James Blake is one of the most arresting singers and arrangers of his young generation. You can take a journey through his any of his three albums, including last year’s The Colour In Anything and find all the evidence you need to back up that claim, or you check out his incredibly emotive cover of Don McLean’s immortal ’70s ballad “Vincent” that the singer put together just before Christmas. Seated at a grand piano, Blake immerses himself in the music, warbling out the colorful lines with his eyes locked shut.
McLean himself got the chance to hear it on Christmas Eve and was blown away, saying that Blake’s “singing and piano playing are superb.”
Blake picked up on the compliment and paid one of his own.
In an interview with The Observer in 2010, McLean recounted how he created the stunning 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.”
You can watch James Blake’s take on “Vincent” above and compare it to McClean’s original rendition below.