According to McLean (as posted on his website), this song was originally inspired by the death of Buddy Holly. "The Day The Music Died" is February 3, 1959, when Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash after a concert. McLean wrote the song from his memories of the event ("Dedicated to Buddy Holly" was printed on the back of the album cover).
The Beatles Sgt. Pepper album was also a huge influence, and McLean has said in numerous interviews that the song represented the turn from innocence of the '50s to the darker, more volatile times of the '60s - both in music and politics.
McLean was a 13-year-old paperboy in New Rochelle, New York when Holly died. He learned about the plane crash when he cut into his stack of papers and saw the lead story.
Talking about how he composed this song when he was a guest on the UK show Songbook, McLean explained: "For some reason I wanted to write a big song about America and about politics, but I wanted to do it in a different way. As I was fiddling around, I started singing this thing about the Buddy Holly crash, the thing that came out (singing), 'Long, long time ago, I can still remember how that music used to make me smile.'
I thought, Whoa, what's that? And then the day the music died, it just came out. And I said, Oh, that is such a great idea. And so that's all I had. And then I thought, I can't have another slow song on this record. I've got to speed this up. I came up with this chorus, crazy chorus. And then one time about a month later I just woke up and wrote the other five verses. Because I realized what it was, I knew what I had. And basically, all I had to do was speed up the slow verse with the chorus and then slow down the last verse so it was like the first verse, and then tell the story, which was a dream. It is from all these fantasies, all these memories that I made personal. Buddy Holly's death to me was a personal tragedy. As a child, a 15-year-old, I had no idea that nobody else felt that way much. I mean, I went to school and mentioned it and they said, 'So what?' So I carried this yearning and longing, if you will, this weird sadness that would overtake me when I would look at this album, The Buddy Holly Story, because that was my last Buddy record before he passed away."
This song made the 26-year-old McLean very famous very quickly, which was difficult for the songwriter. McLean was prone to depression, losing his father at age 15 and dealing with a bad marriage when recording the album. So when the song hit, it thrust him into the spotlight and took the focus away from the body of his work. In a 1973 interview with NME, he explained: "I was headed on a certain course, and the success I got with 'American Pie' really threw me off. It just shattered my lifestyle and made me quite neurotic and extremely petulant. I was really prickly for a long time. If the things you're doing aren't increasing your energy and awareness and clarity and enjoyment, then you feel as though you're moving blindly. That's what happened to me. I seemed to be in a place where nothing felt like anything, and nothing meant anything. Literally nothing mattered. It was very hard for me to wake up in the morning and decide why it was I wanted to get up."
Contrary to rumors, the plane that crashed was not named the "American Pie" - Dwyer's Flying Service did not name their planes. McLean made up the name.
McLean admits that this song is about Buddy Holly, but has never said what the lyrics are about, preferring to let listeners interpret them on their own. In these next few Songfacts, we'll take a look at some logical interpretations: "The Jester" is probably Bob Dylan. It refers to him wearing "A coat he borrowed from James Dean," and being "On the sidelines in a cast." Dylan wore a red jacket similar to James Dean's on the cover of The Freewheeling Bob Dylan, and got in a motorcycle accident in 1966 which put him out of service for most of that year. Dylan also made frequent use of jokers, jesters or clowns in his lyrics. The line, "And a voice that came from you and me" could refer to the folk style he sings, and the line, "And while the king was looking down the jester stole his thorny crown" could be about how Dylan took Elvis Presley's place as the number one performer.
The line "Eight miles high and falling fast" is likely a reference to The Byrds' hit "Eight Miles High." Regarding the line, "The birds (Byrds) flew off from a fallout shelter," a fallout shelter is a '60s term for a drug rehabilitation facility, which one of the band members of The Byrds checked into after being caught with drugs.
The section with the line "The flames climbed high into the night" is probably about the Altamont Speedway concert in 1969. While the Rolling Stones were playing, a fan was stabbed to death by a member of The Hells Angels who was hired for security.
The line "Sergeants played a marching tune" is likely a reference to The Beatles' album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The line "I met a girl who sang the blues and I asked her for some happy news, but she just smiled and turned away" is probably about Janis Joplin. She died of a drug overdose in 1970.
The lyric "And while Lenin/Lennon read a book on Marx" has been interpreted different ways. Some view it as a reference to Vladimir Lenin, the communist dictator who led the Russian Revolution in 1917 and who built the USSR, which was later ruled by Josef Stalin. The "Marx" referred to here would be the socialist philosopher Karl Marx. Others believe it is about John Lennon, whose songs often reflected a very communistic theology (particularly "Imagine"). Some have even suggested that in the latter case, "Marx" is actually Groucho Marx, another cynical entertainer who was suspected of being a socialist, and whose wordplay was often similar to Lennon's lyrics.
"Did you write the book of love" is probably a reference to the 1958 hit "Book of Love" by the Monotones. The chorus for that song is "Who wrote the book of love? Tell me, tell me... I wonder, wonder who" etc. One of the lines asks, "Was it someone from above?" Don McLean was a practicing Catholic, and believed in the depravity of '60s music, hence the closing lyric: "The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost, they caught the last train for the coast, the day the music died." Some, have postulated that in this line, the Trinity represents Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper.
Suggestion credit: Brett - Edmonton, Canada, for above 2
Some more interpretations:
"And moss grows fat on our rolling stone" - Mick Jagger's appearance at a concert in skin-tight outfits, displaying a roll of fat, unusual for the skinny Stones frontman. Also, the words, "You know a rolling stone don't gather no moss" appear in the Buddy Holly song "Early in the Morning," which is about his ex missing him early in the morning when he's gone.
"The quartet practiced in the park" - The Beatles singing at Shea Stadium.
"And we sang dirges in the dark, the day the music died" - The '60s peace marches.
"Helter Skelter in a summer swelter" - The Manson Family's attack on Sharon Tate and others in California.
"We all got up to dance, Oh, but we never got the chance, 'cause the players tried to take the field, the marching band refused to yield" - The huge numbers of young people who went to Chicago for the 1968 Democratic Party National Convention, and who thought they would be part of the process ("the players tried to take the field"), only to receive a violently rude awakening by the Chicago Police Department nightsticks (the commissions who studied the violence after-the-fact would later term the Chicago PD as "conducting a full-scale police riot") or as McLean calls the police "the marching band."
Madonna covered this in 2000 for the movie The Next Best Thing. Her version topped the UK charts and peaked at #29 in the US. It was her friend, the English actor Rupert Everett, who suggested Madonna record a cover of this song and sang backup on her version.
On January 29, 2007 Madonna's recording was voted the worst ever cover version in a poll by BBC 6 Music. Despite the critical derision, McLean had good things to say about Madonna's cover, and he released this statement: "Madonna is a colossus in the music industry and she is going to be considered an important historical figure as well. She is a fine singer, a fine songwriter and record producer, and she has the power to guarantee success with any song she chooses to record. It is a gift for her to have recorded 'American Pie.' I have heard her version and I think it is sensual and mystical. I also feel that she's chosen autobiographical verses that reflect her career and personal history. I hope it will cause people to ask what's happening to music in America. I have received many gifts from God but this is the first time I have ever received a gift from a goddess."
Madonna was supposed to perform her version at the Super Bowl in 2001, but backed out, claiming she did not have enough time to prepare. No one was too upset.
At 8 minutes 32 seconds, this is the longest song in length to hit #1 on the Hot 100. The single was split in two parts because the 45 did not have enough room for the whole song on one side. The A-side ran 4:11 and the B-side was 4:31 - you had to flip the record in the middle to hear all of it. Disc jockeys usually played the album version at full length, which was to their benefit because it gave them time for a snack, a cigarette or a bathroom break.
In 1971, a singer named Lori Lieberman saw McLean perform this at the Troubadour theater in Los Angeles. She claimed that she was so moved by the concert that her experience became the basis for her song "Killing Me Softly With His Song," which was a huge hit for Roberta Flack in 1973. When we spoke with Charles Fox, who wrote "Killing Me Softly" with Norman Gimbel, he explained that when Lieberman heard their song, it reminded her of the show, and she had nothing to do with writing the song.
McLean (from his website): "I'm very proud of the song. It is biographical in nature and I don't think anyone has ever picked up on that. The song starts off with my memories of the death of Buddy Holly. But it moves on to describe America as I was seeing it and how I was fantasizing it might become, so it's part reality and part fantasy but I'm always in the song as a witness or as even the subject sometimes in some of the verses. You know how when you dream something you can see something change into something else and it's illogical when you examine it in the morning but when you're dreaming it seems perfectly logical. So it's perfectly okay for me to talk about being in the gym and seeing this girl dancing with someone else and suddenly have this become this other thing that this verse becomes and moving on just like that. That's why I've never analyzed the lyrics to the song. They're beyond analysis. They're poetry."
Suggestion credit: Bertrand - Paris, France
This song did a great deal to revive interest in Buddy Holly. Says McLean: "By 1964, you didn't hear anything about Buddy Holly. He was completely forgotten. But I didn't forget him, and I think this song helped make people aware that Buddy's legitimate musical contribution had been overlooked. When I first heard 'American Pie' on the radio, I was playing a gig somewhere, and it was immediately followed by 'Peggy Sue.' They caught right on to the Holly connection, and that made me very happy. I realized that it was actually gonna perform some good works."
In 2002, this was featured in a Chevrolet ad. It showed a guy in his Chevy singing along to the end of this song. At the end, he gets out and it is clear that he was not going to leave the car until the song was over. The ad played up the heritage of Chevrolet, which has a history of being mentioned in famous songs (the line in this one is "Drove my Chevy to the levee"). Chevy used the same idea a year earlier when it ran billboards of a red Corvette that said, "They don't write songs about Volvos."
Weird Al Yankovic did a parody of this song for his 1999 album Running With Scissors. It was called "The Saga Begins" and was about Star Wars: The Phantom Menace written from the point of view of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Sample lyric: "Bye, bye this here Anakin guy, maybe Vader someday later but now just a small fry."
It was the second Star Wars themed parody for Weird Al - his first being "Yoda," which is a takeoff on "Lola" by The Kinks. Al admitted that he wrote "The Saga Begins" before the movie came out, entirely based on Internet rumors.
While being interviewed in the 1991, McLean was asked for probably the 1000th time "What does the song 'American Pie' mean to you?," to which he answered, "It means never having to work again for the rest of my life."
The line "Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack Flash sat on a candle stick" is taken from a nursery rhyme that goes "Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candlestick." Jumping over the candlestick comes from a game where people would jump over fires. "Jumpin' Jack Flash" is a Rolling Stones song. Another possible reference to The Stones can be found in the line, "Fire is the devils only friend," which could be The Rolling Stones "Sympathy For The Devil," which is on the same Rolling Stones album.
Suggestion credit: Ben - Schelle, Belgium
McLean wrote the opening verse first, then came up with the chorus, including the famous title. The phrase "as American as apple pie" was part of the lexicon, but "American Pie" was not. When McLean came up with those two words, he says "a light went off in my head."
In the liner notes to the 2003 reissue of the album, McLean said: "A month or so later I was in Philadelphia and I wrote the rest of the song. I was trying to figure out what this song was trying to tell me and where it was supposed to go. That's when I realized it had to go forward from 1957 and it had to take in everything that has happened. I had to be a witness to the things going o, kind of like Mickey Mouse in Fantasia. I didn't know anything about hit records. I was just trying to make the most interesting and exciting record that I could. Once the song was written, there was no doubt that it was the whole enchilada. It was clearly a very interesting, wonderful thing and everybody knew it."
When the original was released at a whopping 8:32, some radio stations in the United States refused to play it because of a policy limiting airplay to 3:30. Some interpret the song as a protest against this policy. When Madonna covered the song many years later, she cut huge swathes of the song, ironically to make it more radio friendly, to 4:34 on the album and under 4 minutes for the radio edit.
Suggestion credit: Anton - Cambridge, England
This song was enshrined in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002, 29 years after it was snubbed for the four categories it was nominated in. At the 1973 ceremony, "American Pie" lost both Song of the Year and Record of the year to "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face."
Regarding the lyrics, "Jack Flash sat on a candlestick, 'cause fire is the devil's only friend," this could be a reference to the space program, and to the role it played in the Cold War between America and Russia throughout the '60s. It is central to McLean's theme of the blending of the political turmoil and musical protest as they intertwined through our lives during this remarkable point in history. Thus, the reference incorporates Jack Flash (the Rolling Stones), with our first astronaut to orbit the earth, John (common nickname for John is Jack) Glenn, paired with "Flash" an allusion to fire, with another image for a rocket launch, "candlestick," then pulls the whole theme together with "'cause fire is the Devil's (Russia's) only friend" (as Russia had beaten us to manned orbital flight.
Suggestion credit: Lynn - Denver, CO
Fans still make the occasional pilgrimage to the spot of the plane crash that inspired this song. It's in a location so remote that tourists are few.
The song starts in mono, and gradually goes to stereo over its eight-and-a-half minutes. This was done to represent going from the monaural era into the age of stereo.
Contrary to local lore, McLean neither wrote "American Pie" on cocktail napkins at the Tin and Lint in Saratoga Springs, New York, nor debuted it on stage at Caffe Lena, a famous coffeehouse around the corner from the bar. Speaking to Saratoga newspaper The Post-Star in November 2011, McLean disclosed that he penned the song in Philadelphia and performed it for the first time at Temple University, where he was billed to perform with Laura Nyro. "I have heard this for years. I guess you can't really control these things, but these are both not true. That is from the horse's mouth that's exactly what happened," McLean said. "Unfortunately Caffe Lena or Saratoga Springs - neither of those places can lay claim to anything with regard to 'American Pie.'"
This song was a forebear to the '50s nostalgia the became popular later in the decade. A year after it was released, Elton John scored a '50s-themed hit with "Crocodile Rock; in 1973 the George Lucas movie American Graffiti harkened back to that decade, and in 1978 the movie The Buddy Holly Story hit theaters.
One of the more bizarre covers of this song came in 1972, when it appeared on the album Meet The Brady Bunch, performed by the cast of the TV show. This version runs just 3:39.
This song appears in the films Born on the Fourth of July (1989), Celebrity (1998) and Josie and the Pussycats (2001).
Don McLean's original manuscript of "American Pie" was sold for $1.2 million at a Christie's New York auction on April 7, 2015. McLean wrote for the catalog description:
"Basically in 'American Pie' things are heading in the wrong direction… It is becoming less idyllic. I don't know whether you consider that wrong or right but it is a morality song in a sense. 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'."
Despite the critical flack that Madonna received for her version, Don McLean was impressed with the Queen of Pop's interpretation. "I think it is sensual and mystical," he told the Mail on Sunday's Event magazine. "I also feel that she's chosen autobiographical verses that reflect her career and personal history."
