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

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
They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they'll listen now

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

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
They would not listen, they did not know how
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
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
A silver thorn, a bloody rose
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow

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


Lyrics submitted by Novartza, edited by colin57

Vincent Lyrics as written by Don Mclean

Lyrics © CONSALAD CO., Ltd., Universal Music Publishing Group

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Vincent (Starry Starry Night) song meanings
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  • +6
    General Comment

    This song still brings tears to my eyes. McLean actually wrote a biography of Van Gogh in this song. McLean captured the essence of Van Gogh's struggles to be recognized and appreciated. Van Gogh's brother, Theo, was the only person who loved and understood Vincent.

    stringofpearlson February 23, 2002   Link
  • +5
    Song Meaning

    "Starry, starry night / Paint your palette blue and grey"

    References van Gogh's most famous and recognizable work, "The Starry Night" which incorporates his techniques of swirls and a very vivid yet somber blue-gray pallet.

    Look out on a summer's day/With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.

    Both a reference to the dark themes in van Gogh's paintings and to the artist's struggles with depression.

    Shadows on the hills / sketch the trees and the daffodils

    All references to famous van Gogh works.

    Catch the breeze and the winter chills / in colors on the snowy linen land.

    Van Gogh is notable for his ability to imply movement and flow. The snowy linen land may refer to a snow-covered landscape, but doubtless also represents his blank canvass.

    I think the chorus speaks for itself, expressing the writer's appreciation for the artist's frustration at his inability to express his feelings completely and the failure of society to appreciate his art.

    Flaming flow'rs that brightly blaze / Swirling clouds in violet haze Van Gogh painted many still lifes with flowers in vibrant colors, but this may refer to the stars in the painting "The Starry Night," surrounded by the swirling clouds of the painting's iconic night sky.

    Reflect in Vincent's eyes of china blue / colors changing hue

    Van Gogh's self-portraits show him with bright, lively, blue eyes. His use of color and gradation are also notable.

    Morning fields of amber grain / weathered faces lined in pain

    Both reference paintings and themes of his. In his last weeks, van Gogh painted many canvasses in local wheat fields. Among his earlier works "The Potato Eaters" reflects an appreciation of weathered faces.

    Are soothed beneath the artist's Loving hand

    Van Gogh's empathy for such subjects is reflected in his paintings, which capture not (only) their likenesses, but the emotions.

    For they could not love you / But still your love was true

    Again refers to the painter's lack of success among his contemporaries.

    And when no hope was left in sight / on that starry, starry night / you took your life As lovers often do

    A bit of poetic license, here; after years of mental illness, van Gogh attempted suicide by shooting himself in the chest during the day.

    But I could have told you, Vincent / this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.

    Again the writer empathizes with van Gogh's feelings of being misunderstood and unappreciated.

    Portraits hung in empty halls / frameless heads on nameless walls with eyes that watch the world and can't forget

    Van Gogh's paintings are his (somewhat empty) legacy; although they stand as a testament to his genius, they are a pale reflection of the artist's personality.

    Like the stranger that you've met / the ragged men in ragged clothes

    Again expressing van Gogh's empathy for his subjects and the similar empathy we can feel for him when viewing his work.

    The silver thorn of bloody rose / lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow.

    By allusion to Oscar Wilde's short story about a lover's unappreciated token, the writer both invokes van Gogh's famous act of cutting off his own ear to present to a prostitute and sets up his artistic works as the unappreciated gift of van Gogh to the world.

    They would not listen / they're not listening still / perhaps they never will

    The writer suggests that, for all the appreciation expressed for van Gogh's art by modern audiences and collectors, we still do not fully understand what van Gogh was trying to express through his art. And perhaps that is the ultimate fate of all art…to be misunderstood.

    latiniston December 28, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    I agree with you stringofpearls. The song clearly depicts the struggles Van Gogh experienced as an artist and as a human being struggling with depression. When I listen to this song, especially the lines "And how you suffered for your sanity And how you tried to set them free" I can clearly feel the artists angst. Don't we sometimes go through a Vincent stage of our own in our own lives??? I think so. Great song, one of the best.

    blakeraeon March 07, 2002   Link
  • +2
    Song Meaning

    I can't find a single mention of this reference on Google, so I thought I'd post it here for posterity:

    The "silver thorn" line is referring to Oscar Wilde's short story "The Nightingale and the Rose", in which a nightingale <spoiler alert> pierces its heart with the thorn of a rose in order to turn it red, so that a student may give it to a girl he likes. However, the girl rejects him, and the boy angrily throws the rose into the gutter.

    archagonon November 06, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    this song means so much to me...recently someone i knew took their own life, and my english teacher read this verse at his funeral:

    For they could not love you But still, your love was true And when no hope was left inside On that starry, starry night You took your life as lovers often do -- But I could've told you, Vincent: This world was never meant For one as beautiful as you.

    all i know is that i have never cried so much in my entire life...but it meant so much.

    BleedingDollyon July 24, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    lol @ kspencers review: "I like songs"

    Necronicon July 24, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I always love this song, but I never really understood it until today. I went to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, and understood exactly where McLean is coming from.

    c3h1b4on October 25, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    This work by Mclean was created out of his deep love of art, humanity and Vincent is probably the finest musical tribute to an artist in existence. I was fortunate enough to see Don perform this live a year ago at the Florida Theatre. This song, like few others, tuggs at my heart in a powerful way. Watching the famous Youtube video presentation is something everyone should experience, at least once. I am greatful to have had the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful music Don McLean has contributed over the years. Mclean is an absolute perfectionist both as a wordsmith and as a performer. This level of talent is something rarely seen an a lifetime.

    Butch12258on September 29, 2017   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    I love this song, it's is written beautifully, very poetic!

    ScuTTerBoBon May 14, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    NOFX did a cover of this :D

    Jemmaon May 28, 2002   Link

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