In preparing for my conversation with Don McLean, I studied the lyrics of “American Pie” and some of the interpretations of the lyrics, and I was reminded of the relevance of this poetic rock masterpiece. Don McLean does not like to talk about specific interpretations of the powerful imagery in the song, but he did talk about how the song reflected his lament over strong political and societal changes in America.
As a young paperboy, Don McLean learned that one of his music idols – Buddy Holly – had been killed in a plane crash when he saw the headline while folding the papers for his route that morning.
As I thought about that, I realized that the imagery of the song “American Pie” is like the Constitution and the Bible in that all three documents have the elasticity to apply to current-day America.
In 1980, McLean covered the Roy Orbison classic, “Crying,” which shot to #1 in the UK and Australia and #5 on the US charts. His version of “Crying” led to praises for his voice, and Orbison said McLean’s voice was one of the great musical instruments of the 20th Century.
If you haven’t listened to “American Pie” in years or if you are too young to have any personal reference to the song – find it. Download it and carefully listen to the brilliant lyrical odyssey and how relatable the song is to America today.