Robert from Norfolk UkA wonderful song by a true musical poet. I felt that it maybe needed a little updating and so have written a new set of lyrics a little more relevant to Norfolk England :)
West Norfolk Pie
A long long time ago, I can still remember Fruit and veg could really make me smile For fancy foods I had no use I'd give the people fresh produce And maybe they'd be happy for a while But February made me shiver With every parsnip I'd deliver Bad news on the doorstep I couldn't take one more step I can't remember If I cried The day my plough-horse stepped aside But something touched me deep inside The day that farming died So it's …
Bye bye Miss West Norfolk pie Rode my bike to the dyke but the dyke was dry And them good old boys were eating puddings and pies Singing this'll be the day that I die This'll be the day that I die
Did you learn to sow your seeds And deal with all those pesky weeds Like the farmers' handbook tells you so? With sex and drugs and sausage rolls Can farming save your mortal soul And can you teach me how to plough real slow? Well I know that you're in love with him Cause I saw you dancing in King's Lynn You both kicked off your shoes Went paddling in the Ouse I was a lonely teenage Norfolk buck Who'd swapped his horse for a pick-up truck But I knew that I was out of luck The day that farming died I started singing …
Now the years have past and we're on our own Our farming friends have all gone home And that's not how it used to be How can a farmer pick his beans Without those eastern Europeans? It seems they have a use for you and me The farmers were in great despair And threw their hands up in the air We lent a helping hand By working on the land They say that sugar beet's no good to eat But cook it well it's really sweet For good old boys it's quite a treat The day that farming died And they were singing …
Helter-skelter in a summer swelter From the scorching sun there is no shelter Crops once high were failing fast And landing foul on the grass And in the shops it came to pass No calabrese and no sparrow-grass The rapeseed gave a sweet perfume We thought no more of tales of doom And all got up to dance But we never got the chance Cause everybody on the field knew that this was a disastrous yield A hungry future was revealed The day that farming died We started singing …
And there we were all in one place With no crops left just open space With no time left to sow again So come on Jack be nimble Jack be quick Satan's got your celery stick Cause hunger is the devil's only friend And as I watched him burning sage My hands were clenched in fists of rage No person was more hell-bent In Terrington St Clement And as the flames grew high into the night To light the sacrificial rite The old boys said, “It just hint roight” The day that farming died And we were singing …
The people wanted something tasty And soon they all were eating pastry That's not a healthy diet so they say I went down to the tractor store Where I'd bought my Fergie years before But the man there said, “That tractor's had its day” And the hungry people all said, “Let's go We'll go and buy our grub at Tesco” But from Hunstanton to Walsoken The fridges all were broken And the three men I admire the most The Father Son and Holy Ghost They drove their tractors to the coast The day that farming died And they were singing …
(c) Robert Hamilton 2017
Kawa from Tokyo, JapanHi Music lovers,
There was two tragedies happening in 1970. One was the death of Jimi Hendrix Sep. and the other one was the death of Janis Joplin Oct. in 1970. I think as I told you before, the press gave the headline when Janis has passed, saying 'The Day, The Music Died'. I also think Don McLean might be got the idea of the song 'American Pie' from the headline, saying 'The Day The Music Died' and wrote the song 'American Pie'. I think it is possible.
Kawa from Tokyo, JapanHi Music lovers,
Let me put it this way. If something terrible happened like tragic death, between after releasing his first album 'Tapestry' 1969 AND before releasing his second album 'American Pie' in 1971 and he knew and got the inspiration of writing the lyrics of the song from the Headline like newspapers, magazines, TV,etc. It goes like this, saying 'The Day The Music Died!'. If Don saw this headline and thought about writing the song 'American Pie', he did ! I think this case may be the same case like the song called 'Sound Of Silence' written by Paul Simon in 1964. Please look into my review oft the 'Sound Of Silence' on this blog, 'Songfacts'. You probably got the idea more.
To be continued,
Frank from Athens, Georgia, Usahttp://www.voy.com/120134/58886.html
Bill Griggs ran the Buddy Holly Memorial Society for many years. At one point he showed the above comments to Don McLean and asked Don if there were any glaring errors. Don looked over them and said, "No."
Kawa from Tokyo, JapanHi Music lovers,
There is more, if this song was written about Buddy Holly, why didn't Don write and sing like this: 'Bye bye Mr. American Pie', not 'Miss Americqan Pie'. It's very illogical. If so, it must had happened to him during after releasing his first album 'Tapestry' in 1969 and just before releasing his second one 'American Pie' in 1971. It was not a long period. Then what happened to him! I think what happened in 1970 was giving him a great inspiration of writing a song 'American Pie'.
To be continued,
PS, The name of his first album 'Tapestry' sounds familiar to you ! Yes, the name of Carole King's second album 'Tapestry', came from his, I think!
Kawa from Tokyo, JapanIt seems that everyone belives that this song was written about Buddy Holly. But I think that Don wrote for somebody eles. Because if Don wrote about Buddy, why the singer-songwriter hadn't written this song on his First albem' Tapestry' in 1969, his debut album, not his second one, 'American Pie' in 1971 ? Buddy's death was in 1959. It was a long time ago. Why did Don has to write the song in 1971, not in 1969 or so ? That's very strange. It got be some reasons !
To be continued,
Nedkelly from Sydney, AustraliaYou can hear this song in many moments in time and it always has that current, modern touch to it....like the Divine Comedy. Great tune by Don.
Kirk from UsaWhat I hear when I listen to american pie is that Don completely walked away from any kind of faith in religion or particularly that he decided that what is written in the bible cannot possibly have any truth to it. I have read a lot of interpretations and some of the things Don has alluded to but never has explained what the song was about.
Rob from UsaOne thing I had heard was Don was asked what this song meant to him. Maybe tired of that question he quipped, "it means I never have to work again."
Mike from San Carlos, CaIs this the most commented-on song in song facts? Amazing how much interest it demands. So beautifully descriptive, of a difficult time in America.
Rick from United KingdomI think Don McLean must have mixed up his memory and it should be another album he refers to in the 5th paragraph above as the Buddy Holly Story was the first posthumously released compilation album by American rock and roll musician Buddy Holly. The album was released on February 28, 1959 (see 1959 in music) by the Coral record label less than a month after his death.
Kenny from Princeton, NjThe levee Don is referring to was The Levee, a bar down the block from Don's high school (Iona Prep) in New Rochelle, NY. It is now the Beechmont Tavern.
Kenny from Princeton, NjRegarding "Jack Flash sat on a candlestick" referring to the space program, the phrase "Light the candle" was used by astronauts to indicate igniting the main liftoff engine(s).
Jackson from Pennsylvania, Usa"Singing "this'll be the day that I die"" A reference to Buddy Holly's song "That'll be the day" where a line in the chorus goes "that'll be the day that I die"
Pere from Barcelona (spain)II've made a video in youtube with the lyrics and many of the songfacts listed here & other sites! I want to thank you and share it with you -> http://goo.gl/zAcQWC <-video "The Meaning of American Pie"
Mike from Nampa, Id@Dave, elvis was also given that title by others including some black rock artists of the time as well as the overwhelming record sales that put him at number 1, making him king of rock. elvis may not have written music or may have made some changes to some of the songs written for him (giving him some writing credit, which he stopped them from doing cuz he said he could never write music), but he was an innovator in music style, etc. of course he borrowed to come up w/his own style, but so does everybody else. elvis recorded hits of mostly black stars in his early sun records days. not for the rest of his career. u seem to b resentful that elvis was king. by the way, i am a Buddy Holly fan.
Mike from Miami, Fl"We all got up to dance, but we never got the chance. When the players tried to take the field, the marching band refused to yield." I interpret this different than the view that it was about the police riot at the Chicago convention. The "players," who wanted to dance, I believed referred to the fifties youth which McLean identifies with. The music he revered was "dance music." But by the time of the Beatles' Pepper album, the music had changed. Beatles' music of this period, to a great extent, was not dance music --- thoughtful, yes, hallucinogenic, yes --- but much of that stuff you just couldn't dance to. The "marching band" was Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club band which was pictured in marching band costumes on the cover of the album. And the Beatles wouldn't yield --- they had come to dominate rock and roll to the detriment of the music that had dominated the fifties. That music was dead and you couldn't find the juke boxes in the Sacred Stores anymore!
Eben from Laplace, LaJust bought the book "American Pie Apocalypse", 411 pages and deciphers the song line for line, word for word. Apocalypse means "to reveal". Google "American Pie Apocalypse" and it takes you to the website. The song ain't what you thought, but is everything you never imagined ! ! ! PIE is Latin for mercy/charity/love... do you "miss American pie"?
Eb from Richmond Hill, Ga"And them good old boys drinkin' whiskey and rye" - Leviticus 10:9
Kimberly from Landing, NjDeep into our mind of love as we all love our nation, never forget the gift that was given to us as we live in the life of hope and glory.
Bocknobby from Toronto, Onhttp://understandingamericanpie.com/
Gemma from Foshan, ChinaWhen Elvis first became famous he wore a pink carnation and drove a pick-up truck.
John from Wilmington, De"a generation lost in space" - maybe a reference to the syfy television series (1965-68) called "Lost in Space" - based on a crew that left earth on a gemini space ship headed to alpha centauri, but the spacecraft was damaged in flight and they were stranded on a alien planet... (the show targeted a young generation of Americans enamored with space flight ...
Kimberly from Landing, Njcomments and advice derive . believe , believe.... ty all
Kimberly from Landing, NjHistory repeats again n again start our day. are visions are shows thru as they are developed. as devils run thru. As gas runs dry systems cont with spirit.
Johnny from Bowling Green, OhOk, forget the religious interpretation. McLean has never so much as mentioned any religious connection. The song's about the loss of an era of commonality and innocence in America. After WWII the majority of Americans were on common ground for a host of reasons. During this period, Americans were more equal economically than ever before in the history of the United States. Children, no longer tied to chores on the farm, and with money in their pockets, were looking for an identity seperate from their parents. They found this identity in the music of the black culture. Unfortunately political unrest (Vietnam) and the importation of drugs from that region, caused this era of innocence to be very short lived. Here are some alternate possibilities for interpretation: The jester could be Bob Dylan or Paul Mcartney or both, because the Beatles originally war leather jackets and Jeans (like James Dean) until Brian Ebstein, not without resistance, convinced them otherwise. Paul and the other Beatles were also made Members of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) by the Queen, and as knights, in a sense, stole the king's crown. The Order's medal actually includes a crown: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d1/MBE-Cobh-Heritage-Centre-2012.JPG. The Candlestick could refer to "Candlestick Park, also known as just "Candlestick", where The Beatles gave their final full concert at Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966. As for the lines: "The birds flew off with a fallout shelter.The birds flew off with a fallout shelter. Eight miles high and falling fast. It landed foul on the grass." The Byrds played in a battle-of-the-bands contest held under the show "Ready Steady Go!" on the 8th floor of the Adastral House, the home of the Air Ministry through World War II (a probable fallout shelter), and shortly after this show, the Birds' manager, Leo de Clerck, took legal action to prevent them from using the name; the action failed, amid a flurry of national press and television coverage. The group parted ways with de Clerck soon afterwards. Also one member of the group was busted for "Grass" at this time. Also the lines: "Now the half-time air was sweet perfume, while the sergeants played a marching tune. We all got up to dance, oh, but we never got the chance! 'cause the players tried to take the field; the marching band refused to yield." could refer to The Beatles last public performance on the roof of Apple Records. The impromptu concert was broken up by the police and lasted only 45 minutes. Helter Skelter refers to Charles Manson, and " Do you recall what was revealed The day the music died?" After the Beatle's manager Brian Ebstein died, considered by the group to be the 5th member of the Beatles, it was revealed that he was a homosexual. Just food for thought.
Melissa from Rochester, NyA long long time ago I can still remember how That music used to make me smile And I knew if I had my chance That I could make those people dance And maybe they'd be happy for a while But February made me shiver With every paper I'd deliver Bad news on the doorstep I couldn't take one more step I can't remember if I cried When I read about his widowed bride (BUDDY HOLLY'S) But something touched me deep inside **The day the music died** (BUDDY HOLLY DIED)
Bye, bye Miss American Pie (AMERICA) Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey in Rye (GUYS GETTING TOGETHER BEFORE THEY GO OFF TO WAR) Singin' this'll be the day that I die (BECAUSE THEY'RE GOING OFF TO WAR) This'll be the day that I die
Did you write the book of love And do you have faith in God above If the Bible tells you so? (AT THAT TIME WHATEVER THE BIBLE SAYS WAS THE TRUTH) Now do you believe in rock and roll? Can music save your mortal soul? And can you teach me how to dance real slow? (DANCING SLOW WAS ALL THE RAGE)
Well, I know that you're in love with him Cause I saw you dancin' in the gym (SCHOOL SOCK HOPS, IF YOU WERE DANCING THEN YOU WERE IN LOVE) You both kicked off your shoes Man, I dig those rhythm and blues I was a lonely teenage broncin' buck With a pink carnation and a pickup truck (SOMEONE IM NOT POSITIVE WHO HAD ONE AT THE TIME) But I knew I was out of luck The day the music died (BUDDY HOLLY DIED) I started singin'
Now, for ten years we've been on our own (THEY'VE BEEN IN THE ARMY) And moss grows fat on a rolling stone But, that's not how it used to be When the jester sang for the king and queen (BOB DYLAN SANG FOR ELVIS AND THE QUEEN) In a coat he borrowed from James Dean (BOB DYLAN BORROWED JAMES DEAN'S JACKET) And a voice that came from you and me (HIS FOLKIE BLUSEY VOICE) Oh and while the king was looking down (ELVIS) The jester stole his thorny crown (BOB DYLAN IS NOW THE KING OF ROCK AND ROLL) The courtroom was adjourned No verdict was returned And while Lenin read a book on Marx (CAN BE TAKEN DIFFERENTLY) The quartet practiced in the park (THE BEATLES) And we sang dirges in the dark (FUNREAL SONGS OFTEN PLAYED AT NIGHT TIME) The day the music died (BUDDY HOLLY DIED) We were singin'
Helter skelter in a summer swelter (CHARLES MANSON) The birds flew off with a fallout shelter (REFERRED TO A REHAB) Eight miles high and falling fast (THE BYRDS 8MILES HIGH SONG) It landed foul on the grass The players tried for a forward pass With the jester on the sidelines in a cast (BOB DYLAN WAS IN A MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT) Now the half-time air was sweet perfume (WOODSTOCK EVERYONE WAS SMOKING POT) While sergeants played a marching tune (SGT PEPPERS LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND) We all got up to dance Oh, but we never got the chance (THE COPS SHUT IT DOWN) Cause the players tried to take the field The marching band refused to yield Do you recall what was revealed The day the music died? (BUDDY HOLLY DIED) We started singin'
Oh, and there we were all in one place A generation lost in space (SPACE SHUTTLE LOST) With no time left to start again So come on Jack be nimble, Jack be quick Jack Flash sat on a candlestick (ABOUT THE STONES AND A NURSERY RYHME) Cause fire is the devil's only friend (SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL) And as I watched him on the stage My hands were clenched in fists of rage No angel born in Hell Could break that Satan's spell (LAST 3 ABOUT HOW THE HELLS ANGEL'S BEING SECURITY FOR THE SPEEDWAY WHERE SOMEONE WAS KILLED) And as the flames climbed high into the night To light the sacrificial rite I saw Satan laughing with delight The day the music died (BUDDY HOLLY DIED) He was singin'
i met a girl who sang the blues (JANIS JOPLIN) And I asked her for some happy news But she just smiled and turned away (JANIS JOPLIN DIED) I went down to the sacred store (RECORD STORE) Where I'd heard the music years before But the man there said the music wouldn't play And in the streets the children screamed The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed But not a word was spoken The church bells all were broken And the three men I admire most- the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost- (ALSO COULD BE Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper) They caught the last train for the coast The day the music died (BUDDY HOLLY DIED) And they were singing
thats it! !)
