‘AMER­I­CAN PIE’ AND MUCH MORE

> 1972 EPIC IS NO BUR­DEN FOR MCLEAN, WHO STILL WRITES FROM ‘DARK SIDE’

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - News - By Mark Jor­dan

WHEN THE REST of the world paused last win­ter to com­mem­o­rate “the Day the Mu­sic Died,” the name given to the date of Feb. 3, 1959, when an Iowa plane crash claimed the lives of rock pi­o­neer Buddy Holly and his tour­mates, the man prob­a­bly most re­spon­si­ble for burn­ing that phrase into the pop­u­lar imagination was nowhere to be seen or heard.

“I was home. It’s not Christ­mas,” says singer-song­writer Don McLean, 63, who coined the term in his 1972 hit “Amer­i­can Pie.” “The first part of ‘Amer­i­can Pie’ refers to Buddy Holly. But it’s not about Buddy Holly. It’s a much big­ger song than Buddy Holly. … It’s about Amer­ica, re­ally. And I don’t al­low it to be co-opted by the Buddy Holly folks.”

Over a 45-year ca­reer, McLean, who started as a folkie in the mid’60s learn­ing at the feet of his idols the Weavers, has writ­ten and recorded hun­dreds of songs.

He has had other hits, most notably his Van Gogh trib­ute “Vin­cent,” and a cover of Roy Or­bi­son’s “Cry­ing.” He’s writ­ten smashes for oth­ers; Perry Como charted with his cover of McLean’s “And I Love You So,” which was also a sta­ple of Elvis’ set in the years be­fore his death. He even in­spired the writ­ing of an­other iconic song, “Killing Me Softly With His Song.”

But it is the epic “Amer­i­can Pie” with which he is most as­so­ci­ated. An im­age-rich folk-rock fan­tasy, the song uses the death of Holly — and McLean’s mem­ory of learn­ing about the death of his mu­si­cal hero while de­liv­er­ing the news via his news­pa­per route — as a launch­ing point for a pro­longed med­i­ta­tion on the Amer­i­can

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