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Song Stories

“Vincent”

Don McLean | 1971

McLean, who had a job singing in a school system, was playing guitar in a classroom one day when he started to write this tribute to painter Vincent van Gogh. The song begins with the lyric "Starry Starry Night" -- in reference to "The Starry Night," a swirling painting van Gogh created after committing himself to an asylum in 1889. "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," McLean said. After Tupac Shakur was shot in 1996, his girlfriend played this as he lay in the hospital so it would be the last thing he heard before dying.

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

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