Dan from Fords, NjThe players tried for a forward pass, With the jester on the sidelines in a cast.
That's a reference to the New York Jets quarter back Joe Namath. In the late '60s he suffered a knee injurywhich caused the Jets to have a bad season when they were at the top of the NFL after Superbowl 3
Steve from Bloomington, Il"Do you recall what what was revealed..." may refer to Bob Dylan's 1967 "The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest," when the neighbor boy muttered underneath his breath, "Nothing was revealed."
Kimberly from Landing, Njthe day the music died, .... ???' book of love was meant as a smile .
Kimberly from Landing, NjIf the lyrics are full circle are without expression the facts of life are not expressed.
Nell from Chatham, Njnow i think there should be a harry potter version
Peter from Puyallup, WaCHEVY TO THE LEVY? ---- CONCEPT BORROWED STRAIGHT FROM A CHEVY ADVERTISEMENT SUNG BY DINAH SHORE..... "See the USA in your Chevrolet America is asking you to call Drive your Chevrolet through the USA America's the greatest land of all On a highway, or a road along the LEVY Performance is sweeter, nothing can beat her Life is completer in a CHEVY..." ["Miss American Pie" would likely be Dinah Shore. Her variety show was "The Dinah Shore Chevy Show" (Oct. 1956 to June 1963), and the above song was the shows theme song. The phrase, "as American as Apple Pie" came along in the 60's, and Dinah was certainly that. However, she also had a hit song in 1945 about a very American pie entitled "Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy." The levy being dry would symbolize America in decline from the 50's, or the unfulfilled promise of the 50's turned sour in the 60's.] See video: http://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play?p=dinah%20shore%20chevrolet&tnr=21&vid=1466241254670&l=153&turl=http%3A%2F%2Fts1.mm.bing.net%2Fvideos%2Fthumbnail.aspx%3Fq%3D1466241254670%26id%3Daba07a74d0853483f1c328c5ff5cb739%26bid%3Dhorfy8cZGgSG2A%26bn%3DThumb%26url%3Dhttp%253a%252f%252fwww.youtube.com%252fwatch%253fv%253dEf9nv76UuFQ&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DEf9nv76UuFQ&sigr=11ac34q35&newfp=1&tit=1961+Chevrolet+Commercial+With+Dinah+Shore
Claire from Oxford, United KingdomWish I had something to add, except you were no-one unless you knew all the words to American Pie and Of course Bohemian Rhapsody
Sarx from Tucson, AzGuys, and that's gender inclusive, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. The first verse and chorus are about Buddy Holly.
Well, that'll be the day, when you say goodbye Yes, that'll be the day, when you make me cry You say you're gonna leave, you know it's a lie 'Cause that'll be the day when I die
That'll be the day when I die. This'll be the day that I die.
The repeated line of the chorus is a Buddy Holly tribute.
The song is about pop music in America in the 50's and 60's, including the "British Invasion" of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Not religion, not politics, pop culture.
1st verse, Buddy Holly 2nd verse, the music of the 50's and dancing at "sock hops" 3rd verse, Bob Dylan (the rolling stone here is a reference to Dylan's song) and the beginning of the Beatles influence 4th verse, the Byrds, pioneer folk rock group, flew off when they were eclipsed by Sergent Pepper's marching band, the Beatles 5th verse, this is the one about the Rolling Stones, and the Altamont Speedway Free Festival, December 6, 1969 6th verse brings the story full circle, after a reference to Joplin and by implication the other performers who had died since Holly, he comes back to the plane crash, the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost; J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, Ritchie Valens, and Buddy Holly.
Two more things. "Miss America Pie" was NOT the name of the plane.
Tommy Allsup, Waylon Jennings and Carl Bunch were touring with Holly as The Crickets. Jennings almost got on the plane , accounts of why he didn't vary widely, and he suffered survivor guilt for years.
Mitchell Langbert from Woodstock, NyThis is a great exchange about American Pie. I was surprised that my senior seminar students at Brooklyn College hadn't heard of "American Pie," so I've been assigning it. I was surprised that McLean had gone to Iona as I used to teach business there as well. I don't think that there is any one right interpretation, and besides the song's being great musically the lyrics' mystery seem to become more intriguing the more we learn what they mean. A couple of points that I don't think anyone has covered:
1. As Tina of Edmonton mentions "the three men I admire most" may be a reference to Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy. The only act on the Holly-Valens-Big Bopper Winter Dance Party tour that was not killed was Dion and the Belmonts. About ten years after the crash, around the time of the Altamont Concert, Dion, by then singing folk rather than rock, sang "Abraham, Martin, and John." Perhaps Dion did not literally take the last train to the coast, but that seems more than coincidental. Recall that Dion mentions Robert Kennedy as a fourth great assassination victim.
The second point I want to mention, which I have not seen anywhere, is that Bob Dylan was laid up near where I now live, Woodstock, NY, for about a year following a motorcycle accident, where he worked on his transition from folk to rock. After he made the transition (and based on earlier comments the tie-in to the British invasion is fascinating) one of Dylan's first, if not first, concert was his 1966 concert at Royal Albert Hall in London. Might 'playing for the king and queen" be a reference to playing at the Royal Albert Hall? This ties in with the above posters who, I believe correctly, claim that McLean rejects the British invasion, the Stones, and 1960s rock. Although Dylan may use the word "joker" in his songs, calling him "the joker" is hardly complimentary, and this fits his rejection of the folk approach in favor of rock. McLean calls Dylan, who rejected folk in favor of rock following the British invasion, the joker. That is hardly a compliment.
To quote from the notes in "Bob Dylan Live 1966: The 'Royal Albert Hall' Concert' from Columbia Legacy Records:
Bob Dylan stands on the English stage, coming back for the second half of a concert. The first half, done solo and acoustic, was well received, even though the lyrics were not the socially-conscious, politically motivating messages that had gained Dylan popularity barely a year before. Now he appears in a mod cut suit and pointed boots in front of a live five-piece band with an electric guitar in hand, playing incandescent rock and roll. There are catcalls throughout the set, and finally, just before the last number, someone yells "Judas!" Dylan replies, "I don't believe you!" turns to the band and snarls, 'Play f***ing loud!' Drummer Mickey Jones cracks the snare like a rifle shot and The Hawks roar into 'Like a Rolling Stone.' Dylan's voice is a velvet sneer as he shouts out the line 'How does it feeeeeel' and the performance rolls on with power, defiance and a sheer majesty rarely captured on tape. ..
Raymond from Ambridge, PaHere goes. So ... if you start at the end, where the punch of any poem is contained (McLean claimed poetry for this song) you have the Holy Trinity taking the last train for the coast. Now take all of the abstracted references, "thorny crown" stolen by the "Jester", "Jack Flash sat on a candlestick (nickname for 60's era ICBM)", "fire is the devil's only friend", "Satan laughing with delight" and realize that McLean has probably written the evolution of modern music into the Apocalypse Yeah I know everybody has beat that old horse to death, but that is precisely the point. There is so much scrum associated with the modern interpretation of it that, like the blind Pharisees, most can not see the song for what it is. That McLean himself claims he has not analyzed the meaning, he just wrote down some connected, impacting events in his life. So what is the "Music " that died ? Not playing at the sacred store ? While the church bells all were broken ? And the levy, water in a channel, or the other definition, of "spontaneous uprising of common purpose to oppose an invading enemy" ? Do you die at a water channel drinking party ? The only answer that fits all of these, the most important and poetic parts of this song, is that the music is the sound of the Grace of God, brought to us by His Holy Spirit. In McLeans's vision, that Spirit is being rejected in modernity, and is resulting in the Trinity leaving us in the thrall of the unmerciful Satan. For a time. There ... I wrote it.
Peter from Bcc, Azthe line about " and the marching band failed to yield" was talking about Kent State.. since the stupid national guardsmen let themselves become surrounded by the demonstrators.
Nell from Chatham, NjI remember i once heard a star wars version of this song on the radio
Kathy from Katy, Txmy 58 cents continued: Regarding Altamont, this tragic festival illustrates the aftermath of the death/degradation of rock n roll (& society) once our "father, son, and Holy Ghost" (the holy trinity) left for the coast. No "angel born in hell", or Hell's Angel was going to be a match for Satan running rampant. Satan had a spell on the audience with or without Mick Jagger. If you watch "Gimme Shelter", you will hear a desperate Mick Jagger begging the audience to be cool over and over.
The "Father, Son, and Holy ghost" had to fulfill Bible prophecy and turn their back or leave this depraved society prompted the popular magazine to publish the article "Is God Dead?" Our society had rejected the holy spirit, and that is the one sin that can not be forgiven.
I made a note to complement Matthew from New York for some reason...
American Pie is not my favorite song, altogether, but these are my all time favorite lyrics because I love music and the sixties. My favorite song altogether is Green Grass and High by the Outlaws, a song about rock legends who have passed on.
When McLean wrote, "I know that you're in love with HIM" and "And as I watched HIM on the stage, my hands were clenched..." he was talking about about different manifestations of the Devil. Doesn't anyone remember the movement to ban rock and roll? McLean would have laughed at the fanatics in the 50's but would have to make some mental compromises with those crazy old Bible thumpers by the time Mick Jagger and others were running rampant. The Devil doesn't show up with with a pitchfork, hair down to his ass, wearing a red jumpsuit. He shows up with a haircut, suit and tie, and maybe even a pink carnation.. The Bible talks about how Satan was once in charge of the music in Heaven, before he fell from grace. Think about how magical the music can sound.
The "him"= "jester"=Satin.
Do you recall what was revealed the day the music died? I was only five years old, but The Time magazine article in 1966 revealed that for our society, God is essentially dead. When did John Lennon say: "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue with that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first - rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me."? The year was 1966.
I want to talk about certain songs before and after the year 1966 for my final post regarding this song. bfn,
Kathy from Katy, Txmy 58 cents continued:
I want to elaborate on what I said about Elvis being the jester who stole the thorny crown. If it is he who stole it from James Brown, then James Brown before that stole it from Jesus. Elvis made white chocolate (poorly I might ad) out of r & b, but James Brown made sexy, hot r & b out of music stolen from gospel (purely awesome) sung in black churches. I will re-visit this religious argument before I end.
Back to 60's society, I have always assumed that the widowed bride was Jackie Kennedy. I now believe that the Mrs Buddy Holly theory could be correct. I prefer my original conclusion however, for the following reason: Everyone who is old enough (not me, btw because I was in diapers) remembers exactly what they were doing and how they reacted to the news of JFK's assassination. There was a lot of crying, from what I have heard. Historians tend to document what happens to those in power, and who takes their place. Until recently, ordinary citizens were barely mentioned in history books. McLean, is saying that a dead president pales in comparison to what was happening to our beloved (American)soul stirring music. He remembers what he was doing on that day, and I propose that it was sometime in 1966.
Regarding the line "not a word was spoken, the church bells all were broken", this may have been borrowed from Simon and Garfunkel's "Sound of Silence". However, I think the "word" could be referring to the Bible, and the church bells "broken", low point for church ritual.
So many parts of the song have meaning that is well established such as:
rolling stone (Mick Jagger) fat with moss or material success, Birds' "eight miles high", Sargent Pepper as the marching band playing non-dance music while getting high on "sweet perfume", Jumping Jack Flash is Mick Jagger.
But speaking Mick Jagger, I want to discuss the Altamont incident in my next post...
Kathy from Katy, TxI have been analyzing this song for 40 years and I will be damned if I won't add my 58 cents. I have tried to discuss it with people, but have had virtually no takers! I feel like I have found my long lost family. I would like to remind those frustrated by song analysis that song lyrics are poetic and therefore meant to be pondered.
Grant in Chicago - I also thought of Elvis being on the sidelines in a cast as referring to his making movies. This of course necessitates Elvis stealing the crown from James Brown.
When this song came out, I asked my older sister what it meant and she said that music is not the same as it used to be in the fifties. That is all I had to go on at first!
I used to think that "While the King was looking down, The Jester stole his PHONY crown." I did not know it was "thorny crown" until today! Phone crown would certainly have pointed to Elvis. Now that I know it is thorny crown, I'm certain it is Jesus.
I have always assumed that "Jack be Nimble" was Mick Jagger for obvious reasons that have been well stated here. However, after reading all of these posts, I'm not so sure anymore. "Jack" is a nickname for John. John Lennon could be seen as the leader of the British Invasion, therefore sort of the antichrist in McLean's mind.
Bukrey - you get the reward for the most well articulated post.
regarding "While Lenin read a book on Marx", I don't understand why our genius poet spelled John Lennon's name that way. John Lennon would later write affectionate songs about communism (well, "working class hero" and "Imagine"), which leaves little doubt in my mind that he's referring to him.
I am not sure who the King and Queen refers to, but I have a theory that has not been explored here. (unless I overlooked it) First, Jackie and John Kennedy's (Camelot), who were in sync with civil rights and the MLK rally in 1963, where Dylan performed. I read somewhere that they watched it on television.
"half time air sweet perfumed", is a reference to ambient pot smoke, while Sargent Pepper was being listened to by young Americans, over anything being recorded that sounded remotely like genuine rock-n-roll. How Ironic! The leaders of the British invasion singing "you're such a lovely audience. We'd like to take you home with us..."
I'm having a terrible time accepting Bob Dylan as stealing the thorny crown. First of all, although very popular, he has never been considered a king in any way. Second, John Lennon went on to make those infamous remarks about the Beatles being more popular or important than Christ.
more later.... bfn
not so sure this
Alison from Bath, United KingdomOh, and while the King was looking down The Jester stole his thorny crown The courtroom was adjourned No verdict was returned
I always thought this referred to the assassination of JFK and the ensuing court case.
