‘American Pie’ turns 50

Posted: February 1, 2022 by chrisharper in Uncategorized
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By Christopher Harper

“American Pie,” the iconic ballad that chronicled social and musical history during the 1960s, has turned 50.

Don McLean, the author and singer of the eight-minute-long tune, has launched a 65-city tour in the United States and Europe to belt out the tale of taking a Chevy to the levee, which actually was a bar rather than part of a river.

Throughout the years, people have tried to untangle the meaning of the lyrics, which reflect the downward spiral of the United States in the 1960s.

If you want all of the interpretations of the song, here they are: https://americansongwriter.com/american-pie-don-mclean-meaning-lyrics-50-years-later/

The top of the pops from American Songwriter:

–“The song is about the nostalgia that comes with closing a chapter in time. A chapter that was good, youthful, and innocent. The song starts in the late 1950s, where both McLean himself and the post-World War II American sentiment were still sincere and innocent, if also blindingly naive. And as we know, naivety and innocence are always lost. For McLean, it was lost when he discovered that his favorite musicians, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, had died in a plane crash—the day the music died. And for America, it came when the utopia of the 1950s was exposed as a veneer, giving way to the more socially conscious, but turbulent 1960s.”

–“Everything became more political in the 1960s. [President John] Kennedy was assassinated, and the courtroom was adjourned with no verdict, as Lee Harvey Oswald was killed prior to judicial proceedings. The Helter Skelter murders happened during that sweltering summer, which, if not expressly political, was certainly ideological. 

Music was no exception to all the politicization. John Lennon was reading from the book of Marx, as The Beatles released songs invoking revolution and even referencing China’s Mao.”

–The Levee was a bar in New Rochelle, New York, where McLean drank with his friends. 

What’s refreshing about McLean is he hasn’t turned into a nattering nabob of negativism like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell.

In a recent interview with Fox Digital, McLean underlined the positive values he learned in his youth, which are sadly lacking today. 

“The America now is not the America I started out in,” said McLean. “And it’s not the America that I was in before I started out … The America that I remember in the 1950s when I was growing up and was a young boy and teenager — that’s the America I knew and the value system I knew.”

He also pointed out that “so many people today make it sound like the America of the ’50s was some horrible White racist country, and it’s disgusting the way [some] people have characterized our country. There was a wonderful civility [back then]; there was trust; doors were open; we had the No. 1 colleges in the world; and we were No. 1, for real.”

Rock on, Don! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RciM7P9K3FA

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