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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 30, 2010 2:55 PM. The previous post in this blog was How to stonewall a congressional hearing. The next post in this blog is All you need to read. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Friday, April 30, 2010

Have a great weekend

Comments (14)

Lovely. Why the excess guitar string? Is it like biblical Samson - don't cut the hair and all that?

The one time I saw Don McLean in person (solo show at the Bottom Line in New York, early '70s), he broke a string in the middle of a song. As I recall, he restrung the guitar on stage himself while either singing a cappella or somehow continuing to play and sing while he did the work. It was impressive at the time (nearly 40 years ago), and I wish I could remember exactly how it went. He was a true showman back then -- Social Security age now, but I'd pay to see him again.

I love that song. Very nice. Thanks for sharing this one, Jack.

I saw Don McLean perform at a small venue in Scottsdale, AZ around '76-'78. Just him & his guitar for a couple of hours. He was incredible. I'd love to see him perform again.

I was thinking of posting "American Pie" for Artichoke Music, but I came across this wonderful song and couldn't resist.

Okay, it's 1972 and I'm hitchhiking around Florida as a 17-year-old. The song "Vincent" was out and it became one of those tunes that I really hoped would come on the radio. It was clearly a major achievement. That's how it hit me - as a really beautiful accomplishment. I had also seen "Starry Night" and many other Van Gogh paintings with my parents, so I certainly had been exposed to what the song was about. I even bought the poster for my room in school - as did thousands of other kids who couldn't get into Rembrandt and the Masters but loved Van Gogh.

Anyway, I distinctly remember being 17 walking on the Florida beach looking at the tan girls in bikinis when I came upon some sunbathers with a radio and this song came on. I sat down near them and looked out at the waves and listened to it. I mean it clobbered me and for a few minutes everything was perfect.

Now when I hear it, I smile at something I didn't notice back then. Don't get me wrong - it's still an extremely good song. Very emotional and downright brilliant.

What cracks me up now is the idea of this young long-haired folk singer saying that the world didn't get the genius of Vincent Van Gogh but, "perhaps they'll listen now." "Don't worry about the message of your paintings not getting over - I've written this song and perhaps they'll understand the genius of your work after they hear my tune." That is SO priceless.

I love that. It is pretentious as all hell but it's so innocent that it just makes me smile. How could I miss that? I had even seen the paintings and it was impossible not to see the genius. Vincent didn't need any help getting over to the world. The stuff screams, "Brilliant!" But I didn't question the lyrics at all because the song was so great.

If some young singer wanted to explain Van Gogh to the world, I was cool with that, even though it seems a little ridiculous now. Just a little. I'd love to ask Don McLean is he smiles at the innocent, pretentious nature of it looking back now. I'm not saying it diminishes the tune at all - it just turns it into a celebration of being young.

And the reason I didn't get it back then was that I was hopelessly innocent and pretentious as hell myself.

Joni Mitchell also took it upon herself to educate us about Van Gogh's lot in life, but more sagely, years later in "Turbulent Indigo." Vincent was too big a figure for some poets to lay off. I admire anyone who takes the risk and gives it a shot.

And hey, the last line of the song shows he's figured it out.

My favorite line in the young and pretentious area is still Simon and Garfunkel's: "Here my words that I might teach you."

Vincent was not recognized as an artist in his time. He struggled in poverty his whole life, trying to sell his paintings. He lived largely off of the generosity of his brother. He went crazy later in life, some now thinking from drinking way too much absinthe over the years. He was committed to an asylum, where he eventually died. Nobody understood his art, or even tried to understand it when he was alive. I think that's what Don McLean was singing about. Doesn't seem at all pretentious

I'm just glad Randy Gragg doesn't sing.

Don McLean (re)introduced many to Vincent and to his humanity with a tender, evocative, floating melody in very turbulent times.

The song was an even bigger hit around the world than it was in the U.S.

'American Pie' Was A Long, Long Time Ago -- Don McLean Lives With The Song's Enduring Popularity, But He's Done Much More

"American Pie" quickly became a number-one hit and it's been a hit ever since. The song has been played on the radio more than 3 million times in the United States alone — an average of 274 times a day, 11 times an hour, for the past 35 years. And still, to this day, wherever he goes, people continue to ask him: "What does it all mean?"

There are Web sites, college courses and books dedicated to deciphering "American Pie," but McLean says it was meant to be vague.

"Because it's meant to be a dream," he said. "It's a cautionary tale about — written to America about what happens when the spirit goes out of — of something and when you start to put commercial things ahead of beauty and poetry and literature."

Thanks once again, Jack! You have a nice weekend, too.

The song is certainly a celebration of Van Gogh's genius, but was McLean really thinking it was the key to worldwide understanding? I've always thought of it more as McLean's hope that by the early 1970s, the world had changed enough to appreciate Van Gogh and his work for what they were -- and the bittersweet acceptance at the end that it had not.

I have watched Don perform around 50 times since I first saw him in 1973. Last year I visited the US for a group of 4 shows. During the first of these Don broke 2 strings, in the middle of American Pie of all things. He proceeded to continue with the song in slow sections in between which he restrung the guitar before completing it to a huge ovation. I guarantee no-one who was there will forget it in a hurry.

He has just completed a number of solo dates on mainland Europe to rave reviews because his band got stranded in the US by the Icelandic volcano. Not many artists could do that at 64, or indeed any age. Looking forward to see him (reunited with the band) around the UK and Ireland in the next fortnight.


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Lugana, San Benedetto 2013
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Bookwalter, Subplot No. 28, 2012
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