Karl from Killeen, TxWhile I had always thought the song was chronological i now think he my had just been raging about the years between 59 and 70 his disappointment in Dylan(The players tried for a forward pass with the jester on the sidelines in a cast.) His hate of the English invasion more the Stones then the Invasion i think he liked the music but blamed them for the crash of the dream ("The halftime air was sweet perfume) the summer of love and Monterey yes it was 67 round middle and Alatmont ruined the it all (Do you believe in Rock n Roll) and the fact that it wasn't his idea of real rock and roll which because you couldn't really dance to it yet he forgot that the true rockers of the 50s were Berry, Lewis, Richards tell me you can really dance to No Particualr Place To Go and so many others that truly Rock don't get me wrong i like Holly I also agree with Dave (see 3 above this)most think of that as rock ROCK AND ROLL BLACK SLANG FOR F$$KING not ment to dance to but to screw (Cause the players tried to take the field, the Marching Band refused to yield) Could be Chicago 68 could be Kent St(as i watched him on the stage, his hands were clinched in fists of rage) Arther Brown or Nixon take his first oath of office .Plus i think he was pissed at himself remember the biggest folk sing at this time wasn't even American was Neil Young
Jeffrey from Shorewood, MnThis was fascinating reading, with some new insights that struck me as having merit. I knew nothing of the levee bar, and I never considered Jack to be Kennedy, inside a reference to a Stones song, and the explanation of the missile crisis as his sitting on a candlestick seems to have the ring of truth. But, because the song progresses in a linear way forward through time, I always thought the reference to the three men I admire most, the father, son and the holy ghost, meant John, Martin and Bobby. I had no doubt about it, except that the line says they caught the last train for the coast, the day the music died, so maybe it is the men aboard the plane. There is a lament that they are the three men he admires most, after mourning the lost music, so maybe we should look for musicians who were part of the music, as Don defines it, after Buddy, but who dropped out of the scene. Still, it's gotta be the three assassinations, don't you think?
Carlos from Cleveland, OhHey I love all of the posts and interpretations here, well, maybe love is too strong a word. I like the fact that the song makes people think. Maybe some interpret some lines too literally, but that's okay because everyone is entitled to have their opinion, and the fact of the matter is that any art that is created is up for interpretation, and whatever it means to you is your personal choice. It's always fun ruminating about what the artist may have actually meant. That it stimulates any thought at all gives weight to the quality of the art. Of course I had to go and listen to the song again, and what I found was that it always makes me FEEL something; a certain sadness for a kind of innocence lost in the music, and even in our society. I reflect on how things used to be, the changes we've gone through as a people, a society, a country, and what we've lost that we'll never get back. Of course I know that there there was never a "golden age" where everything was perfect and happy, but when we were young and things were newer, there was this aura of hope... Sure, there are a lot of lines that would seem to refer to specific people and events, and I'm sure that in Maclean's stream of consciousness in writing the song, those things presented themselves and probably could have more than one meaning. That's the beauty of being able to express oneself through art. Just like in dreaming, one can go outside of the physical lines and restrictions that normal waking life holds us to, and blend colors and things that don't normally go together as well to create something unique. When you look at the final work, one can only guess at what the artist was actually thinking, or if he/she was even thinking at all. What it makes us FEEL is the ultimate goal of an artists work. Sometimes it goes beyond the restriction of words, yet it falls to our limited capacity to let go of literal understanding and just let it be. I feel that this is one of the greatest songs ever written about us and a period of time in our growth and it captures so much in its lines. Every time I listen to it, I get that same FEELING, and the thoughts come flooding to my mind. Bravo to Mr. Maclean for having delivered to us such a timeless and classic piece of work, which I understand, to him, was both a blessing and a curse, because no matter what else he did, he was always defined by that one song. I only wish that I could write a song as meaningful, and could spark as much thought, conversation and feelings as this one.
Jessi from South Bloomfield, OhThis is one of my all-time favorite songs. I grew up not truly understanding the storybook-esque lyrics' true meaning, but after taking A History of Modern American Music, I find that the lyrics really relate well to the history of entertainment in the twentieth century and how it coincided with events in American and world history.
Emma from Caledonia, NyThis song has so much meaning in it, it's insane. No wonder Mr. McLean had to make it over eight minutes long!
Randy from Houghton Lake, MiI was 16 when this song came out and I didn't have a clue what it was about. I didn't even know it was about Buddy Holly but I bought the 45 and played it over and over anyway. Still love this song and will probably post it on my Facebook page on Feb. 3rd.
Jonesy from Los Angeles, CaReally good song. ^_^
Lucy from London, United KingdomI like Weird Al's parody better that the actual song.
Claude from Kingston, MaHorrible song. AM schmaltz, nothing more. Probably the most wildly overrated song of all time.
Erika from West Band, WiThis is probably the best song ever written. Sung beatufully, it has the most touching lyrics I've ever heard. Interpretation is the body of music, and Don McLean has portrayed that beautifully. I love the deep configuration of the song, making you wonder, who?, what could this be about? I love the heartfelt meaning poured into the song. Wow. I love to along to the song, but no other can do it justice. Too bad he was a one-hit wonder. :)
Jon from Scotland, United KingdomTo the contributor below: Don McLean has mentioned several times in the past that the lyrics "bye, bye, Miss American Pie" is a reference to what he considers the end of the innocence not only of his childhood but of the 1950s. Or in other words, when both he and the "world" entered a more serious age (threat of nuclear war, Vietnam, the assassination of JFK etc). Some erroneously believe "Miss American Pie" (or "American Pie") was the name of the plane Buddy Holly died in.
Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesMy mother used to ask "When he says 'bye bye, American Pie' what does he mean?" I didn't know, so I told her I thought it was about Marilyn Monroe. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one. Don't worry Sarah in Sydney, I'm not likely to have children but if I ever do, they are going to know ALL the songs I know.
Wim from Brussels, Belgiumthe voice that came from you and me refers to the radio station VOA, the Voice of America,which was the official anti-communist broadcast propaganda station during the cold war.
Pat from Albuquerque, NmMica: Based on your comment, it sounds like Boston had forgotten how to dance sometime in the 60s. At least in Indiana where I grew up, sock hops were still put on after basketball games in 1967. Some late 60s music was danceable as well. Light My Fire and 96 Tears (I got to hear ? and the Mysterians live once--very good) were certainly danceable. Dave has it right: don't over-analyze American Pie, just listen to the song, or even dance to the music (yes Sly and the Family Stone was another danceable band, so deal).
Steve from Whittier, CaThere was the famous Unviersal theatrical trilogy [and direct to video series] with Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Tara Reid, January Jones, and of course Jennifer Coolidge, Mena Suvari, Eugene Levy, Natashha Lyonne, and Sean William Scott known as American Pie but NO presence of the song!! [But Don McLean is rightly credited as trademarking it.]
The song's close to 9 minutes in BOTH parts in length [most stations only played Part 1 & this is what made #1 for 4-9 weeks inb 1971-1972 and hit for months.] & no song that long EVER has been released as a single side ever [at least those that hit.] "MacArthur's Park" by Richard Harris  is still the at seven and a half minues longest [& before any other others over 7 minutes.] USA [at least] song hit on one side.
Oh, and Madonna did a crappy remake at the time the first American Pie movie came out.
Ryan from Anahola, HiThis song is on the music video game, Band Hero. To make the song more "family related", they blanked out the word, "whisky".
The Scrounge from San Antonio, Oh A long, long time ago...
which says this song had not been published before, and how Chubby Checker used they(my mom and folks in Germany) would make me dance. I was 2.
I can still remember how That music used to make me smile. And I knew if I had my chance,
About the fact I had written a book on Jesus; I was boo!ed.
That I could make those people dance, And maybe they'd be happy for a while.
I wrote the book a year before I became a paperboy; I was 38 then, I turned 39. I quit January 1st 2002, thinking about how cold it might be if I did'nt.
But February made me shiver, With every paper I'd deliver,
The bombings, and all I had to say was "bad news".
Bad news on the doorstep... I couldn't take one more step.
Flash forward to 2010. A cop walks into the hotel where I worked, and mentions my wifes name. I blew into utter sadness thinking something had happened... but, I had already thought about what I was going to do before he said her name.
I can't remember if I cried When I read about his widowed bride But something touched me deep inside,
this is the candle below It does die with this explanation, please. The day the music died. The floods with Katrina,
Soo..Bye, bye miss American Pie
I actually lived in Florida and moved back to Ohio. it got depressing because I wanted it to rain in the evenings there. It did rain but all I really remember is Florida flooded that year.
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
It was wine and turkeys for 15 months. Chianti, turkeys and remembering the soldiers and the brave of 911 in 2002 and 03
And good ol' boys were drinking whisky and rye? Singing this will be the day that I die I was always thought to be a gay after leaving CA when this song was written. this will be the day that I die
I always did follow the teachings of Jesus, I already had the book written in CA (sorry, before). It's has to do with child abuse.
Did you write the book of love And do you have faith in God above
I was boo!ed
If the Bible tells you so
My dad liked rock and roll even though a lot of people tried to ban it. He believed it was a stomping ground for what's right. He's dead now, viva La Dad.
Do you believe in rock n roll Can music save your mortal soul
I was the one from Texas, he came from OH. Sorry, I can't dumb This down any further.
Then you can teach me to dance real slow
This is my father speaking, My mom took me to the dance, chee will remember. He was a sum bitch jealous. Right? Not a drop of mothersmilk?
Well I know that you're in love with him 'Cause I saw you dancing in the gym You both kicked off your shoes
Then I ?underline?dig?underline? those rhythm and blues
This is how americans thought of me before CA and how it was a plan to stand me up; I'll be 18.
I was a lonely teenage broncin' buck With a pink carnation and a pickup truck but I knew that I was out of luck
Mentioned above, don't forget to refrain in songs. It makes it a jilt, unless you have something to ssssay.
The day the music died
I started singin'...
Bye, bye miss American Pie Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry And good ol' boys were drinking whisky and rye? Singing this will be the day that I die this will be the day that I die
We were married in 1992
Now for 10 years we've been on our own My Mom mentioned we would be portable; a term I used as 18 years married. We won. And you can be.. part of this spoil, just believe.
And moss grows fat on a rolling stone But that's not how it used to be
I bought a red coat in the fall of 1992. I love ya, I'm the jester. All you had to do was ask the right questions. Thumb's up.
When the jester sang for the king and queen In a coat he borrowed from James Dean In a voice that came from you and me
I'm the King in this verse part; the jester is all those in there/then that spoke to me Like That.
And while the King was looking down
My dad actually tattooed an arrow pointing to my hole for all the gays to see. I did'nt notice till he had died. Love ya' DAD.
The jester stole his thorny crown
Then, Don't speak to me Like That
The courtroom was adjourned
If you don't believe me? Can't have any pudding?
No verdict was returned I actually wrote The Walrus in CA while on a beach in Monterey with my My Grandma. It was the first, and only, time she came to CA. Bless her heart.
While Lennon read the book of Marx
The orchestrations Lennon thought were just as abysmal. The quartet kept practice in the park
It's actually "dirties" and it's me and My Dad.
And we sang dirges in the dark
Katrina, all over, again. The world, as a living being, plays bowling. It's gives good ka-thu-thu.
The day the music died
We were singin'
Bye, bye miss American Pie Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry And good ol' boys were drinking whisky and rye? Singing this will be the day that I die this will be the day that I die
This is what I did in my diapers when I was in them. It later turned into when I Learned the internet and html and stuff. Yes, Helter Skelter was a song in my diapers, please.
Helter Skelter in a summer swelter
We moved to Galloway OH in 2004.
The birds flew off with the fallout shelter
I chose the flat or upstairs to pay tribute to John Lennon ad (not and, sorry) with him in "high waters". Where your pants don't reach your shoes. That's smu gon do. Was a song I wrote while I danced on the grass outside my apartment window while I was in a dream In Bed 2005. It goes that's what I'm gonna do. That's sma do. French or just manly?
Eight miles high and falling fast
It landed foul on the grass The players tried for a forward pass
Point at things that make you money. I pointed at my water meter which is on my front porch. The cast is all the pointing cameras there to record me~ smoking.
With the jester on the sidelines in a cast
It was a ball game, but I would'nt even have placed a bet with my meter reading, because it was a brutal game and a low score. College ball.
Now the halftime air was sweet perfume While sergeants played a marching tune We all got up to dance Oh, but we never got the chance
'Cause the players tried to take the field,
I mentioned it was after Christmas and we already HAD the underwear bomber.
The marching band refused to yield.
This was our high school rivals point of view when I graduated. Sorry, all the names were changed to protect the innocent. We also mentioned the buildings were on fire the first time my Grandfather and my Dad showed me the picture of the WTC (completed rendition painted not an actual snapshot, yet)when he was Still Alive. I said, "They're on fire." shakingly, but because in my inkling they were, both. I think it does have to do with the fact I was thought to be gay, but viva la France.
Do you recall what was revealed, The day the music died? We started singing
Bye, bye miss American Pie Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry And good ol' boys were drinking whisky and rye? Singing this will be the day that I die this will be the day that I die
A terrible flame built up in my neck when that police officer said my wife's name. A candle I quenched with a little bit of listening to what the officer Did have to say.
There we were all in one place A generation lost in space With no time left to start again So come on Jack be nimble, Jack be quick Jack Flash sat on a candle stick
The true test of reality is to look at what happens in dreams. It's fire here~today.
'Cause fire is the devil's only friend.
As I watched him on the stage My hands were clenched in fists of rage No angel born in hell Could break that satan's spell
And as flames climbed high into the night To light the sacrificial rite I saw satan laughing with delight the day the music died.
Another reference to that night at the hotel. I saw or checked in a woman from TX. My dad was the happiest in his whole life there; I had been born. He would have looked nice in dressed blues/what they wore to social events and stuff.
I met a girl who sang the blues And I asked her for some happy news
She brought with her her daughter.
But she just smiled and turned away
That next morning I did get a beer after I got off work at the Speedway. I had tried to use my debit card at a Waffle House next to it, but they did not use them when we came back from FL to OH; they make you use the ATM, which Ripped Me Off. I had to come back with the money later.
I went down to the sacred store Where I'd heard the music years before But the man there said the music wouldn't play
And in the streets the children screamed The lovers cried and the poets dreamed But not a word was spoken
I have to drive past a church on my way home after where I was.
The church bells all were broken
I take a left, then ... And I do admire them most, In My Book.
And the three men I admire most The Father Son and Holy Ghost
I go south toward Florida. On a map Clearwater is directly south. The last train is when I was rammed by a driver from IN outside the apartments.
They caught the last train for the coast The day the music died
They were singin'
Bye, bye miss American Pie Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry And good ol' boys were drinking whisky and rye? Singing this will be the day that I die this will be the day that I die
Mica from Boston, Ma.
