I recently took a trip to Chicago to view some of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings. Listening to The Sad Café by JD Souther got me thinking about two of Van Gogh’s works, Café Terrace at Night and The Night Café.
The initial connection between the pieces – Souther’s music and Van Gogh’s visual works – was the obvious similarities in their names. From there, I sat down and listened closely to Souther’s, The Sad Café, lyrics. This made me realize more connections beyond the obvious. The two Van Gogh pieces seemed to tie into different parts of the song’s lyrics.
As the song softly starts, I listened to the words and found myself looking at Café Terrace at Night. There is a sense of hope or happy memories within the outdoor café that match JD Souther’s lyrics in the first half of the song. “Out of the silver light, the past came softly calling, And I remember the times we spent, Inside the Sad Café.”
The dark blue sky that peaks around the contrasting bright yellow stars seemed to forecast the dark coming in the song. The melancholy atmosphere of melody starts to take over – “as the clouds role in” – and, at this point in the song, I changed my gaze to The Night Café. “Now I look at the years gone by, and wonder at the powers that be,” seem to question fate and the dreams that didn’t come true. Reality starts to set in and the beautiful outdoor view fades away. The heaviness of the world is now reflected in the lyrics and in the painting, The Night Café – the once bright yellow color is now a dark mustard color on the floors.
My take away from both artists, Van Gogh and Souther, is reflected in the following phrase in the last part of the song, “There’s no use in asking why.” There will be times that you sit in a metaphorical ‘Sad Café, but it is in those moments that the joyful memories of Café Terrance at Night always remain.
Try it for yourself!
Listen to Sad Café by JD Souther while viewing these two pieces.
Do you think one painting matches the song more than the other? Which speaks more to you? Let me know what you think!
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