About the song

If you are a fan of folk rock music, you probably know the song “American Pie” by Don McLean. It is one of the most iconic songs of the 1970s, and it has a fascinating history behind it. In this blog post, I will write an introduction and highlight the history of this song, based on some reliable sources.

“American Pie” is the title track of McLean’s second studio album, released in October 1971 by United Artists Records. The album reached number one on the Billboard 200, and it contained two chart-topping singles: “American Pie” and “Vincent”. The album was dedicated to Buddy Holly, one of McLean’s childhood idols, who died in a plane crash in 1959 along with Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper.

The song “American Pie” is a long (8:37) and complex (six verses) ballad that tells the story of the changes in American culture and music from the 1950s to the 1970s, using various symbols and references. The song begins with McLean’s reminiscence of the day he learned about Holly’s death, which he calls “the day the music died”. He then describes how he tried to find meaning and hope in the music of different artists and genres, such as Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, Woodstock, Altamont, and others. He also expresses his nostalgia for the simpler and happier times of his youth, when he used to dance and sing along to rock and roll songs.

The song was recorded in May and June 1971 at The Record Plant in New York City, with Ed Freeman as the producer. McLean wanted to capture the feel of a “band that was really cooking”, so he rehearsed the song for two weeks with the musicians before recording it. The song features McLean on vocals and banjo, Paul Griffin and Ray Colcord on piano, Roy Markowitz on drums, David Spinozza on guitar, Robbie Rothstein on bass guitar, and West 44th Street Rhythm And Noise Choir on chorus.

The song was released as a single in November 1971, and it became an instant hit. It reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks in January 1972, and it also topped the charts in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK. It was certified gold by the RIAA in January 1972, and platinum in March 1989. It is one of the longest songs to ever top the charts, and it is widely considered as one of the greatest songs of all time.

The song has been covered by many artists over the years, such as Madonna, Garth Brooks, Tori Amos, Weird Al Yankovic, Donny Osmond, and others. It has also been featured in many movies and TV shows, such as American Graffiti, Born on the Fourth of July, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Friends, Glee, and others. It has also been referenced in many books and articles about American culture and history.

The song has also sparked a lot of curiosity and debate among fans and critics about its meaning and interpretation. McLean has been reluctant to explain his lyrics in detail, saying that he wanted to leave them open to different perspectives. He has only revealed that the song was inspired by his sense of loss for the innocence and optimism of his generation after Holly’s death and other tragic events. He has also said that he used various metaphors and allegories to describe his personal feelings and observations about America’s social and political changes.

However, some people have tried to decipher the song’s references and symbols using various sources and clues. For example, some have suggested that “the jester” is Bob Dylan; “the king” is Elvis Presley; “the queen” is Janis Joplin; “the marching band” is The Beatles; “the sergeants” are The Rolling Stones; “the players” are The Byrds; “the devil” is Mick Jagger; “the girl who sang the blues” is Janis Joplin; “the three men I admire most” are Buddy Holly,

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Lyrics

A long long time ago
I can still remember how
That music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while

But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
Something touched me deep inside
The day the music died
So

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

Did you write the book of love
And do you have faith in God above
If the Bible tells you so?
Now, do you believe in rock and roll?
Can music save your mortal soul?
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?

Well, I know that you’re in love with him
‘Cause I saw you dancin’ in the gym
You both kicked off your shoes
Man, I dig those rhythm and blues

I was a lonely teenage broncin’ buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck
But I knew I was out of luck
The day the music died
I started singin’

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
And singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

Now, for ten years we’ve been on our own
And moss grows fat on a rolling stone
But, that’s not how it used to be

When the jester sang for the king and queen
In a coat he borrowed from James Dean
And a voice that came from you and me

Oh, and while the king was looking down
The jester stole his thorny crown
The courtroom was adjourned
No verdict was returned

And while Lennon read a book on Marx
The quartet practiced in the park
And we sang dirges in the dark
The day the music died
We were singin’

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
And singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

Helter skelter in a summer swelter
The birds flew off with a fallout shelter
Eight miles high and falling fast

It landed foul on the grass
The players tried for a forward pass
With the jester on the sidelines in a cast

Now the half-time air was sweet perfume
While the sergeants played a marching tune
We all got up to dance
Oh, but we never got the chance

‘Cause the players tried to take the field
The marching band refused to yield
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the music died?
We started singin’

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
And singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

Oh, and there we were all in one place
A generation lost in space
With no time left to start again

So come on Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack Flash sat on a candlestick
‘Cause fire is the devil’s only friend

Oh, and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in Hell
Could break that Satan’s spell

And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died
He was singin’

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away

I went down to the sacred store
Where I’d heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn’t play

And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken

And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died
And they were singing

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

They were singing
Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die