American Pie pays respects to Don Mcleans generation who was fortunate enough to experience Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Richie Valens, besides Elvis, Roy Orbison, and many other bands using extensive Doo Wop Harmonies.
McLeans generation got to High School and all of a sudden there was no Rock and Roll, very little Rythm and Blues, and No Slow Dancing which was Every Teens chance to get close by dancing.
"Bad News on the doorstep, I couldnt take one step". - He couldnt take that one more step in life,,, and enjoy Dances and Hops. There were almost none by the time McLean was in high school as the Sixties bands had "taken over". They were NOT bands you could dance to.
" The players tried to take the field but the marching band refused to yield" - The Beatles with "Sargent Pepper" had songs that were simply marching songs, that no one could dance to. Don Mcleans generation wanted to "take the field" or the gymnasium floor if you will, but no. It Was Too late for them. The Beatles had reached the top and "refused to yield"
"Jack Flash sat on a candlestick" - Imo, Don Mcleans way of saying Jagger could shove it up his rear end for all he cares.
"Satan laughing with delight" - Another reference, to Jagger. During the Altamont Death Concert Jaggerwas laughing it up, acting the fool while the crowd was in sheer panic. I can only imagine the kind of drugs he took before the concert.
"Fire is the devils only friend" - Yet more trashing of Jagger and the Rolling Stones devil worship. "Their Majestys Satanic Request" 1967- An album by the Rolling Stones. By then Mclean was 22 and his Rock and Roll generation was truly "Lost in Space with no time left to start again" as Mclean painfully sings.
"The sacred store" - A typical record store in the 1950s selling 45 rpm singles. Young people would flock to such stores to hear the new Rock and Roll songs, and buy the new Rock and Roll 45s. Even small kids were allowed in and as a child Mclean loved the music all the teens listened to,,,,Rock and Roll.
In closing, Imo McLean is brilliantly saying that Rock and Roll was dead after the tragic accident, never to return.
McLean is rightfully bitter and sad at the supposed "stars" that followed and all of the music which was suddenly lumped into the expression "Rock and Roll." None of the Sixties bands were what McLean knew as true Rock and Roll.
Imo, American Pie is a brilliant masterpiece for all time. Not everyone was a drug taking hippie then, and the rest were all made to somehow feel left out. All they wanted to do was have fun and dance, but the Sixties were a horrible period of time, and the only "fun" for all of the hippies was the drugs they were consuming. Unfortunately, that is the reason America has such a huge drug problem today. Credit those "Good Old Sixties"
Imo, Mick Jagger wherever you are now, enjoy your hard earned money from all the suckers who took you seriously. Both you and all those suckers are now the ones left behind.
Keith from Denver, Co"...and the three men I admire most, the father, son, and the Holy Ghost, they caught the last train for the coast....I see as a reference to the general Godlessness of the 60's, or a reference to the HY Times headline "God is Dead".
Keith from Denver, CoI always saw the identity of the jester changing during the song...the lyric "and while the king was looking down, the jester stole his thorny crown, the court room was adjourned, no verdict was returned"...as a reference to John Lennon's being more popular than Christ statement in 1966. Furthur evidence of this interpretation is the next line says: and while LENNON read a book on Marx
Fredy from Mexico, MexicoThis is my favorite song. I don't think it's long, it's wonderful. I think analyzing it adds to its beauty and complexity. Well, here some theories I have: --Mick Jagger is the devil. I like him, but I think Don really hates him. --The sergeants played a marching tune: Sgt. Pepper was a huge hit. We all got up to dance: go to their concerts. We never got the chance: Beatles stopped touring and later dissolved. --For ten years, we've been on our own. Is there something really important that happened in 1961? Or maybe the song was written/set in 1969 and it's that they have been 10 years without Buddy Holly.
Forrest from San Diego, CaNews paper tacky. Lucy(judy) in disguise with diamonds(glasses) is the Fool On The Hill in Hotel California on a Horse With No Name with a Heart Of Gold and American Pie songwriter. Thanks for your support wierd all. Do it for love. 45th President Forrest Gump
Dave from Peoria, IlJust a couple of tidbits here. I see that most of you have everything else covered adequately.
I'd like to expand on a theory or two that I saw in here. One was "the Jester sang for the king and queen..." referencing a march on Washington in 1963. This could be a reference to JFK and Jackie if one considers that a "thorny crown" might signify a "crucifixion" - or a death at the hands of others. This coincides with the fact that Kennedy was a Catholic.
Next item. I've seen references to "Jack be nimble" and the devil with regards to the killing at the Altamont Speedway. "Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack Flash sat on a candlestick" - "nimble" and "quick" may be references to Mick Jagger being cautious because of his decision to hire the unpredictable Hell's Angles to perform security for the concert.
Finally, in reference to the Levee, etc...
I've seen other references where the "Levee" was a local bar where McLean grew up. There was also a town called "Rye" located close to the "Levee". It makes no sense to sing "drinking whiskey AND rye" when rye IS a type of whiskey. However, if the words are "whiskey IN Rye", this would put credence to "The Levee" being dry (closed) and McLean traveling to Rye for a drink. Viewing the videos, one can distinguish, pretty much, the difference between someone's mouth making the "a" sound and the "i" sound - and it appears to me that he's definitely making the "i" sound (comparing "and" to "in").
Paul from Washington Dc, DcHate to be a partypooper, but I've never really dug this song. I don't genuinely DISLIKE it; I just don't find it as mesmerising as so many other folks do. I do, however, distinctly remember my fith grade music teacher playing it for us one day and asking us what we thought it was about. I don't recall any kids speaking up. Perhaps the average ten or eleven year old circa 1972 was not as world-aware or jaded as children of that age today might be, what with the Internet, cable TV, and other goodies that they have at their disposal which kids back then did not.
Fred from Laurel, MdA few of points -- OK, I see just one comment, way at the beginning, imploring us not to over-analyze the song, followed by thousands of others insisting that that's what this site is for. So at the risk of piling on, I just want to add that, if ever there was a song BEGGING to be over-analyzed TO DEATH, this is IT! So let the analytical excesses continue! If not here, WHERE?? *2*2*2* About the lines, "The three men I admire most / The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost / Took the last train for the coast" -- I have no doubt he's referring to Buddy, Ritchie, and the Bopper, despite their being on a plane, not a train, headed for the Heartland, not the coast, because I believe that expression ("took the last train for the coast") is (40's or earlier?) slang for 'died.' Maybe someone could prove me a genius or an idiot on that point. Nevertheless, and this speaks to what makes this song so huggable for us over-analyzers, I believe the references to the Holy Trinity, and to King and the Kennedy brothers, are all in that passage, too. *3*3*3* Which leads us to the plea to stick to just musical connections for our interpretations -- yes, mostly. But especially for that decade, a great deal of the music was inextricably tied to the events of the times, and can't be totally divested of political and cultural references. *4*4*4* As for the several references to Heavy Metal in these comments: 1) No, Helter Skelter (White Album, 1968) was not the origin of this form, it sprang forth, starting around 1967, from bands such as Steppenwolf (Born To Be Wild), Iron Butterfly (In a Gada Davida), and Vanilla Fudge (Season of the Witch, a Donovan composition!), and 2) Yes, the term Heavy Metal WAS in use at that time. I specifically recall its being applied to the music of the Iron Butterfly (Iron = Heavy Metal?). *5*5*5* "a generation lost in space" has a triple meaning -- a generation spaced out on pot, LSD, etc., a generation that initiated space exploration, and a generation that grew up with the TV sci-fi sitcom, "Lost in Space." *6*6*6* Finally, a trivium on the subject of '...Lennon read a book on Marx' -- there was a poster of the time, mocking the Soviets and their heroes, V. Lenin and K. Marx, that had the caption, "All hail Lennon and Marx" under (or was it over?) portraits of John Lennon and Groucho Marx. I wish I had one of those now!
Adreanne from Kent, OhI've been told before Don McLean wrote this song, and kept rhyming random things. He never thought it would be a hit. I believe this is true - the day "The Music Died" was a day of commotion and probably not a soul remembers anything about that day. Everything was crazy. I interpret this song as crazy and random, like the day. Such great lyrics and great imagery.
Chloe from St. Louis, MoI drove a Chevy to a levee one time...it wasn't dry though, so I was sad.
Michael from Burnley, United Kingdomthe jester sang for the king and queen refers to bob dylan at the march on washington 1963 the king is martin luther king the queen is joan baez the queen of folk music
John from Lakeland, FlI always thought the lyrics regarding the Father, Son & the Holy Ghost heading for the coast was a reference to JFK (older brother), RFK (younger brother) & MLK (minister) being assasinated.
Jim from Philadelphia, PaOne of the best songs of all time, arguably the greatest story song. American Pie was actually the name of plane that crashed. Also, Elvis is the king, is crown is "thorny" because with fame and fortune come consequences. The jester who stole is thunder is Bob Dylan (the decline of Elvis began the growth of folk rock and Dylan). Also, Bob Dylan appeared on the cover of one of his albums in a red coat - alike the one James Dean did wear in Rebel Without A Cause. The song however is for the most part shourded in mistery and different meanings of which only Don Mclean knows, and some he might not...
Caroline from Cincinnati, OhMy favorite song. Ever. Also a fan of the Weird Al parody, "The Saga Begins."
Terri from Long Beach, Wa"Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack Flash sat on a candle stick", I was always told that this referred to Jaeger and Richard's use of heroin. You dissolve it and heat it in a spoon, usually using a lighter. Made sense to me.
Eddie from Atlanta, Austriaive been to the buddy holly museum in lubbock tx. and they have footage of don mclean stating that this song is not about buddy holly but about his father when he passed away. he also said that people missinterpreted it thinking it was about buddy holly because of the similarities in the song. but people believe what they want to believe dont they.
Sara from Greenville, AlNick, the line is "My, my, this here Anakin guy."
Jessie Steele from Bartlett, Tnthis is such a good song We luistend to it in our reading class,and interpreted th elyrics for our poetry unit. and i love it,because it realy does show the 50s and sixties,and is a genraly happy paced song,but it has very emotional undertones
Rhyan from Geelong, AustraliaIm not sure if this has been suggested but i heard that "american pie" refers to that period of american history that these events occurred. and this song is an salute to these events that have shaped the country
Lilly from Chicago, IlThis is a song I heard growing up, and sang along to, but had no idea what it was about. Now I realize the gravity and depth of it, and the beauty of such haunting lyrics. Classic...
Ryan from Glendale, Az"The players tried for a forward pass, With the jester on the sidelines in a cast."
This refers to "Broadway" Joe Namath.
Pat from Albuquerque, Nm1/5/09--I stayed in a motel in the small town of Clear Lake IA last night, on a drive to Minneapolis. The weather was very cold and windy and the road was a bit slick (a few cars and trucks in the ditches on I-35), like it might have been "the day the music died." I wasn't aware that Clear Lake was where the last concert and crash occurred till I looked up the real story on the Internet.
Pat from Albuquerque, Nm1/5/09--I stayed in a motel in the small town of Clear Lake IA last night, on a drive to Minneapolis. The weather was very cold and windy and the road was a bit slick (a few cars and trucks in the ditches on I-35), like it might have been "the day the music died." I wasn't aware that Clear Lake was where the last concert and crash occurred till I looked up the real story on the Internet.
Pat from Albuquerque, Nm1/5/09--I stayed in a motel in the small town of Clear Lake IA last night, on a drive to Minneapolis. The weather was very cold and windy and the road was a bit slick (a few cars and trucks in the ditches on I-35), like it might have been "the day the music died." I wasn't aware that Clear Lake was where the last concert and crash occurred till I looked up the real story on the Internet.
Kayla from Kirksville, MoI liked this song...we're doing a research project on this song and this song was one of them..Its like funny to read all these comments..lol
James from Yucaipa, CaWow....thats alot of comments.Anyways...this is a great song & listen to it as often as i can.11-14-08
AnonymousHeather, I'm peeing my pants on that mental image. Thanks. Very funny stuff.
Ln from :), QcThis song gives me a great feeling, because I heard it when I was young.. this is one of my all time favorite songs. Gives me a feeling of Hope and Happiness! :)
Michael from Seymour, CtLenin read a book on Marx....is John Lennon reading music notation....marks
Stephanie from Mobile, Al"But February made me shiver, with every paper I delivered, bad news on the doorstep, I couldn't take one more step"....the bad news is, obviously about the plane crash but could also be about the Beatles first arrival in the US which also occured in February (1964)
Shayla from Mountain View, MoAmerican pie is my altime favorite song. This song is about the way Don McLean and many, many others were effected by the death of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and The Big Bopper and how the world of music had changed tremendously over the 10 years that had passed since their death. The song has a very strong message and a very good point. I love the way that McLean turns the words into metaphors to tell the world his point of view but at the same time make people stop and think for a second before they really understand the message that he is trying to get across. I also think that McLean may have written this song to not only help people understand all of this from his point of view, but in an attempt to save the old music from being slaughtered by the new generation, and/or find out for himself if it was already six feet under. I hope there is someone out there who shares my opinions on this masterpeice my e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, but if nobody agrees with my opinions, remember, they are just that, OPINIONS and i am not forcing them on anyone i just want to post them for whoever would enjoy hearing, or in this state, reading.
Tim from Houston, Txthe beatles did not say"they were bigger than Jesus and God" that was john lennon."We all got up to dance,but we never got the chance". Is it not plausable,that could be a reference to the Counter-culture never seeing their dream of a "utopian society" come true? If you want to sum up the "sixties",it can be done in 3 words. "we blew it" that was Captain Americas comment to Billy. I saw the movie when i got back from "nam. I think the movie messed with my mind just as bad as being "in country".people think the 60's and 70's were a turning point for our society,but its not so,we've had turning points through out the past 100 years.Everybody wants to cry for the students at kent state and the democratic convention,but does anybody remember the "Bonus Marchers" from the depression era.These were men that bravely served their country in WW1,and then got screwed by the same country......worse than the kids at kent state.
Tim from Houston, Txwho cares about analytical b.s.,its a great song
Jay from Boston, MaErin; Ohio by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young is about the Kent State shootings of college kids by our own National Guard. Last Train to Clarksville by The Monkees is about a soldier being shipped off to Vietnam. There are so many to choose from. Check out the Billboard charts and type titles that sound what you are looking for into the search on this site. You will find many.
Erin from Portland, MeWell I am thinking about doing a school project on this song. Ithought it was great all the informantion that people had on this subject. I find it soooo amazing that there are so many musical connections to this one song about teh day the music died. I love music and I rock hard to it. So my tribute to music will always be "American Pie" becasue it represents the amazing work of Don McLean. P.S does anybody have any songs that are written about historic events?????????? Thats my project and I'm thinking / trying to think of a song....It's not cheating cuz if we cant think of one our teacher gives us one!!!
