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Don McLean: Vincent Meaning

Song Released: 1972



Vincent Lyrics

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...

  1. 1TOP RATED

    #1 top rated interpretation:
    Drawn
    click a star to vote
    Aug 29th 2018 report

    I am not an artist of any kind, just a fan touched by this song. I stopped listening to the radio some 20 years ago. Then came upon this song recently and heard it like new.

    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.
    [Vincent is well acquainted with people's dark side]
    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.
    [He was misunderstood in his time]

    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 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
    [At first, Don thinks he understands What Vincent was saying.]

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

    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.

    Starry
    Starry night
    Portraits hung in empty halls [Heartbreaking, he puts his heart and art out there and no one comes to even look.]

    Frameless heads on nameless walls
    With eyes That watch the world and can't forget.

    Like the strangers that you've met
    The ragged men in ragged clothes
    The silver thorn of bloody rose
    Lie crushed and broken On the virgin snow.
    [It is the ragged men and Vincent's heart that goes out to them that lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow. The rose on the white snow provides a visual contrast. Virgin snow, Vincent never really was loved. His heart is a virgin.]

    And now I think I know what you tried to say to me
    [Now Don just thinks he knows what Vincent meant.]
    How you suffered for your sanity
    [He suffered because of the way he saw the world and the way it saw him.]
    How you tried to set them free. [He captured beauty for all to see.]
    They would not listen
    They're not List'ning still
    Perhaps they never will.
    [We have not advanced as a species one bit since Vincent's time. Maybe we never will. Take away our jobs, goods, homes and you will find out just how civilized we are.]

  2. 2TOP RATED

    #2 top rated interpretation:
    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Mar 24th 2010 report

    I think that 'Vincent' is about how Don McLean understands what the struggles of an artist is like. He is saying that society doesn't the meaning of why artists are painting or writing, he has dealt with this problem as well. Don McLean has seen Vincents paintings and has seen what Vincent was trying to show/say with them. Don McLean is trying to tell us (the listeners) that no one would listen to what Vincent was trying to say, and that people didn't realise the true meaning of Vincents paintings, People thought of him as odd. Don McLean's greatest point is that we as a society should become more accepting.

    The repetition of the phrase 'starry, starry night' is showing the importance of the heavens, Vincent liked night time and Vincent would paint night skies with lots and lots of stars.

    Throughout the song Don McLean uses positive connotation and then straight after uses negative connotation. This is to show how even on the happiest of days, Vincent felt sadness and sorrow.

    In the poem Don McLean uses the pronoun 'they' at the beginning there are a number of different possibilities of what is meant by they; society, Vincent's family, Vincent's troubles, Vincent's 'demons'. But by the end we can tell that the 'they' is society.

    'Vincent's eyes of chine blue' is about how his eyes showed us his fragile and delicate soul.

    'Flaming Flowers' 'Brightly Blaze' are showing the brush strokes. F for long and B for short.

    'Colours changing hue' the changing of tint, Vincent's life changed a lot.

    'weathered faces lined in pain/are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand.' is about how Vincent would paint workers and he would make them beautiful.

    'For they could not love you' society couldn't understand him.
    'but still your love was true' Vincent still loved the world, stayed true to what he did and painted things as they truly were.
    'and when no hope was left in sight' when nothing was left, Vincent losst his will.
    'on that starry starry night' mans place in the world, Vincent questioned his beliefs.
    'You took your life as lovers often do;' his love for his work.
    'meant for one as beautiful as you' beautiful meaning talented and sincere.

    'frameless heads on nameless walls' Vincent was too poor to frame them, no one knows who most of the people he painted actually were.
    'with eyes that watch the world and can't forget.' can't forget their hard lives.

    'They would not listen
    they're not listening still
    perhaps they never will.' meaning that even nowadays society doesn't accept people who are different.

  3. 3TOP RATED

    #3 top rated interpretation:
    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Oct 23rd 2009 report

    "Starry, starry night, portraits hung in empty halls
    Frameless heads on nameless walls with eyes that watch the world and can't forget."

