1945 – Don McLean is born in New Rochelle, N.Y. Hi…

Don McLean

1945 – Don McLean is born in New Rochelle, N.Y. His biggest hit is “American Pie,” which hits No. 1 for four weeks in 1972. The song is inspired by the Deaths of Buddy Holly, “the day the music died.” Madonna eventually covers the song for the soundtrack of her film “The Next Best Thing.”

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, theyd be happy for a while.

But february made me shiver
With every paper Id deliver.
Bad news on the doorstep;
I couldnt take one more step.

I cant remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But 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 old boys were drinkin whiskey and rye
Singin, thisll be the day that I die.
Thisll 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?
Do you believe in rock n roll,
Can music save your mortal soul,
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?

Well, I know that youre 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 old boys were drinkin whiskey and rye
And singin, thisll be the day that I die.
Thisll be the day that I die.

Now for ten years weve been on our own
And moss grows fat on a rollin stone,
But thats 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 of marx,
The quartet practiced in the park,
And we sang dirges in the dark
The day the music died.

We were singing,
Bye-bye, miss american pie.
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkin whiskey and rye
And singin, thisll be the day that I die.
Thisll 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 singing,
Bye-bye, miss american pie.
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkin whiskey and rye
And singin, thisll be the day that I die.
Thisll 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 devils 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 satans 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 singing,
Bye-bye, miss american pie.
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkin whiskey and rye
And singin, thisll be the day that I die.
Thisll 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 Id heard the music years before,
But the man there said the music wouldnt 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 old boys were drinkin whiskey and rye
Singin, thisll be the day that I die.
Thisll 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 old boys were drinkin whiskey and rye
Singin, thisll be the day that I die.

Donald McLean (born October 2, 1945 in New Rochelle, New York) is an American singer-songwriter. He is most famous for his 1971 album American Pie, containing the renowned songs American Pie and Vincent.

Musical Roots

As a young teenager, McLean became interested in folk music particularly the Weavers’ 1955 recording “Live at Carnegie Hall”. By age 16 he had bought his first guitar (a Harmony acoustic archtop with a sunburst finish) and begun making contacts in the music business, becoming friends with folk singer Erik Darling, a member of the Weavers. McLean recorded his first studio sessions (with singer Lisa Kindred) while still in prep school.

McLean graduated from Iona Preparatory School in 1963, and briefly attended Villanova University, dropping out after four months. While at Villanova he became friends with singer/songwriter Jim Croce.

After leaving Villanova, Mclean became associated with famed folk music agent Harold Leventhal, and for the next six years performed at venues and events including the Bitter End and the Gaslight Cafe in New York, the Newport Folk Festival, the Cellar Door in Washington, D.C., and the Troubadour in Los Angeles. Concurrently, McLean attended night school at Iona College and received a Bachelors degree in Business Administration in 1968.

In 1968, with the help of a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts, McLean began reaching a wider public, with visits to towns up and down the Hudson River. He learned the art of performing from his friend and mentor Pete Seeger. McLean accompanied Seeger on his Clearwater boat trip up the Hudson River in 1969 to protest environmental pollution in the river. During this time McLean wrote songs that would appear on his first album, Tapestry.

Tapestry was released in 1970 on Capitol records to little notice outside the folk community. In late 1971, McLean’s second album, American Pie, was released and became a major success, spawning two number one hits in the title song and “Vincent”. American Pie’s success made McLean an international star and renewed interest in his first album, which charted more than two years after its initial release.

McLean continued to tour and release albums throughout the 1970s and 1980s but never replicated the success of American Pie.

McLean had a series of conflicts with Saturday Night Live writer Andy Breckman, starting when Breckman opened for McLean on tour in 1980.

Songs

American Pie

Main article: American Pie

Don McLean’s most famous composition, American Pie, is a sprawling, impressionistic ballad inspired partly by the deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J. P. Richardson (The Big Bopper) in a plane crash in 1959. The song would popularize the expression The Day the Music Died in reference to this event. McLean has stated that the lyrics are also somewhat autobiographical and present an abstract story of his life from the mid-1950s until the time he wrote the song in the late 1960s.

