“American Pie,” one of the most recognizable and sing-a-long songs, in which, RIAA named one of the top 5 songs of the 20th century, is an iconic anthem by American singer and songwriter Don McLean. Recorded and released on the American Piealbum in 1971, the single was the number-one US hit for four weeks in 1972 starting January 15 after just eight weeks on the Billboard charts (where it entered at number 69). The song also topped the charts in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. In the UK, the single reached number 2, where it stayed for 3 weeks, on its original 1971 release, and a reissue in 1991 reached number 12. Now, 50 years later, the song “American Pie” has become the focus of a 96-page bookazine available everywhere magazines are sold. The special publication honors the song’s 50th anniversary with stories and photos of McLean through the years.
Don McLean began writing the song in Cold Spring, New York, and then continued to finish the song in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania. While some have claimed many other places that the song was either written or performed for the first time, McLean confirmed it was first sung at Saint Joseph’s University.
The repeatedly mentioned phrase “the day the music died” refers to the plane crash in 1959 that killed early rock and roll stars Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens, arguably ending the era of early rock and roll; this became the popular nickname for that crash. However, the overall theme of the song goes beyond its superficial semblance of mourning McLean’s childhood music heroes and reflects the deep cultural changes and profound disillusionment and loss of innocence of his entire generation – the early rock and roll generation – that took place between the 1959 plane crash and either late 1969 or late 1970. The meaning of the other lyrics, which cryptically allude to many of the jarring events and social changes experienced during that period, have been debated for decades.
McLean’s combined version is the fourth-longest song to enter the Billboard Hot 100 (at the time of release it was the longest), in addition to being the longest song to reach number one. Due to its exceptional length, it was initially released as a two-sided 7-inch single. “American Pie” has been described as “one of the most successful and debated songs of the 20th century”, with college courses taught on its lyrics.
A truncated version of the song was covered by Madonna in 2000 and reached No. 1 in several countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.
In 2017, McLean’s original recording was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or artistically significant”.
About Don McLean:
Don McLean is a Grammy award honoree, a Songwriter Hall of Fame member, a BBC Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, and his smash hit “American Pie” resides in the Library of Congress National Recording Registry and was named by the Recording Industry of America (RIAA) a top 5 song of the 20th Century. A New York native, Don McLean is one of the most revered and respected songwriters in American history. After paying his dues in the New York club scene in the late ‘60s, he went on to score mega-hits like “Vincent (Starry, Starry Night),” “Castles in the Air” and many more. His catalog of songs has been recorded by Madonna, Garth Brooks, Josh Groban, Drake, “Weird Al” Yankovic, and countless others. In 2015, one of McLean’s four handwritten manuscripts of the lyrics to “American Pie” was auctioned by Christies, selling for just over $1.2 Million. 2019 honored Don with a star on the Las Vegas Walkway of Stars and his song “And I Love You So” was the theme for Prince Harry and Megan Markle’s wedding. 2020 brought Don a new recording contract with Time Life which he released a catalog of recordings as well as a new album Still Playin’ Favorites. Now, in 2021 “American Pie” appears in the Avengers’ Black Widow and the upcoming Tom Hanks movie BIOS, Don will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a children’s book will be released, and much more! And when you think things are slowing down, not so for Don McLean!