American Pie – Don McLean

The MARK’S VINTAGE VINYL page features something from Mark’s collection of recordings from over the years. Most of it is on vinyl – hence the name – though there will be a few entries from his CDs (remember those?).

American Pie, by Don McLean

  • Second studio album released by Don McLean in October 1971.
  • The album reached #1 on the Billboard 200 chart within 2 weeks of its release. Singles from the album were American Pie (which reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart) and Vincent (which reached #12, and #1 in the UK).
  • The success of the song American Pie is remarkable, in that it is 8 minutes, 33 seconds long. Radio stations at the time would rarely play songs that were over 5 minutes long. The song is a tribute to McLean’s childhood icon Buddy Holly – “the day the music died” is the day that Holly died in a 1959 plane crash. The plane crash is a symbol of the loss of innocence of the early rock and roll generation. In 2017, the song was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. The original manuscript was auctioned in 2015, and sold for $1.2 million – nice payday for McLean!
  • The song Vincent is a tribute to the artist Vincent Van Gogh. In McLean’s own words, “In the autumn of 1970 I had a job singing in the school system, playing my guitar in classrooms. I was sitting on the veranda one morning, reading a biography of Van Gogh, and suddenly I knew I had to write a song arguing that he wasn’t crazy. He had an illness and so did his brother Theo. This makes it different, in my mind, to the garden variety of ‘crazy’ – because he was rejected by a woman [as was commonly thought]. So I sat down with a print of Starry Night and wrote the lyrics out on a paper bag.”
  • Here’s McLean performing Vincent in 1972.

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