Don McLean‘s classic anthem “American Pie” and album of the same name were released 50 years ago this Sunday, October 24.
With “American Pie,” which was the album’s lead track and centerpiece, McLean used the tragic 1959 plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper — referred to in the tune as “the day the music died” –as a launching point to metaphorically trace the history of rock ‘n’ roll through the turbulent 1960s, while also reflecting on the loss of innocence America experienced during the era.
“American Pie” spent four weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1972, while the album topped the Billboard 200 for seven weeks around that time. American Pie also featured a second hit, the acoustic ballad “Vincent,” an homage to painter Vincent Van Gogh that peaked at #12 on the Hot 100.
“American Pie,” of course, has become among the most enduring songs of its time.
“It’s been a hit record on steroids,” McLean tells ABC Audio. “[O]ther hits have been forgotten that were around or…if you listen to them now, they sound silly…This song is majestic and it continues to grow.”
Reflecting on the song, Don says, “[I]t’s entertaining on a number of levels…I had a blast writing it and thinking about it and laughing and thinking, ‘Oh, this is funny, I’ll do this,’ or ‘I won’t do that.'”
As for “Vincent,” McLean notes with a laugh, “I hear people saying that the song has actually made [Van Gogh] famous, more famous than he was before. That makes me feel funny…because he was already a god, really, in [the realm of art].”
As previously reported, McLean will launch a 50th anniversary American Pie tour this January in Honolulu.
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