‘Amer­i­can Pie’ lyrics sell for US$1.2 mil­lion in New York auc­tion

The China Post - - ARTS -

The orig­i­nal manuscript of Don McLean’s enig­matic hit song “Amer­i­can Pie” sold at auc­tion in New York on Tues­day for US$ 1.2 mil­lion, Christie’s said.

The 18 pages of manuscript, writ­ten in 1970-71 in pen­cil, ink and type­script on 17 sheets, had been ex­pected to fetch be­tween US$1 and US$1.5 mil­lion at the auc­tion house. Christie’s said the buyer was anony­mous.

McLean, 69, said he wanted to re­lease the lyrics to help peo­ple un­der­stand the true mean­ing of the song, which de­picts tur­bu­lent up­heavals of the lat­ter half of the 20th cen­tury.

“It was an in­de­scrib­able pho­to­graph of Amer­ica that I tried to cap­ture in words and mu­sic,” he said in Fe­bru­ary in the Christie’s cat­a­log.

“I would say to young song­writ­ers who are start­ing out to im­merse your­self in beau­ti­ful mu­sic and beau­ti­ful lyrics, and think about ev­ery word you say in a song.”

The song was ini­tially in­spired by his mem­o­ries of be­ing a paperboy in 1959 and learn­ing of the death of Buddy Holly, it also rep­re­sents a chang­ing Amer­ica from the bright­ness of the 1950s to darker 1960s.

The phrase “the day the mu­sic died” was long known to re­fer to the 1959 plane crash that killed rock ‘n’ roll pi­o­neers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “Big Bop­per” Richard­son.

But in an in­ter­view with Christie’s, McLean re­vealed the hid­den mean­ing of the song’s six verses, over which mu­sic en­thu­si­asts had long ag­o­nized.

“Ba­si­cally, in ‘Amer­i­can Pie’ things are head­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion. It is be­com­ing less ideal, less idyl­lic. I don’t know whether you con­sider that wrong or right, but it is a moral­ity song in a sense,” he said.

“I was around in 1970 and now I am around in 2015 ... there is no po­etry and very lit­tle ro­mance in any­thing any­more, so it is re­ally like the last phase of ‘Amer­i­can Pie,’” he added.

In­spi­ra­tion in the Phar­macy

McLean also ex­plained the writ­ing process, say­ing that ages af­ter he had the words “bye, bye Miss Amer­i­can pie,” the cho­rus came to him sud­denly while out shop­ping in a phar­macy in Cold Spring, New York.

“I drove as fast as I could back home — I didn’t have a pen­cil and pa­per with me — and scrib­bled that down and put it in the tape recorder.”

Some ini­tial ideas were also dropped as the song set the tone for his sec­ond al­bum also called “Amer­i­can Pie” and which was a run­away suc­cess.

“So it had to be about a lot of sub­tle things. It had to be about Amer­ica, na­ture and loss, and love, and a whole bunch of things, and other things wouldn’t fit,” he said.

The song was in­ducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and named the fifth great­est song of the 20th cen­tury by the Record­ing In­dus­try of Amer­ica and the Na­tional En­dow­ment of the Arts.

The other four were “Over the Rain­bow,” “White Christ­mas,” “This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie and “Re­spect” by Otis Red­ding.

Born in 1945, McLean was brought up in New Rochelle, New York and moved to New York City as a young trou­ba­dour in 1964 af­ter drop­ping out of col­lege.

He re­leased his “Ta­pes­try” in 1970.

Tom Lecky, head of books and manuscripts at Christie’s, said it was the third high­est sale price at auc­tion for an Amer­i­can lit­er­ary manuscript.

“This re­sult is a tes­ta­ment to the cre­ative ge­nius of Don McLean and to the song’s abil­ity to still en­gage and in­spire,” he said.

first al­bum

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