The song was recorded on 26th May 1971 and a month later received its first radio airplay on New York’s WNEW-FM and WPLJ-FM to mark the closing of The Fillmore East, a famous New York concert hall. “American Pie” reached number one on the US Billboard magazine charts for four weeks in 1971, and remains McLean’s most successful single release. It is also the longest song to reach #1 with a running time of 8:36.

Nearly thirty years later, pop singer Madonna released a truncated dance-pop cover version of the song. In response, Don McLean said: “I have received many gifts from God but this is the first time I have ever received a gift from a goddess.”

In 2001 “American Pie” was voted number 5 in a poll of the 365 “Songs of the Century” compiled by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The top five were: “Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie “Respect” by Aretha Franklin; and “American Pie” by Don McLean.

Other songs

McLean’s other well-known songs include:

* And I Love You So, covered by Elvis Presley, a 1973 hit for Perry Como
* Vincent, a tribute to the 19th century Dutch painter, Vincent van Gogh
* Castles in the Air, which McLean recorded twice — his 1981 re-recording was a top-40 hit
* Wonderful Baby, a tribute to Fred Astaire that Astaire himself recorded
* Superman’s Ghost, a tribute to George Reeves, who portrayed Superman on television in the 1950s

The album American Pie features a version of Psalm 137, entitled Babylon, and arranged by Don McLean and Lee Hays (of The Weavers). Boney M would have a number one hit in the UK with this song in 1978 under the title Rivers of Babylon, although the two renditions are so different it is not immediately noticeable that they are versions of the same song, originally composed by the reggae band The Melodians.

In 1980, McLean had an international number one hit with a cover of the Roy Orbison classic, Crying. Only following the record’s success overseas was it released in the U.S., becoming a top 10 hit in 1981. Orbison himself once described McLean as “the voice of the century”, and a subsequent re-recording of the song saw Orbison incorporate elements of McLean’s version.

Another hit song associated with Don McLean (though never recorded by him) is Killing Me Softly with His Song which was written about McLean after Lori Lieberman, also a singer/songwriter, saw him singing his composition Empty Chairs in concert. Afterwards, Lieberman wrote a poem titled Killing me Softly with his Blues which became the basis for the song written by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox and recorded by Roberta Flack (and later covered by The Fugees).

Later work

In 1991, Don McLean returned to the UK top 20 with a re-issue of “American Pie”.

In 2004, Don McLean was inaugurated into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

In 2007, the biography The Don McLean Story: Killing Us Softly With His Songs was published. Biographer Alan Howard conducted extensive interviews for this, the only book-length biography of the often reclusive McLean to date.

Discography

Albums
Year     Album
1970     Tapestry
1971     American Pie
1972     Don McLean
1973     Playin’ Favorites
1974     Homeless Brother
1976     Solo (LIVE)
1977     Prime Time
1978     Chain Lightning
1981     Believers
1982     Dominion (LIVE)
1987     Love Tracks
1989     For the Memories Vols I & II
1989     And I Love You So (UK Release)
1990     Headroom
1991     Christmas
1995     The River of Love
1997     Christmas Dreams
2001     Sings Marty Robbins
2001     Starry Starry Night (LIVE)
2003     You’ve Got to Share: Songs for Children
2003     The Western Album
2004     Christmas Time!
2005     Rearview Mirror: An American Musical Journey

Compilations
Year     Album
1980     The Very Best of Don McLean
1992     Favorites and Rarities
2003     Legendary Songs of Don McLean
2007     The Legendary Don McLean
2008     American Pie & Other Hits

Singles

USA

#1 – American Pie (1971)
#5 – Crying (1981)
#12 – Vincent (1972)
#21 – Dreidel (1972)
#23 – Since I Don’t Have You (1981)
#36 – Castles In The Air (1981)
#58 – If We Try (1973)
#83 – It’s Just The Sun (1981)
#93 – Wonderful Baby (1975)
#73 – He’s Got You (1987)
#49 – You Can’t Blame the Train (1987)

UK

#2 – American Pie (1972)
#1 – Vincent (1972)
#38 – Everday (1973)
#1 – Crying (1980)
#12 – American Pie (1991)

Rarities
Year     Title     Additional information
1982     “The Flight of Dragons”     This song was recorded for the film The Flight of Dragons in the early 1980s.

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