13. His work is powerful. I love it. Even, yes, the “boring” ones everyone knows that are hanging in doctor’s offices: Starry Night, Sunflowers… They do have an energy. Great post, Sue.
    I’d never heard that song but the lyrics are amazing. That last stanza… 💙💚


  14. Jennie says:

    You have struck a nerve with me, as you write so very well about Van Gogh. This is the painter that my children are drawn to. Not that they want to paint like him, they just seem to understand. Starry Night is inspirational in somehow giving children a wave of confidence and excitement. Few pieces of art have the same effect. Thank you, Vincent!


  15. Reblogged this on sherriemiranda1 and commented:
    I actually loved Van Gogh even as a teen. Perhaps, it’s because my brother mimicked his style so I became aware of his work in a more earthy way. AND Mclean? I always loved his music, BUT never realized this song was for Vincent Van Gogh! What a beautiful tribute to a very talented artist! ;-). ❤
    Peace, love & Art & Music for all,


  16. adeleulnais says:

    I love this song, Sue. It is so beautiful and understanding. xx


  17. dgkaye says:

    Another beautiful song choice Sue. Your intros into these song choices are beautiful. ❤


  18. Tinas Fine Arts says:

    Excellent post and insight to Van Goghs Paintings. How fitting the song. Wow!


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