Old-style en­ter­tain­ment on a starry, starry night

Irish Examiner - - News - Joe Der­mody

We met a gum-chew­ing man who sang the blues, asked him for some happy news, and af­ter a stun­ning night, he just smiled and turned away.

The gum was prob­a­bly medic­i­nal.

“You may have heard I had to can­cel some shows due to ill­ness,” McLean says. “I’m here tonight thanks to the Ir­ish who gave me some magic drink with honey and some other strong things in it.”

He’s still got great­ness. At 72, the up­per reg­is­ter of Don McLean’s voice may not be what it was way back when his then an­gelic vo­cals and global hits packed out Páirc Uí Chaoimh twice in the 1980s, but on a starry, starry night such as this, his leg­endary sta­tus was en­hanced by his com­mit­ment to en­ter­tain­ment.

McLean is still a great per­former, a great acous­tic guitarist, and still a fine singer. The bril­liance of the songs is ir­refutable: ‘Vincent’, ‘Cry­ing’, ‘And I Love You So’, ‘Moun­tains of Mourne’, and the ev­er­green ‘Amer­i­can Pie’. He also plays other old clas­sics, trib­utes to Guy Mitchell (‘Singing The Blues’) and Buddy Holly.

He still en­joys con­nect­ing with his au­di­ence. He has plenty of sto­ries to tell, all of which get a warm re­cep­tion.

McLean said: “I write songs that com­bine folk with a kind of rock and roll that I can un­der­stand; in other words, it stopped around 1963 with Gene Vincent. I’m lucky that a lot of peo­ple have recorded my songs. Peo­ple ask me what ‘Amer­i­can Pie’ means; it means I don’t have to work any­more.”

And he’s clearly do­ing this for the love of mu­sic. Cer­tainly not for the money. The orig­i­nal hand­writ­ten lyrics to ‘Amer­i­can Pie’ alone sold at auc­tion for $1.2m in 2015.

A global mega hit, McLean some­how didn’t win a Grammy for ‘Amer­i­can Pie’. In­stead, he was hang­ing back­stage with Gil­bert O’Sul­li­van (nom­i­nated for ‘Noth­ing Rhymed’) while Harry Nils­son’s ‘With­out You’ won the best male pop prize.

He also re­counts how his lawyers helped him own 60% of one of Drake’s hits, one which bor­rowed heav­ily from McLean.

Lots of sto­ry­telling, lots of great tunes, old-style en­ter­tain­ment.

Ash­ley and Stephen Hayes, Blar­ney, at the Don McLean gig at Live at the Mar­quee, Cork.

Pic­tures: Dar­ragh Kane

Mar­garet and Joe Cashin with Bernie O’Neill, Tramore, all set for the Don McLean con­cert.

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