Today In Music History – ‘American Pie’

On May 26, 1971 [lastfm]Don McLean[/lastfm] recorded ‘American Pie’ which rose to be #1 on the Billboard charts.  The song is an epic eight minutes and twenty-seven seconds;  has six verses and one repeated chorus.  It tells the story of “The Day The Music Died,” referencing the February 3, 1959 plane crash which ended the lives of [lastfm]Buddy Holly[/lastfm], [lastfm]Ritchie Valens[/lastfm], and [lastfm]J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson[/lastfm], and pilot, Roger Peterson.

Don McLean is known for his deeply layered songwriting and ‘American Pie’ is no exception. The lyrics are rich with meaning and cultural references though seemingly disjointed.

McLean explains: “I’m very proud of the song. It is biographical in nature and I don’t think anyone has ever picked up on that. The song starts off with my memories of the death of Buddy Holly. But it moves on to describe America as I was seeing it and how I was fantasizing it might become, so it’s part reality and part fantasy but I’m always in the song as a witness or as even the subject sometimes in some of the verses. You know how when you dream something you can see something change into something else and it’s illogical when you examine it in the morning but when you’re dreaming it seems perfectly logical. So it’s perfectly okay for me to talk about being in the gym and seeing this girl dancing with someone else and suddenly have this become this other thing that this verse becomes and moving on just like that. That’s why I’ve never analyzed the lyrics to the song. They’re beyond analysis. They’re poetry.”


McLean performing other tracks from the album ‘American Pie’:

Catch up with Don Mclean at

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