    As most of the interpretation of this beautiful lyrical journey to the life of artistic genius name Vincent Van Gogh by Don Maclean, I have read here... revolving around the life Vincent Van Gogh.. just like song.. but words painted by Don Maclean I am really amaze the way he collected pieces of words and put them together, which rhyme perfectly fine and synchronize so perfectly with the art work of infamous artist...
    well most of the lyrics interpreted with very carefully chosen words and artist life fact...But this particular stanza "Frameless heads on nameless walls with eyes that watch the world and can't forget." is not interpreted the way it should be...As per my understanding this particular line is more or less breviloquent of his all life from artist point of view... where portrait hung on empty wall, the portrait here is nothing but vincent himself, of time when he was sent to asylum...A frameless heads on nameless walls.. Here it refer to the people who surrounded him during the period he was in asylum, people who rejected by the world for there insanity...they are frameless because they not fit for the outer world... nameless because they are leaving there life in anonymity as Vincent himself living during that period...with eyes that watch the world and can't forget- he can't forget the world outside and its shows in 'The Starry Night' which resides as his most popular work and one of the most influence pieces in history. The swirling lines of the sky are a possible representation of his mental state. This same shaken style is visible in all of his work during his time in the asylum...

  4. anonymous
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    Nov 11th 2018 report

    Why has no one talked about Vincent's miserable love life? A little online research shows how some women he courted rejected him outright, while others were prevented by their parents from marrying Vincent. Hence the words "they could not love you".

    More than once, Vincent turned to prostitutes who were themselves suffering with mental illness. So they only compounded his own issues. To me, his unfulfilled romances are a better explanation for his mental decline and eventual suicide.

    The words "a silver thorn" likely refer to a dagger or knife. "A bloody rose" may be a metaphor for Vincent's ear which he cut off himself.

  5. anonymous
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    Jan 2nd 2017 report

    i thought that he might been gay. my mom had a friend named Arnold and he lived in the French Quarter and took his dog and himself lives because he was gay and had no support. truly a beautiful talent.

  6. anonymous
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    Oct 31st 2016 report

    A beautiful song in lament to be remembered as a future concern when the American Patriot and a great song writer Don McLean had for our Country's direction. A time that was in turmoil for the authentic artist and the individual where many great Americans were struggling spiritually and politically to keep the Country together from the social political politics of the Far Left that were bringing the Country's moral values down by corruption and lies of war and deceit that started to effect the people's psychological outlook as in ''relation'' to the life of ''Vincent'' Van Gogh, who was struggling as an artist a long time ago. Politically to be reminded years later by this song when the Honorable Vincent Foster made for supporting our Country's Leaders, only sadly to pay with his life as a sacrifice, made to be a crazy suicide that should be investigated.

  7. anonymous
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    Apr 23rd 2012 report

    I believe the song "VINCENT" was written for people who are going through the same kind of rejection as Vincent Van Gough had gone through in his life as an artist.

    "Vincent" the song, tells the story of a rejected broken heart, through the representation of Vincent, the artists' life and works.

    The song was written in first person addressed to "Vincent", making me believe that the song-writer wants to speak to the ones who have had their hearts broken by rejection. The song uses descriptions of Vincent van-gough's works to use as his lyrics. These descriptions are apt for the darkness and the sadness in Vincent van gogh's works, and are equally apt to describe the feelings of any broken heart.

  8. anonymous
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    Nov 17th 2011 report

    I think it talks about his beautiful paintings that held his feelings and emotion and how no on would listen to him and prob never would. He took his life cuz he couldnt take all the stress anymore.

  9. Trasy Yvon
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    Oct 7th 2011 report

    All of these interpretations are great. I have a different take on it: God speaks to me through music. I felt 'led' to go to In N Out for dinner. I was very 'touched' by the dark sky on the sticker puzzle they gave my daughter (ok, I admit it...I play with them, too). As I kept feeling drawn to look at the dark sky I heard this song in my heart- if you will. I went home and YouTubed it. I had no idea it was called Vincent...I had recently met a man who lost his son and felt like God was allowing me to pray for him through this song. Very very powerful!!! God is so good and cares about each and everyone one of us...I feel blessed that I get to hear those whispers from the Spirit and pray for people's hearts to heal from tragedies.

    I myself am an artisit and look to Van Goh as a role model to stary true to myself regardless of who appreciates my work. So God killed two birds with one stone: to pray healing for Vincent and to encourage me to continue producing work and not shut down the creative flow because no one appreciates or buys my stuff. Wow...thank you Father :)

  10. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Oct 6th 2011 report

    Just a few notes:

    - There is a famous VanGogh's painting named Starry Night, showing a peaceful villa sleeping at night with a very surreal starry night on top. Some interpretations of the painting suggest Vincent tried to suggest that human dreams are the greatest of all we can produce. Our dreams are much larger than ourselves.

