In the autumn of 1970 I had a job singing in the school system, playing my guitar in classrooms,” he says.
“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.
He had an illness and so did his brother Theo. This makes it different, in my mind, to the garden variety of ‘crazy’ – because he was rejected by a woman [as was commonly thought].
So I sat down with a print of Starry Night and wrote the lyrics out on a paper bag.”
With its bittersweet palette of major and minor chords, Vincent’s soothing melody is one of high emotion recollected in tranquillity.
The lyrical list of colours – the “swirling clouds in violet haze”, the eyes of “China blue” the “snowy linen land” – evoke a mental slide show of the artist’s work.
Starry, Starry Night“And now I understand what you tried to say to meHow you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen
They did not know howPerhaps they’ll listen now.”Don McLean