Kate from Marietta, GaWell, a lot has been said, and most of it VERY interesting! Me and my 18 year old son were both listening to this song earlier tonight, and we found out that despite our 30 year age gap, we both dearly love this song, and all it's romanticim about the 1950's & McLean's disenchantment with the 1960's. I was born the year of the Buddy Holly/Valens/Big Bopper crash, and the sixties to me were my formative years. My mother & father took us to church at a Missionary Baptist Church, and my Grandfather was a Baptist preacher. When the Beatle's said they were more popular than God/Jesus, my mother talked about it forever. She hated them, and, as a result, my 7 or 8 year old self hated them too. I was never a big fan of theirs, and, like McLean, feel they were overrated. I still do not like them, although I tolerate some of their music because it is somewhat nostalgic to me now. I also don't agree with what they said, but they were young and dumb - I remember saying stupid things when I was younger that I wish I hadn't of said. But, anyway, I just wanted to add that someone said that Don McLean had never acknowledged that the song was about Holly, Valens and The Big Bopper. Well, he did. He wrote a letter to a critic which said the reason that he acknowledged that the song was about Holly, and that the "American Pie" album was dedicated to Holly, was in order to stir up some interest with young people about Buddy Holly and his music. Don McLean goes on to say he believes that "American Pie" did cause people to look back at Buddy Holly's music and career. I also read somewhere that "Miss American Pie" was Marilyn Monroe, who died on my birthday in 1962, so it is understandable that this could be so. It was a major news event in the early 1960's - another news story about a famous person dying - that could have inspired McLean to imagine "Miss American Pie" as being Marilyn Monroe, and then the line "Bye, Bye Miss American Pie." Marilyn was there one day and gone the next, and going to the movies was a major past-time in the 1950's, as it is for younger teenagers today. If any of you have seen the nostalgic retro-rock poster of the three icons of the time - Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and Elvis Presley in a soda shop - it only reminds us that these three people were very much in the spotlight in the late 50's, early 60's, and we know McLean references Dean in the song, along with most people thinking the "King" in the song must be Elvis Presley. Well who else was called the King in that time period? It kind of all ties together - Marilyn Monroe - "bye, bye Miss American Pie," James Dean - "in a coat he borrowed from James Dean," and "when the jester sang for the King (Elvis)..." The song is a beautiful tribute to Holly and the others who were killed, the song wears well, and I get a real sense of nostalgia for my childhood years whenever I hear it. I can imagine him thinking when he heard of the plane crash, that the music had died. What news for a teenager to take in and try to sort out. I remember when I was around 13 or 14, Jim Croce's plane crashed and he was killed on impact. (I'm sure some of you remember "Time In a Bottle" and "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown." I was a huge fan of Croce then, and I remember the impact his dying had on me. He was so young, and he his music was hitting big-time then, and I remember crying and crying for a couple of days. I remember feeling sorry for his wife and child(ren), so I can kind of identify with McLean's sense of loss. Anyway, just wanted to add to the discussion. GREAT SONG!
Carol from Kersey, PaI never bothered to analyzethis song or any other. When it came out I bought the 45 and listened to it with my husband and babies. Now I have it on cd and listen to it with my husband and daughters and their teenagers. Still love it.
Thomaz from Rio De Janeiro, BrazilKeight, Dillon, MT just have a look at the lyrics its "My hands were clenched in fists of rage" and not "his hands were clinched in fists of rage"
Pete from Kansas City, KsIt's a friggin' song, written by a smelly hippie in the '60's. It means nothing in the grand scheme of things. Get a life!
Jesus Of Suburbia from Frinton On Sea, AlThis is such a great song anyone who hates it is being disrespectful It probablly isn't his biggest hit because it lasts 8:27 which is too long for radio airplay isn't too long for me a heard a song which was 65:52 longest i've ever heard
Walchung from Hickory, NcThe line "Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack Flash sat on a candle stick" is referring to the Cuban Missile Crisis. The candle stick refers to a missile and Jack Flash is John "Jack" Kennedy.
Pete from Nyc, NyDon Mclean grew up in New Rochelle and graduated from Iona College in 1968. At that time the bar across the street from the college, on North Avenue was named The Levee. It later became Tin Lizzies and is currently called the Beechmont.
Rich from Bellevue, WaI find it fascinating to think that McLean was bitching that the Beatles were making music you can't dance to. Ever listen to the rest of this album? There's some beautiful stuff, but *precious little you can dance to*!!!!!
Frank from Los Feliz, CaI first heard this song when I was driving on the freeway in Los Angeles. I had to pull over and listen to it: it hit me like a ton of bricks. Only song that ever did so on the first listen like that. Alan Livingston was President of Capital Records at the time, and he claims that he heard MacClean sing it in his office, and decided to sign him to a record contract on the spot. I have heard him tell that story; presume it is true.
Pete from Tibshelf, United KingdomThis song is primarily about the death of Buddy Holly in a plain crash. However, it also contains many metaphors about the protest movements of the 1960 and the music that accompanied it. For example, the 'players tried to take the field' may represent the protesters who tried to affect change in American society. The 'marching band refused to yield' may represent the establishment. The 'jester on the sidelines in a cast' may refere to Bob Dylan who was responsible for many popular protest songs and suffered a motorcycle accident in the 1960s
Ivor from Hollywood, Ca"American Pie" is the music equivalent of an abstract painting. It has images of many things buried in it and it can mean different things to different people. Those who lived through the 50s and 60s may see things in the song that McLean never intended. This doesn't make them wrong. Even McLean may not truly see every image in the song he wrote. The reason for this is that the song isn't a coded message, but a collection of FEELINGs about the transition of the 50s into the 60s and 70s. It's a powerful song full of emotion. It tends to touch everyone in a slightly different way. So don't over analyze, but instead ENJOY the feelings that the song invokes. It's an enduring song and one that always takes me back to the time when I first heard it, every time it plays on the radio.
Howard from St. Louis Park, MnAmerican Pie is my all-time favorite song of the rock era. There wasn't anything like it in 1972, a song running eight and a half minutes and full of references to Elvis, the Beatles and Bob Dylan. It's also one of the best written and most interpreted songs of the early 70s, also drawing on his personal experiences as a fan of Buddy Holly after reading about the plane crash that killed him, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens (referred to as "The father, son and holy ghost.") It's one song i never get tired of hearing.
As for Madonna's version, it was so disco-like and I felt it was sacreligious for her to remake a classic song like American Pie.
Brian from Medway, OhI don't find anything wrong with trying to figure out what the lyrics mean. It's all part of the fun of the song. Anyone who worries that it's being done too much should try and calm down a bit. By the way, I'm one of those who feel the line " eight miles high...." refers to the Byrds. It certainly doesn't refer to the airplane. They were in a Beech Bonanza, and would not have been eight miles up. That's over 42,000 feet. I traveled to LA in a DC-10 and we only made it to 37,000 lol. Also, for many years I have believed that following the line "I saw Satan laughing with delight" Don doesn't sing "the day the music died" but rather "TODAY, the music died". Maybe it's just me.
Greg from Fremantle, AustraliaThe Levee refers to a bar called The Beachmont Tavern which is located on North Ave. in New Rochelle, NY across from Iona College...
Dave from Lacrosse, WiI remember when it came out. I was 9 years old. I couldn't get enough of it. I'd literally sit by the radio waiting for a chance to hear it.
Krista from Brooklyn, Nythihs song has a very special place i=n my heart my father who died last year loved this song even though the song ids like eight minutes long i think it is a very deep song also i can really appreciate it and get this im only fifteen years old it just goes to show what kind of kids we're raising these days
Scott from Boston, MaGreat website on this song is http://www.fiftiesweb.com/amerpie-1.htm. The following are a few interesting things from that site that I haven't seen mentioned on here: "The book of love" was a 1958 song by the Monotones, "If the bible tells you so" references Don Cornell's 1955 song "The Bible Tells Me So," "With a pink carnation" references Marty Robbins' 1957 song "A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation," (note that each of theses songs are from before the plane crash) "moss grows fat on a rolling stone" probably refers to Dylan not touring in the late 60s and instead sitting at home raking in money off his records, and "the courtroom was adjourned, no verdict was returned" means the debate over whose better, Elvis or Dylan, will never be settled. I also don't believe that "the quarted practiced in the park" refers to the Beatles at Shea Stadium because the quartet is practicing "while Lennon read a book on Marx" which means Lennon would be doing 2 things at once. This website suggests it refers to Lee Hays, one of McLean's close friends, and his band the Weavers, who often performed in the middle of Central Park. I would tend to agree with this theory. "Eight miles high" doesn't refer to the plane, it's a simple reference to The Byrds' song of the same name. "The halftime air was sweet perfume while the sergeants played a marching tune" may not refer to the Beatles either. The site says it's probably the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, where the National Guard had to use tear gas ("sweet perfume") to get rid of protesters. "We all got up to dance but we never got the chance" refers to how short the Beatles' concerts were, some less than 35 minutes. I definitely recommend you check that site out.
Marc from Perth, AustraliaIt's refreshing to note that, despite the rich metaphoric content in this song, the comments have not been fixated on decrypting the lyrics into drug references, notwithstanding Don McLean refusing to reveal the meaning behind them. Usually this silence on the part of the song writer, for the chemical conspiracy theorists, would be a tacit admission that the song is inarguably about heroin, LSD or dope (in that order of preference).
Heather from Los Angeles, CaWow, there are a lot of comments here! Did Don McClean speak to a lot of people or what. I just got to say that I feel Madonna's cover was about the worst of all time. How could the "Material Girl" feel she could make it....better? It's like Lawrence Welk trying to cover "Aqualung".
Benjamin from Monroe, Waits not over analyzed, it's just a long song
Garoud from Aricais this the longest post ever in songfacts?? and NO this is NOT the most ever overanalyzed song...that is freebird's overanalysis if it is the greatest song ever... and not to be against everybody but...no one has ever thought that the lyrics doesn't have a "read between the lines"...maybe just maybe pay attention and find if it can be taken literally great song...great great song anyway and just like other here remind us of a group of good men who died away from their country
Dennis from Hagatna, OtherThere are a lot of interesting, "ideas" about what the song American Pie is all about posted above. Many very interesting points of views but the only real fact is:
Don Mclean wrote American Pie in 1970 in a bar called Tin and Lint Company at the intersection of Caroline and Broadway streets in Sarratoga Springs New York. Its a hang out for Skidmore college and the Navy Nuclear Operators hitting on the "Skid Kids" as they called them.
There is a brass plaque in a corner table that says Don Mclean American Pie 1970. Only Don Mc Lean really knows what he was writting about.
By the way if you go to the bar don't play the song on the juke box. The locals hate it as much as the locals in Key west hate it when you ask them to play Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville.
Robert from Snellville, GaNor have I heard the answer to "Do you recall what was revealed...?"
Robert from Snellville, GaFunny, but I've never seen anything about what the "levy" represents.
Brendan from Calgary, CanadaGreat Song about the tragic plane crash that buddy holly, richie valens and i forget the last ones name that died, most lyrics in the song based on books "the day the music died" was a book about the plane crash "did you write the book of love" who wrote the book of love is a book, the son is also about him leaving rock and roll to moved on the folk music "do you beilve in rock and roll" "can you teach me to dance real slow" slow dancing was very popular in hte 50s buddy hollys time, "i cant rember if i cried the day i heard of his widowed bride" he read in the paper he deileved about buddy holllys wife, " I knew if i had a chance i could make those people dance" he was a paperboy dreaming of being a singer."drove my chevy to levy" a popular add "apple pie and cevorlet" "this will be the day i die" coming from the book that'll be the day writin by buddy holly "a pink carnation anda pick up truck" a pickup representing freedom nad sexual potentency
Cj from West Haven, Ctoh gosh....i heard the brady bunch cover of this song the other day...*shudders*....
David from Ada, OkDo you really want to know the true meaning of this masterpiece, or at least the best stab at it that I've heard? Bob Dearborn did a piece on this on a radio program in 1972. Click on this link ---> http://user.pa.net/~ejjeff/pie.html then read the intro. At the end of it you will find an audio link so you can listen to what he has to say as you read his analysis of the song. Great stuff!
Lizz from Tampa, FlMy interpretations of a few random lines: "And as I watched him on the stage, my hands were clenched in fists of rage. No angel born in hell could break that satans' spell" We've established that Mick Jagger was satan in the song. So he was watching Mick during the show with Hell's Angels as security, and couldn't stand him. Then someone was killed (by the angels), but not even that destroyed their (the Stones') popularity.
"Them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye" Possibly a reference to Hank Williams? He was a country singer/guitarist in the early 50's, who died at 29 (early, like Holly) from alcohol.
"Do you recall what was revealed the day the music died?" I can't word this very well, so just try to follow. Is it possible that he didn't mean revealed as in a secret was revealed? Rather that the 'new' music came out. when the 50's bands went out, the beatles/dylan/english bands in general, were 'revealed' to the public. Like I said, I can't word my explaination well.
Glenn from Bonaire, GaThis song is burned deeply in my memory. I first heard it on New Years Day while in Vietman. A close friend had been killed the day before. The haunting melody and lyrics still bring a chill to me, just as they did then. Glenn , GA
Glenn from Bonaire, GaI will forever associate this song with the death of a close friend while we were in Vietman. I first herd it on new years day 1973, just after he had been killed and the melencoly mood of the song hit home, and still does.
Gerry Walsh from Melbourne, AustraliaA Masterpeice.
Cliff from Amelia, Vawow, this must be the most overanalyzed song on the site. I actually had the pleasure of seeing him perform it live a few weeks before it was released. I was a 10th grader at Irvington High School just down the river from the Croton-on-Hudson area where he lived for many years. He actually performed at a high school assembly in our auditorium around 2pm on a school day. He was a solo act, playing piano & guitar. His last song was American Pie (started playing on the piano and then stood up and played his guitar), everybody loved it, and many bought his album which was on sale out in the hall way after the show. Ironically, several weeks later the song became a big hit and everyone who thought they were cool acted like they never liked the guy. I bought several of his albums over the years (many good songs) and loved his rendition of Roy Orbison's Crying. By the way, I then went to college in Saratoga Springs and spent many a wayward night in the Tin & Lint bar where he supposedly wrote the lyrics. There was a very big folk scene up there during the 70's.
Cj from West Haven, Cthey, everbody that's trying to "interpret" this! get a life! it's a SONG. not ment for thinking. those riddles on the wrappers of Fruit Roll-ups are made for thinking, sure. but not music. music is to free your mind. as the grateful dead said i "franklin's tower", "if you get confused, listen to the music play" . . . .
Alan from Nashville, Tn"The players tried to take the field, the marching band refused to yeild" refers to the Kent State protest march when the students tried to move forward, the Ohio national guard refused to yeild and ended up killing 4 student protesters.
Milton from Island, CanadaAn interesting fact on American Pie is that I have a better voice for this song then Don Mclean. Well anyway that is my two cents have a lovely evening.