    - About the "Frameless heads on nameless walls with eyes that watch the world and can't forget" I think he makes reference to the paintings exhibited in the VanGogh Museum in Amsterdam, where a lot of his work is exhibited. Since VanGogh was very poor he used to paint on the two sides of the canvas. In the museum there a lot of selfprotraits hanging by threads from the ceilign, frameless, showing both sides with different stages of the artist's face.

    Nevertheless this is a fantastic poem made song. The music, the lyrics, are suggesting, you have to think to try to understand, just as with Vincent's paintings.

  11. bblm
    click a star to vote
    Jul 23rd 2011 report

    I believe that Don Mclean wrote this song because he saw(at that time) how society was blinded by all the lies, greed, etc,. He felt that no matter how hard he tried to change the society, the society will never see it and in the process, he's the one that suffered for trying to free society from the various evils that prevailed at that time. The people did not recognize him and therefore would not let him to tell them what to do. In the first and second choruses, we can see that he was trying to do what what he felt must be done. But in the last line of the song, he said that people will never change and he finally gave up.

  12. anonymous
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    Mar 14th 2011 report

    No doubt, this song is about Vincent-The Painter. In this song Don Mclean was trying to tell us how Vincent struggled in his life as an artist. Society did not accept his ideas and works and therefore he was always in sadness and pain. But I believe that Don McLean wrote this song because he,just like Vincent, felt that he did not get enough recognition for his works(Now I understand what you tried to say to me and how you suffered for your sanity and how you tried to set them free).

  13. anonymous
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    Sep 6th 2009 report

    Interpretation? Other contributors have performed a far better job than anything I could submit. However, what I will say is this. Very rarely, perhaps only once in a decade, a popular song appears on the market whose lyrics rank alongside some of the greatest poetry in the English language. Even more rarely, those lyrics are painted upon the backdrop of the most captivating, harmonious and evocative music. Such a song is Vincent. Such a genius is Don McLean.

  14. anonymous
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    Aug 13th 2009 report

    This song is about an impotant post-impressionist painter, Vincent VanGogh- his art, and his worldview.
    VanGogh, in his lifetime, was an overlooked painter. Only with his brother Theo's financial and emotional support, did his work survive into the present. ("..portraits hung in empty halls...") VanGogh was mentally-ill, prob. with schizophrenia (...how you struggled for your sanity...). His use of color, fragmentation, and other elements of his style (...flaming flowers that brightly blaze, swirling clouds that violet haze...)are consistent with artwork created by others with the same mental health issues.
    This doesn't detract from his talent or the beauty of his paintings. They are compelling images, full of power and passion. It is ironic that VanGogh couldn't sell a painting while he was alive, his work is now among the most recognizble and expensive in the world. Finally, McClean suggests that despite their fame, the real meaning of VanGogh's works maybe lost to the world (...They would not listen, they're not listening still, perhaps they never will.).

  15. sevenvoltes
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    Jun 18th 2009 report

    I can see this song was also (before hearing that it was wrote for Van Gogh) about a person who was madly inlove many times but was taken for granted. He sings this song to a man who is very insisted on falling inlove again and again hoping that he could find and realizing that true love is not found in this craze world.

  16. vinclavs
    click a star to vote
    May 6th 2009 report

    Vincent is a song attributed to Vincent's life. He tried to show to the world what really he was, but nobody listened to him and nobody appreciates him as well as his good deeds. Being neglected by the society and being insulted by humanities made him thought that he was that very peculiar man that ever lived resulted to suffer much from his sanity.
    Vincent tried to do the best he could but still the people are blind.

  17. m320753
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    May 5th 2009 report

    you know sometimes it's hard to imagine that someone besides elvis- the beatles -dylan and more could put out an album in which every song is unbelievably great. thisyoung man who made roberta flack write killing me softly after going to one of his shows. in the song vincent he makes you feel that you are present in the same room when he chastizes vincent. that is very hard to do on a piece of plastic ( couldn't remember how to spell vynyl) that a young man from new rochelle wrote and sang this song blows me away

  18. joan
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    May 4th 2009 report

    The song by do mclean was an exquisite representation of vincents life...every word described the every bit of Vincent's struggles in life....Vincent's attempt of oppening to the world his whole heart to show his desires as seen in the scenes presented behind his paintings...it was very obvious in the song the disillusionment after his failure in letting the whole humanity recognizes the presence he signified...."how you suffered for your sanity""they would not listen...perhaps they never will"....Vincent hunger for love and recognition...."for they could not love you, but then your love was true"...The song showed also the irony of trying to show hor you cared for others...of trying to let the horizons meet to let others know the realm of youself...the melancholic end was vincent taking his life away.....

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