Tuesday, September 28

Don McLean, "Vincent"


Hans said...

Simply beautiful - song and paintings and Vincent.

Metamatician said...

One of the best songs ever written, I think. Almost makes me bawl each time, but not in a sad way. Just a sublime, truthful way.

billybytedoc said...

After reading Hans comments, I figured if even a cat liked it, it must be good. So I watched/listened.

Very nice music indeed, and interesting art.


Metamatician said...

Thanks Byte :)

An Gabhar Ban said...

I have the feeling that I've see this video before, loved it when I saw it first, still think it's great :) going to have to save that for future reference.

Metamatician said...

Perhaps maybe to the surprise of many, the late rapper/actor/human being Tupac Amaru Shakur said this was his favorite song, and in his notebooks of poetry and drawings his mom partially released after his death, it was apparent he liked many other McLean songs and well as Dylan, Guthrie, and other folk artists, not to mention R&B and soul and blues singers, white rockers, British pop/rock (lots of Beatles quotes, drawings), and so on.

His mom, a Black Panther herself who named him after the revolutionary figure Túpac Amaru II, son of the last indigenous ruler of the Inca who fought the Spanish trying to reclaim his father's throne and his people's empire, exposed him to a huge diversity of artists and art. She moved them from the ghetto in New York City when he was young to the ghetto in Baltimore, not because conditions on the streets were any better, but so he could attend a sort-of public charter school which stressed the arts and had a very multi-ethnic student body.

He said it was here he properly met his first white person, an unlike blonde friend who like New Wave music and with whom he remained close for a number of years. Here he read not only Richard Wright and Maya Angelou, but Shakespeare and Steinbeck; learned ballet and painting and poetry - and overall had in his own opinion the best few years of his life.

It was there too that a teacher gave him Don McClean's American Pie on cassette, which he said he wore out listening to, identifying with the words of the songs so much. He began to fill journals with poetry, and his own love of words came to the surface naturally.

His mom stayed on welfare though and fought cocaine addiction. She moved the family to Marin City, California, and the teenage Tupac began to hang out with kids from Oakland to Santa Rosa to Vallejo. He honed his rapping skills, wrote his own "flows" and began to "perform freestyle," and soon met members of the then-popular band Digital Underground from Oakland. He would remain closer to his friends from the Bay Area than anyone who came along after his rise to commercial success.

He would later be surrounded by the bad influences that pave the road to fame, and involve himself in the "thug" lifestyle he both loved and hated. He was never a Panther or a gang member in any serious way, but exposure to his mom's group of radical friends had an influence on him that comes across in his lyrics, which struck (and still strike) many by their larger cultural awareness than other rappers displayed then or now. (cont'd)

Metamatician said...

Guess that's one of the reasons I liked his stuff right away - it was strong and in your face, but emotional and intellectual too, and he had a sensitive nature beneath all the trappings of machismo that one couldn't help but notice. I didn't know anything about his background until I'd already been listening to his CDs for several years, but looking back it makes perfect sense that he had had such a diversity of influences, because they showed.

The media and most people - even the majority of fans - I don't think ever understood him, or really tried, but the fact he's still relevant 14 years after his death (he was two years older than I am) and appreciated by fans worldwide, and still outsells many of today's artists each year with each bit of 'lost material' that 'miraculously' turns up and is exploited by his estate and the music industry shows just what a broad appeal he had and still has now on a generation who never knew him while he was alive. This appeal reaches out not only to blacks, but disenfranchised people of all colors, financial status and (in my case certainly) mental disposition.

I don't think he trusted many people, but he made friends wherever he went. He was a born leader and fearless, but he was reflective and deeply questioning inside. He truly wanted a different world and didn't just pay lip service to those ideas of his mom's generation (the race riots of the 60s, Malcom X, MLK) to profit from the system he was protesting. Like many young artists out of their element, he squandered most of what he earned. He was far from a perfect person, but he was (in my mind) a fascinating, intelligent, and sometimes frightening character who exuded the charisma of his Peruvian namesake.

It doesn't matter your color or background, the wheat always separates from the chaff - but the best wheat is often sickled down in its prime simply because it stands out proudly from all the rest. The fact he identified so strongly with this song in particular (something I has no idea of till after his death) helps explain why I found a refuge in much of his music, and why, unlike with any other rap, I continually listened to his stuff and was intellectually fascinated by his complex wordplay on one level and felt the impact of the force of his personality in my gut on another.

Had circumstances of birth been different, I could see myself following similar footsteps. That's not something I can say about many others... Nick Drake and Ian Curtis spring to mind, but it's definitely a short list.

I cried when I heard he'd died - it hit me hard. Shocked me really. We may not have had similar upbringings on the surface, but I always felt like I knew him so well through his songs. I too felt alienation, powerful but helpless, hard and rational but painfully sensitive. He had much the same effect on me I suppose as his exposure to 60s and 70s folk music had on him. Understanding beyond racial or socioeconomic borders.

RIP man, I miss ya. Hope they got a ghetto in Heaven.

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