Eb from Richmond Hill, GaNOT ABOUT BUDDY HOLLY but dedicated to BUDDY HOLLY.
SO FAR I HAVE NOT SEEN ONE LINE INTERPRETED CORRECTLY. AND THE WARNING OF THE SONG IS PROVEN BY 40 YEARS OF MISINTERPRETATION.
Gary from Seattle, WaHi, the songs actual running time 8:29 not 8:39. Enjoy, Gary
Ray from Palm Bay, Iddon performed this and "vincent" on imus show last year. a truly breathtaking version with full band. glad i taped it. ray. palm bay, fl.
R from Seattle, WaLots of great commentary here, couple of things to add:
Part of the appeal of this song is that so many of the lyrics have multiple possible interpretations. I think this was deliberate on McLean's part. Some of the vagueness is likely due to just getting things to rhyme, and picking a rhyming word that is poetic & invokes multiple possible meanings with no particular one intended. It's sort of a musical version of optical illusions where you can see different things depending on how you notice details in the drawing.
The line "A generation lost in space" touches on the race to the moon, the young people of the '60s ("don't trust anyone over 30"), but the phrase "lost in space" possibly references the CBS TV show "Lost in Space" that aired from 1965-68. Certainly that phrase entered the vernacular after that show aired. It has been used metaphorically ever since.
"Landed foul on the grass" is another double meaning... in the game of baseball, foul balls can go into the stands or land on the grass between the foul line and the stands. But "grass" being slang for marijuana it's obvious this line is just using the baseball phrase to mean something else. The next line about "tried for a forward pass" is from football, not baseball, as there is no such thing as a "foul ball" in football. If the ball goes out of bounds it is "dead".
So, IMHO, the "helter skelter" line probably refers to BOTH the Beatles tune and the Manson catch-phrase, as both were important cultural events of the 1960's.
I once saw a license plate frame on a car that presumably belonged to an English teacher or writing instructor. It said:
Be with you
Devin from Camden, Ny Just wanted to mention that Garth Brooks did a cover of this song as well. I remember him playing it in 1997 during the free concert he held in Central park and Don McLean comes out and joins him during the song. No one does it like McLean, but I'm sure most of us can agree, Gath did a way better job with it than Madonna ever did.
Katelynn from Oxford, MeThis song is radical =]=]
Kyle from St. Peters, MoSoo i DEFINATELY think the line "8 miles high and falling fast" is a reference to the plane crash, saying that they were 8 miles in the sky and they were falling fast when they crashed.
Patrick from Tallapoosa, GaWith Bob Dylan down for the count due to his motorcycle accident ("the jester on the sidelines in a cast"), this gave other artists and groups like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and others a chance to progress ("the players tried for a forward pass") when they otherwise couldn't have. The whole scenario to me sounds like a football field, in the middle of a big game. The Super Bowl began in 1967, and turned out to be more popular than expected. Coincidence?
Joseph from Dublin Shore, CanadaI am a song writer by choice. Most songs, (Non Commercial.) are written to be interperated by the general public. They mean whatever you think they mean.
Michelle from St.louis, MoJust a thought, not sure if anyone would agree...the line "While the king was looking down, the jester stole his thorny crown" could maybe be linked to John Lennon's comment about The Beatles being bigger than Jesus? Lennon was quite a joker...
Brad from Topeka, KsThe line 'Helter Skelter in the summer swelter' IS a direct reference to Charles Manson and the Tate/LaBianca murders on the evenings of August 9/10, 1969. Manson truly believed that The Beatles were speaking directly to him through their album 'The White Album'. In particular, the song 'Helter Skelter' was interpreted by Manson to mean a race war. Therefore the murders were committed with the intention of blacks being accused of the murders. Manson felt he needed to start this war. To Manson, 'helter skelter' (the race war) was coming down fast. Also, there was a heatwave in Los Angeles at the time of the murders, thus the line 'summer swelter'.
Ethan from Tulsa, OkAmerican Pie is the greatest song ever written. It's the sog that made me like music. We've been fighting about what this song means for the last 37 years, and that's one of the reasons it's the best f-cking song ever. And I agree that it's about music. It's okay to analyse the song (in my opionion, that's practically why it was written), but don't make it what it isn't. And I think Satan in verse five is just Satan. He hates all that is good and makes people happy, and part of that ended the day the music died. It may not be what Don McLean meant when he wrote it, but that's what it means to me.
Brandon from Sterling, VaI also feel that the king could be annother double meaning as the king with a thorny crown beign jesus and elvis
Kyle from Medicine Hat, CanadaThe only real good fact about this song is that Don Mclean wanted people to interpet this song for themselves, so each line has a different meaning to each and every person. That is the magic of this song and really the only way to understand its truth.
Michael from Montreal,que., CanadaThis guy can write. This song sums up the sixties and early seventies.If there ever was a masterpiece this is it.
Erik from Royal Oak, MiI think Dylan just claimed his rightful spot as the King from Elvis, but i feel McLean felt differently.
Steven from Sunnyvale, CaBob Rivers wrote a musical comment about what Don McLean might be thinking about Madonna's cover at http://www.bobrivers.com/player/player.asp?atype=tunes&ID=519 It starts with these priceless lines: "A long, line time ago; I can still remember; When I wrote this song and made a great big pile. And now some chick with leather pants; Who barely sings and cannot dance; Has made a crappy version disco style."
Dan from Kingston, CanadaBeyond all the analytical, mumbo-jumbo interpretations let's not forget that it flat out is a great song by a great artist. I saw him about two weeks before this song was released- he told us the song was about to come out and gave us the lyrics to the chorus for us to sing along with him - he was the opening act for Blood, Sweat & Tears and he blew them off the stage
Brandon from Peoria, IlYeah i found that out after i left this forum and didn't bother to correct myself...thanx :)
Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScUm Brandon Sargent Peppers came out before American Pie not after. "American Pie" came out in 1971, while "Sargent Peppers" came out in 1967.
Brandon from Peoria, IlGeneration lost in space may be a double meaning. One being a metaphorical meaning, like Woodstock, but one may be a literal meaning since America landed on the moon in 1969. This was the era of the space race btwn USA and Russia, and everyone had "Space Fever." Also keep in mind that Sargeants may not mean the Beatles, since Sargeant Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band came out AFTER American Pie. AND the "sweet perfume" was probably not marajuana, but rather tear gas, as the late 60's were a time of political and social unrest.
Patrick from Tallapoosa, GaIn response to Spencer from LA, about the "fire is the devil's only friend" line: The Rolling Stones, acting on the advice of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, hired a local group of Hell's Angels bikers to provide security for a concert they were to perform at the Altamont Speedway. A young man was attacked and killed by the H.A., which if I recall correctly, caused a large riot. The fire could have been one of several small fires set by fans to keep warm, and the fan was pushed into the fire, or a large metal barrel (old oil drum) that is often used for contained bursh fires or garbage burnings. Also, the lyrics could represent Grateful Dead's song "Friend of the Devil," in relation to the Stones' song "Sympathy for the Devil."
Patrick from Tallapoosa, GaThe lyric "This'll be the day that I die" is more than likely a reference to Buddy Holly's "That'll Be The Day", with the lyric "That'll be the day that I die."
Spencer from Los Angeles, CaI don't get this song fact: "The section with the line 'The flames climbed high into the night' is probably about the Altamont Speedway concert in 1969. While the Rolling Stones were playing, a fan was stabbed to death by a member of The Hell's Angels who was hired for security." How is a line about fire a reference to a Rolling Stones fan getting stabbed?
Jacob from Memphis, Tnwow this is one frekin complicated song, every verse has meaning luv it though
Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScWhat was the deal with "the God is dead" thing anyway? I know nothing about it.
Dave from Cardiff, WalesIn 1971, nearly three whole decades before Madonna took her cover version to #1 in the UK, Don's far superior original version made #2 in the UK (not #3 as indicated above). The success of "American Pie" turned Don overnight from an unknown folk singer into an international star. While his most famous song, however, it was not his biggest hit in the UK - he scored two UK #1's later in his career - "Vincent" in 1972, and "Crying" in 1980. His many other hits included "And I Love You So", "Castles In The Air", "Winter Wood", "Jump", "Fool's Paradise", "Prime Time", "Every Day" and the beautiful "Mountains Of Morne"
Emlem from Nyc, NyIn no particular order:
The Jester is Bob Dylan. The King he sang for was Elvis a coat he borrowed from James Dean (he was music's answer to the Hollywood "bad boy") and a voice that came from you and me.
The Jester on the sideline in a cast refers to a bad motorcycle accident Dylan was involved in.
The Sergeants are the Beatles, as is the Quartet practicing in the Park. That's why it's right after Lennon reading the book on Marx.
"While the king was looking down, the jester stole his thorny crown"-- Dylan became more popular than Elvis.
The birds flying off to the fallout shelter and eight Miles High and falling fast /landed foul on the grass refers to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
McLean really, really REALLY doesn't like Mick Jagger, and the Rolling Stone and Jack Flash reference, as well as all the Devil references are, indeed, Jagger (it was he who suggested the Hell's Angels for Altamont, which are the fire references).
I met a girl who sang the blues-- Janis Joplin
Casey from Dalton, GaThe part about the Holy Trinity catching a train for the coast is said to have to do with the "God is dead" thing that was popular in the 60's. Going west is sometimes a synonym for dying.
Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScTom those were the players who tried to take the field, not the jesters.
John from Topeka, KyThe part when he says I know that your in love with him because I saw you dancing in the gym is referring to the part of Viva Las Vegas when Elvis and Ann-Margaret are dancing in the gym on the stage. When he says "my hands were clenched with fists of rage" after that whole thing with where he's saying that when I saw him on the stage.... it means that in lot of Elvis movies he gets into fights. There is Elvis in this.
John from Topeka, KyThis is a good song. I really like it becuase it's so complex. Obviously American Pie is the music of the 50's because "bye,bye, Music of the 50s while those guys drank he died but w/e
Tom from Tulsa, OkJust a thought and feeling here: "the jesters tried to take the field, but the marching band refused to yield",...(and what was the field?) I think the field was Vietnam. The 'jesters' were the protest singers of the sixties and the 'marching band' was the gov./military who would not, or could not end the war.
Tom from Tulsa, Ok "The jesters tried to take the field, but the marching band refused to yield" (and what was that field?) The 'field' was Vietnam. The 'jesters' were the sixties musicians, and the protest songs/movement. The marching band was the gov/military who could not/would not end the war.
Elizabeth from Boston, MaJay from Brooklyn, NY: I know you may never see this BUT I saw on another site that Dylan also dressed inappropriatly to play for the Queen of England... So perhaps that explains part of it. As to why Dylan is the jester, it's most likely in reference to the fact that Dylan used jester, clown, etc in his own lyrics.
Also, I want to point out that if you break the song down verse by verse, it is VERY year approprite. Each verse is a year and it is somewhat easier to figure out certain lines of you figure out the year the verse is talking about...
There are A LOT of other sites out there about the song so try looking at those. I did a search for "the day the music died" and found a lot of useful info!
T. Michels from Venlo, NetherlandsTo come back to the so called 'Manson-connection', I don't think it's strange people think that: At least Manson got inspired by the Helter Skelter song. But you can olso look at it from another point; The Helter Skelter song is about a rollercoaster ride and of course McLean could have ment a fair in the summer swel, but as I said it's logicly the connection with Manson is made directly. Up to you what to think about it ;)
Chris from Bolton, EnglandThis is my favourite song, if there is karaoke on at any pub I go to I sometimes sing it.
Daan from Tegelen, Netherlandsof course the song is not related to manson from the beatles side, with related to the case I mean it was involved, but indeed it was manson who believed there were subliminal messages in it, not the beatles or anyone else :)
Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScDaniel from Oceanside you're right, but I guess the Levvy was a bar as well. I have no idea.
Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScHelter Skelter the song is not about Manson Don? The only person who thinks it is is well... Manson.
Daan from Tegelen, NetherlandsOMFG people please stop referring to Charles Manson when it comes to the Helter Skelter verse... There is a song by the Beatles (yes, related to the Manson case) called Helter Skelter and there is a water slide called the helter skelter but politics and cases like the whole Manson thing were never relevant in the correct interpretation if the song. Which also redirects all the Vietnam and JFK theories to the litter bin.
Does every song have to be about American politics?
Andrew from Chesterfield, MiThe line "Helter Skelter in a summer swelter" is referring to that guy (sorry I can't remember his name) that got hippies to kill people and said that there were voices from God in the Beattle's White album that told him to do the killings. He has a Nazi Swastika tattoed on his forhead and is currently serving life sentence in jail.
Patrick from Humboldt, Iamy family owns buddy holly's death site.
Georgina from Christchurch, New Zealandis helter skelter in a summer swelter about Sharon Tate? as she was killed in the summer.
Stacey from Someplace, Australiais it just me or does don mclean sound kind of angry at the rolling stones possibly for letting that happen to one of their fans or just cos they're englisg sex drugs and rock n roll?????
Daniel from Oceanside, CaAlso Rye is a plant used to make whisky
Daniel from Oceanside, CaThe levee was a bar? I always thought a levee was used to block water from over-flowing?
Sam from Provo, Uti love this song, so many awesome references!
Forrester from Madison, WiGroucho Marx was actually the alias Jack Kerouac attributed to poet Allen Ginsberg in his book On the Road. This book played an indispensable role in shaping the youth movement that would become the hippie phenomenon of the '60s.
Strangel from Sacramento, CaThe best explanation I have for it is this.. Life went on. The children still screamed, the lovers still cried and the poets still dreamed. No one's life changed but his. Even the church seemed to be out of the loop, as if there must be some reason they didn't toll a dirge for the passing of holy men. -------------------------------------------------- 'Does anybody have any ideas on what this line means? "In the streets the children screamed, the lovers cried, and the poets dreamed. Not a word was spoken. The church bells all were broken." - Realnameya, Townsville, NY'
Jordan from Richardson, TxI heard that't true about the Levee being a bar. I also heard that Rye is a city just outside of New York which is where him and his friends drank after the bar got shut down. By the way, Uncle Ernie is played by Keith Moon.
Jay from Brooklyn, NyNo one has yet written (as far as I've seen) an explanation as to why Dylan is the Jester. I think the reference is to his ability to play any musical role. He went from folk to folk rock to rock to country to many other styles. Like a jester, he can play any role and be anything. Also, although many people have commented who the King is, no one has talked about the Queen. It could be Connie Francis, and it could be Aretha Franklin (this is unlikely since she came around a bit later than when the verse is taking place. Also McLean makes no other Motown references, so why should he bring Aretha in?), but the Queen is most likely Little Richard.
