Paper 3 - McMillan 1 Aubrey McMillan Writing 2 TA: Judith...

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Aubrey McMillan Writing 2 TA: Judith Hicks 28 May 2009 Starry Night: A Look at the Painter and Musician Don McLean’s song Vincent is a lyrical ekphrastic work which celebrates one of Vincent van Gogh’s most famous paintings, titled Starry Night . Although the Dutch Post-Impressionist sold very few paintings during his lifetime, posthumously he is one of the world’s best known artists (Gerondeau). McLean’s thoughtful lyrics in Vincent create a perfect synergistic effect; his music connects with the beautiful images in Van Gogh’s paintings and the sadness of the artist’s battle with mental illness and eventual death. McLean, like Van Gogh, also faced incredible tribulations and setbacks in light of his success as a musician. Through analyzing the lyrics of Vincent , as well as examining the parallels between the lives of Van Gogh and McLean, it becomes apparent that their ultimate success as artists has stemmed from hardships each man faced during his lifetime. The lyrics in Vincent reveal how closely McLean related with the misfortune Van Gogh faced throughout his life, and consequently expressed in his paintings. Starry Night , particularly, is a testament to Van Gogh’s emotional turmoil. Although vibrantly shining stars and swirling clouds blanket the town in Starry Night , the viewer’s perspective is set at quite a distance, conveying a sense of isolation. The peaceful, yet melancholy, tone of McLean’s song echos the solemnity depicted by the use of deep and vivid colors in Van Gogh’s painting. The actual origin McMillan 1
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of the nighttime scene of Starry Night is not known; however, many theories attempt to explain Van Gogh’s vision. “He seems to be telling us, ‘This is where I come from, this is where I am now, and here is my universe of overpowering storms,’” (522) states Dietrich Blumer in “The Illness of Vincent Van Gogh.” Whether Van Gogh was painting a childhood memory, a hallucination, or a montage of landscapes, the eerie mystery behind Starry Night only magnifies its beauty. McLean certainly captures this uncanny allure in Vincent . McLean’s lyrics weave beautiful imagery describing the nighttime sky depicted in Van Gogh’s painting. The song’s stanzas reflect upon both the isolation and mental torment the artist suffered during his lifetime, due to depression and mental illness. Particularly, the lyrics “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” (lines 9-11) expose McLean’s appreciation for the beauty, passion and social consciousness expressed in Van Gogh’s work. McLean then states the sad reality that “they” (Van Gogh’s contemporaries) “would not listen, they did not know how” (12). These
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Paper 3 - McMillan 1 Aubrey McMillan Writing 2 TA: Judith...

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