OK, on a roll now!
1971: The Monkees disbanded, Jim Morrison was found dead in a bath tub, The Sonny and Cher show debuted.
When looking at the songs from 1971, I again saw many great artists e.g. Cher, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, The Rolling Stones, etc. I also saw many awesome songs e.g. “You’ve got a Friend”, “Stairway to heaven”, “Behind Blue Eyes”, “Morning has Broken”, etc. It was easy to pick my favorite, though: “American Pie”.
I remember this song growing up, but I really did not “learn” anything about it until I was in college.
It was at this time in the history of music….well….my history of music, that I started buying cds. (For all the youngsters: we used to have things called cassette tapes.) My best friend, Michelle, had bought the cd: “American Pie” by Don Mclean. I realized then that I never knew the name of the person who sang this song. For those of you who may still be clueless (youngsters) other songs by Don McLean include: “Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)” and….and….uhhh….That is really the only other song that I am familiar with by Don McLean. But on http://music.whosdatedwho.com/tpx_4662/don-mclean/songs there is a list of 218 songs recorded by Don McLean. Several of them are remakes.
My greatest memory of this song comes from the year 1994. I had been out of college for two years. I lived 8 hours from where I grew up. In those days, I would spend the summers in Michigan, and just “visit” my apartment for a week.
I had just bought a used Red Chevy S10 pick up. It was very tiny. It had no back seat, no air conditioning, and it had a stick shift.
This was also 2 years before I had kids. I was still close to my old neighbors from Detroit. I took 11 year old Lauren and 8 year old Joey on the eight hour trip in that tiny vehicle.
I made it a point to keep a pink carnation in that truck, thus having “A pink carnation and a pickup truck…” You may be thinking that this awesome vehicle would have been decked out with a cd player. No. I played “American Pie” over and over on a cassette tape in that little red truck. At that point in my life I did not know what a levee was. The next summer I would get quite familiar with one as I sand-bagged near the Illinois River. I did not have to rewind the tape too many times since the length of the song is around 9 minutes. (I always figure if it is playing on the radio that the DJ had to use the bathroom.)
One of the things that I have always loved about the song are all of the Christian references
Now, to the meaning of those lyrics…..
According to Songfacts.com, the song was originally inspired by the death of Buddy Holly. McLean says the story is a dream. Besides saying the song was about Buddy Holly, McLean has never said what the lyrics mean. He wants to leave that to the listener. Songfacts.com gives ideas of the meaning through the eyes of others. They think the Jester was Bob Dylan. And, the king was Elvis. The Sergeants were probably The Beatles. Janis Joplin was the girl who sang the blues. Moss grows fat on our rolling stone was a reference to Mick Jagger. Helter Skelter referred to the Manson Family. The marching band referred to the police. (Not the group, law enforcement) Some think “Jack Flash sat on a candlestick” refers to the space program.
As for the Christian references, Don McLean was a practicing catholic.
My favorite part of the song is the last chorus. It is done a cappella, and is done by a group. This makes me think of friends sitting around singing.