Vincent (Don McLean song)

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Don McLean - Vincent Single Cover.jpg
Cover art of UK vinyl release, also used for the US, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and New Zealand releases
Single by Don McLean
from the album American Pie
B-side"Castles in the Air"
ReleasedMarch 1972
GenreFolk rock
LabelUnited Artists Records, BGO Records
Songwriter(s)Don McLean
Producer(s)Ed Freeman
Don McLean singles chronology
"American Pie"
Music videos
Vincent on YouTube, by Don McLean. (3:58 minutes, with lyrics)
Vincent on YouTube, by Don McLean. Live performance (1972). (3:57 minutes)
Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night (1889), described in the song

"Vincent" is a song by Don McLean written as a tribute to Vincent van Gogh. It is often erroneously titled after its opening refrain, "Starry Starry Night", a reference to Van Gogh's 1889 painting The Starry Night.

McLean wrote the lyrics in 1971 after reading a book about the life of Van Gogh.[1] It was released on McLean's 1971 American Pie album; the following year, the song topped the UK Singles Chart for two weeks,[2] and peaked at No. 12 in the United States,[3] where it also hit No. 2 on the Easy Listening chart.[4] Billboard ranked it as the No. 94 song for 1972.

The song makes use mainly of the guitar but also includes the accordion, marimba, and strings.

In July 2020, the original handwritten lyrics went up for sale for $1.5 million.[5]


McLean said the following about the genesis of the song:

"In the autumn of 1970 I had a job singing in the school system, playing my guitar in classrooms. 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."[1]

Critical reception[edit]

The Telegraph wrote: "With its bittersweet palette of major and minor chords, "Vincent"'s soothing melody is one of high emotion recollected in tranquillity".[1] AllMusic retrospectively described the song as "McLean's paean to Van Gogh ... sympathiz[ing] with Van Gogh's suicide as a sane comment on an insane world."[6] The site also said McLean performs "a particularly poignant rendition" of "Vincent" on the 2001 live album Starry, Starry Night.[7]

The song was a particular favorite of the rapper and actor Tupac Shakur, and was played to him in the hospital just before he died.[1]



Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[25] Silver 200,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Cover Versions[edit]

NOFX released a cover of "Vincent" on their 2002 album 45 or 46 Songs That Weren't Good Enough to Go on Our Other Records.


  1. ^ a b c d Helen Brown (24 February 2010). "Don McLean interview: Why I had to write "Vincent" - Telegraph". Daily Telegraph.(subscription required)
  2. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 274. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  3. ^ Jason Ankeny (1945-10-02). "Don McLean | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-03-27.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 166.
  5. ^ "Handwritten lyrics of Don McLean's song 'Vincent' up for sale, expected to fetch $1.5 mn". The Economic Times. Retrieved 2020-07-31.
  6. ^ William Ruhlmann. "American Pie". AllMusic.
  7. ^ Bruce Eder. "Starry Starry Night". AllMusic.
  8. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (doc). Australian Chart Book, St Ives, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  9. ^ " – Don McLean – Vincent" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  10. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles - May 20, 1972" (PDF).
  11. ^ " – Don McLean – Vincent". Top Digital Download.
  12. ^ " – DON MCLEAN - VINCENT". Singles Top 100.
  13. ^ " – Don McLean – Vincent" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  14. ^ "The Irish Charts - All there is to know". Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  15. ^ "flavour of new zealand - search listener". Retrieved 2016-10-07.
  16. ^ "South African Rock Lists Website SA Charts 1969 – 1989 Acts (M)". Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  17. ^ "Don McLean: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company.
  18. ^ "Don McLean Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  19. ^ "Don McLean Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard.
  20. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 5/20/72". Retrieved 20 January 2019.
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-16. Retrieved 2015-01-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ "Top 100 1972 - UK Music Charts". Retrieved 2016-10-07.
  23. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1972/Top 100 Songs of 1972". Archived from the original on 2017-04-27. Retrieved 2016-10-07.
  24. ^ "Top 100 Year End Charts: 1972". Cashbox Magazine. Retrieved 2015-01-03.
  25. ^ "British single certifications – Don McLean – Vincent". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved January 17, 2019. Select singles in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Vincent in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.

External links[edit]