A friend, TZ, sent me the text of an interview with Don McLean from The Australian newspaper a few days ago.
Because I am not a subscriber to The Australian I can’t access that interview so I am posting it in the format sent to me.
I have never been a great fan of Don McLean, American Pie has always seemed to me to me a little deliberately and glibly inscrutable.
Still, the article is of interest and worth a reprint.
I will not dissect the lyrics as to what the lyrics mean. McLeran, on being asked that question, has said "It means I never have to work again."
His eight-minute-long "rock and roll American dream" became an anthem for an entire generation - who memorised every line. Their children in turn grew up singing it - fascinated by the mysterious lyrics with their cryptic references to 50s innocence, the turbulent 60s, and 70s disillusion.- BBC News, April 7, 2015 at
Don McLean's American Pie still a magical mystery after 50 years
Ever since its release in 1971, American Pie has been analysed, debated, raked over, pulled apart. Artists ranging from Madonna to Tyson Fury have covered Don McLean’s eight-and-a-half-minute odyssey. There are entire academic treatises on who the king, the queen, the joker and the rest of its characters are based on. The Recording Industry of America lists American Pie as the fifth best song of the 20th century. At 75, McLean is celebrating the song’s 50th anniversary. What, though, does it all mean?
“The day the music died” almost definitely refers to the 1959 plane crash that killed the pioneering rock’n’rollers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. Beyond that McLean has confirmed only that the song means he’ll never have to work again. Having always taken it as a story on the death of innocence, I am interested to know how its creator feels about American Pie’s relevance to the post-Trump US. His answer turns out to be a lot more than I bargained for.
“America hasn’t won a war since Korea in the 1950s,” McLean begins. He’s at his surprisingly modest house in Palm Springs, deep in the California desert. “We keep sending young men off to Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan to get blown to bits, we don’t care about the inhabitants, and for what? I don’t know what’s going on in America. All I know is that the left and the right are radicalised, 71 million people voted for Trump, and now we have President Biden who unfortunately seems to be quite frail. Jeez.”
American Pie reflected McLean’s troubled childhood and adolescence in the middle-class town of New Rochelle in New York, a childhood shaped by the death of his father when McLean was 15. It also reflected America’s journey through the 1960s, referencing not only the hippy dream of Woodstock, but Charles Manson, the murderous violence at the Rolling Stones 1969 concert at Altamont, and Vietnam. At least we think it does.
“Can you imagine having your foot blown off in a war? Can you?” McLean continues as some kind of answer to my further probings on American Pie’s allegories. “In 1960, when he left office, president Eisenhower warned the nation about the military industrial complex. We’ve had so many warnings since and nobody listened. American Pie is celebrating its 50th year. That’s the reason we’re talking. We could have solved these problems in that time. But I don’t have any answers. I have only observations.”
As to McLean’s relationship with American Pie, he says it is the same as it ever was. “I love to entertain people. I want to help people. I want to give something of myself to the world. I’m not really interested in Don McLean, actually, but if Don McLean can do some good … I’m happy to do it.”