Jerry from Brooklyn, NyMadonna's cover was an abysmal failure. She cut out half of the verses, which seems to suggest she did not have a clue what the song was about. The video was incoherent and seemd to be completely detached from the song. I am not a Madonna basher! See my comments on her cover of "Fever." Also, I think she got undeserved bad reviews for "Evita". She can't really act, but since the role is almost entirey sung, she did quite a fine job, in my opinion.
Steve from Midland, MiOops, in the end of my last post, i meant "...to the levee but the levee was dry."
Steve from Midland, MiMy step-dad claims that the lines in the choros "drove my chevy to the levee but the levee was dry" is refering to an old bar he used to go to named "The Levee." In that bar, you ate peanuts and drank, but were allowed to just throw the peanut shells on the ground. Once, the peanut shells got too tall and the police shut the bar down. Hence, "....to the levee and the levee, but the levee was dry."
Boris from Gent, BelgiumCould 'this will be the day that I die' be a reference to the song 'That will be the day' by Buddy Holly?
Fred from New York, NyI'd ahve to agree that the lyrics are much too over-interpreted. Don never acnowledged that even Buddy Holly, Valens or the Big Bopper were actually referenced in the song, much less Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Elvis or the like.
Bob from Olympia, Wato johnathan, i dont think hendrix lit his fender on fire as an anti-fender message. saying fenders stink is just wrong. besides, why would "lighting the sacrificial right" be a deragatory phrase against guitars?
Jonathan from Johnstown, PaTo me and my Brother, The verse:"And as the flames climbed high into the night To light the sacrificial rite, I saw Satan laughing with delight The day the music died." Is about Jimi Hendrix. We think so because Flames as in a BURNING guitar!And sacrifing a Fender.(Fenders stink!)
Kevin from Grosse Pointe, MiAll the confusion about what the meaning of the song is aside, this is my favorite song of all time.
Patrick from Tallapoosa, Ga"The Jester and the King" is often referred to the fall of Elvis' career, and the rise of Bob Dylan's However, here's another theory: the "jester" could eaisly be John Lennon, since he once declared that "The Beatles are bigger than Jesus." However, if this was true, the preceding lyrics would make no sense.
Johnny from Los Angeles, CaMatthew from NY has it right. Don McLean was very mad at the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and new Bob Dylan songs (Hurting) this generation by taking away the element of (lets get up and dance to good ol All American non controversial rock n' roll) Personally, I really disliked this period. Nothing evolved, nobody was really doing anything interesting. But now we get to debate... Who does Don McLean hate more: The Beatles, Rolling Stones or New Dylan(Who all top him)? It would be funny to see him in the useless hair band Motley Crue period. He might've killed himself. (Yes, i know he is very much alive, I just wanted a funny thing to go out on.)
Daan from Tegelen, NetherlandsClaire, Oak Ridge TN: Dirges are mourning songs, common for funerals
Claire from Oak Ridge, TnWeird Al parody is friggin' hilarious. The story told in the song is as complex as "The Phantom Menace," if not more, so it is a perfect fit.
Claire from Oak Ridge, TnOh, by the by, anyone know what dirges are?
The Cloud from London, EnglandEvery line in this song is open to many interpretations. My personal reading is that the song is not about a pie at all, but is actually about a dish of nutritious pasta accompanied by a tasty sauce and served with parmesan cheese and black pepper. Is that bad?
Rick from Clare, MiJust a couple things about American Pie, which to me was always just Mr. McLean's lament over Buddy Holly's death and subsequent disdain for just about anything that has happened in Rock music since: One, I wonder if Mr. McLean ever attended an Arthur Brown concert? No one seems to remember Arthur Brown (Album: The Crazy World of Arthur Brown) who had one big hit (his only friend, if you will) in 68 or 69. It was called "Fire". It starts off "I am the god of hellfire, and I bring you: Fire.." He portrayed himself onstage as the devil, often referring to himself as the "prince of darkness", wore a flaming crown on his head, etc. At the end of the song "Fire", you can hear him laughing insanely in a kind of "delight". Pretty freaky. He also had a part in the movie version of the Who's rock opera "Tommy" as Uncle Ernie, the guy who sexually molests young Tommy to the tune "Fiddle About". Second thing, Mr. McLean's comment about "not a word was spoken, the church bells all were broken". I'm thinking that Mr. McLean felt that there should have been a huge outpouring of grief upon Mr. Holly's death, and there wasn't, at least to his mind. So, to him, why wasn't there a word (outside of the papers) spoken? Why weren't church bells solemnly tolling to mark the terrible event? And the "Father, Son and Holy Ghost" taking the "last train for the coast"...perhaps Mr. McLean's faith was a little shaken that the preceding trio didn't intervene and prevent Mr. Holly's death.
Linda from Shreveport, LaThe lyrics, drove my chevy to the levy and the levy was dry and good old boys were drinking whiskey and Rye refers to the incident in Mississippi where three young men dared to travel to a town to help register black voters. The young men were murdered and their car and remains were found in an area that was used to construct leveys. The good old boys were the sheriff's and other towns people in on this horrific act. All of this took place in the 60's. So Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie, Drove my Chevy to the Levy but the Levy was dry and good old boys were drinking whisky and rye singing this will be the day that I die. This was at the height of the civil rights movement and the song is saying that America was changing and was no longer innocent. Watch the movie Mississippi Buring.
Stephanie from New York, Ny"the flames climbed high in to the night" is NOT a musical reference at all. ITs about the buringing down of New Rochelle High School - the highschool mclean went to. Which is also right next door to the levee- which is now beechmont.
Stephanie from New York, Ny"the flames climes high in to the night" isn't a musical refrence at all. its a refrence to the burning down of New Rochelle High School- the one he went to. Which is also practically next door to the bar the levee. which is now beechmont.
Greg from Erie, PaHey, all of tou saying Don hated the Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, etc, Why don't you listen to the beginning of "Hey, Hey What Can I Do," recorded by Led Zeppelin in 1970, and then to the beginning of Winterwood.
Alex from Seattle, WaIn a certain theatre group I have witnessed, after every single successful play, they all retreat to the green room of whatever theatre they're in, and they all sing this song.
Also, 'that sacrificial light' is a reference to the death of Meredith Hunter at the Rolling Stones' Candlestick Park concert. As this quote indicates:
While playing a concert at the Altamont Speedway in 1968, the Stones appointed members of the Hell's Angels to work security (on the advice of the Grateful Dead). In the darkness near the front of the stage, a young man named Meredith Hunter was beaten and stabbed to death -- by the Angels. Public outcry that the song "Sympathy for the Devil"(because of "satan's spell") had somehow incited the violence and caused the Stones to drop the song from their show for the next six years. This incident is chronicled in the documentary film "Gimme Shelter."
Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScGrant It wasn't thought that Dylan was the king. He was just thought by some people to be the jester.
Grant from Chicago, IlOne theory I heard is that the Jester is Elvis and the King is Chuck Berry. Chuck Berry can be considered by many to be the original king of rock, being extremely influential upon most of the guitarists who came after him. Elvis, who started out with bluegrass and folk, usurped the throne, becoming the new king. (I don't think Dylan was ever referred to as a king.) However, Elvis started drifting away from the music scene later in his career to be in movies, and about that time it seemed there was a new rock act every day. "The players tried for a forward pass with the Jester on the sidelines in a cast." The performers in a movie or play are called "the cast." This also fits with the double-entendre themes prevalent throughout the song. The idea of the cast being the one on Dylan's leg seems a little too clear-cut to fit in with the rest of the lyrics.
Ken from Louisville, KyI thought the "sacred store" where the "music wouldn't play" was a reference to the closing of the famed Fillmore West in San Francisco.
Patrick from Tallapoosa, GaMcClean was a religious man. In the lyric "and do you have faith in God above if the Bible tells you so?" could relate to the old Sunday school song "Jesus Loves Me" which includes the line "'cause the Bible tells me so."
Ben from Camden, MeI chill at the Mcleans house alot, im good friends with his son, Wyatt, Don's a good guy. I don't usually talk to him about his music cause it makes me feel uncomfortable :), but i think the jack flash line is about heroine, it makes more sense than the rolling stones thing.
Jeanette from Irvine, Caall i can say is: the weird al version is hilarious.
Melody from Jacksonville, Fli love this song although it gives me the chills every time i hear it for some odd reason.
Patrick from Conyers, GaThe lyric "Jack Flash sat on a candlestick" can have two meanings: First, "Jack Flash" is slang for heroin. Common way to make heroin? Heat it up in a spoon over a candlestick. The second meaning is that the Rolling Stones wrote the hit "Jumping Jack Flash", and they performed (I think) at Candlestick Park.
Pokey from Pittstown, Njam i here? if so, please feed me
Pokey from Pittstown, NjI have always been intriegued by this song, HECK ! i just found out a few years ago that it was possibly even about buddy,ritchie & the bopper,,,all of which i can listen to over & over again also. Some of the lyrics really throw me as to where don got them, others seem so "logical" If we look at this tune as Don's looking back on how it affected HIM, (and tosss out all the politics, & other groups songs influence) it makes it rather simple. ie: "helter skelter,,,," lines: they were trying to save time in & rent that plane to get traveling,--you know how many dumb decisions can be made in a short amount of time?! (in the heat of a decision) = "summer swelter" "The birds flew off in the fallout shelter"---THAT was the "safety" of the airplane. "8 miles high and falling fast"---i read in the FAA report ( i think it was official) that they crashed about 8 miles from where they took off from,,, they "landed" in the grass (crashed) the "players" (buddy,ritchie,bopper)"tried for a forward pass, but the jester in the sidelines in a cast"(no-one in particular, maybe life OR help?--there were no witnesses)ie: a jester is a clown , a joking person----this was NO joke anymore ! "the players tried to take the field, the marching band refused to yield" players=buddy,ritchie&the bopper,,,, marching band=death,,,,,,,AND? the BIG question then has an answer,,,,,"do you recall what was revealled, the day the music died",,, yes buddy, ritchie & the bopper are gone :(,,,,,,,,,,,,AND? if you throw in the Rye N.Y bar? don went to cry in his beer after hearing all this,,,,,( i wuddah too)
Bernard from Caracas, South AmericaI love this song,it reminds me of the time when I lived in Greenville, Mississippi, especially the "Levee" by the river
Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, Sci get your point realnameya, but I think the bit about "And as I watched him on the stage, my hands were clenched in fists of rage...' refers to the concert where the Hell's Angels guys were acting as security guards.
Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScThat's a great interpretation of that line Adrianne.
Adrianne from The Park, CanadaOne of the most controversial lines in the song for me has always been "and while the King was looking down, the jester stole his thorny crown" The explanation I hear the most is that the jester is Bob Dylan and he took over the #1 spot from Elvis. I just have a hard time letting go of the theory that it could have been when John Lennon said that The Beatles were more popular than Jesus.
E from Smallville, OkI find it soooo funny to watch everyone projecting what the song means to them as an interpretation of the authors intent. Especially since the TRUE intent of the author was to provide a canvas with the big pieces blocked in so we could discover what it means to us. In many ways but always with a cryptic grin Don McLean tells us over and over that it doesn't matter what it meant to him, it's what it means to us that counts. Everyone that hears it; whether they lived in the fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties,nineties, or oughties, finds a personalized message that seems to come from Don McLean, but actually comes from inside us. THAT IS THE PIE HE BAKED FOR US TO ENJOY.
Scott from Nyc, NyTo furthur the idea of the Rolling Stones being the death of music..."So come on Jack be nimble, Jack be quick Jack Flash sat on a candle stick" could refer to the ROlling Stones' song "Jumpin' Jack Flash." Also, was there anyone who liked Madonna's version? I thought it was just awful. Thanks -Scott
Jb from Beaver, PaThis is one of the gr8ist songs ever it was my pap's fav song but he died in 2000 ever sence then this song has had a specialness about it and everytime I listen to it, it reminds me of him and puts me in a state of peace and calm tranquility
Bukrey from Stow, MaI agree with just about all that has been said about this 1971 song's imagery and its meaning: the loss of simple innocence in popular music during the 1960's. However, I may have missed it in the numerous long annotations (I have only so much time to piss away on this amusing diversion), but no one has expressly mentioned that the most obvious and telling reference in the song is contained in the title: 'American Pie' (NB not 'Miss American Pie', as I have seen). The title means American rock and roll, as in 'what is more American than', and I contend it suggests that the song itself is more critical than popularly thought of the pernicious influences foreign bands had had on the nation's pop music since Buddy Holly died..
'American Pie' takes the form of an elegiac lament, one that bemoans the fact that British Bands ' especially the Beatles and the Rolling Stones ' had taken over and corrupted this essentially American music form since Holly's death in February of 1959 by making it much less danceable and far less innocent. In the process, the British Invasion, as it was called, caused this country's listening public to forget Rock's roots in rockabilly and R&B, quintessentially American genres, and paradoxically shifted our nation's musical axis, both literally and figuratively, from the Middle America where McLean grew up delivering newspapers to amoral, post-modern, southern California (when people talked at that time about going to 'the coast', they sure didn't mean the East Coast). As a folk artist in NYC little known to the general public when he released this song, McLean almost certainly disdained the way non-acoustical Rock and Roll was then being marketed to the American public by record company executives and radio station programmers who had little genuine love for this music outside of its profitability and no sense of its history or authenticity.
The British Invasion started out paying homage to Buddy Holly and his cohort (John Lennon claimed him as a primary influence before he read a book on Karl Marx), but quickly left off playing simple, rhythmic music to record more atonal and psychedelic and demanding types of songs in the second half of the decade. In the 50's, the teenage music audience in this country had fun listening to rock and roll at small venues where dancing was the whole reason for getting together, or they bopped to the beat of singles on a portable record player and over the radio. Dealing with teenage heartache and budding sexuality was the apex of that decade's musical moral inquiry, even though this inquiry was coyly disguised by symbolic language ' 'pink carnation', indeed. Tellingly, 'American Pie's' lyrics only ask if that kind of music can save your 'mortal' soul, not the immortal one.
Moreover, the entire style of music making had changed between 1959 and 1971. Electric instruments were a part of the 50's music scene, but undanceable and unrestrained twenty minute guitar, bass, and synthesizer solos, a la Led Zeppelin, were decidedly not. Towards the end of the 60's, rock and roll's signal features were loudness, ponderousness, and immense self-indulgence. Whether on records or at gigs, the early days of rock were played by entertainers performing for general teenage audiences; elitist audiences weren't there for the benefit of ever more esoteric rock and roller artistes. .
By the late 60's, rock and roll was increasingly heard in huge stadiums or on expensive LP albums, and the music was inexorably intertwined with explicit sexuality and drug use (as opposed to whiskey and rye'does anyone remember how differently drugs were viewed in this country as opposed to alcohol back then?). Insofar as they were sincerely concerned with social activism, the Beatles's 'revolutions' were becoming more and more narcissistically dilettante and ineffective ' even by the first days of the 70's it was clear that the British Invasion's only lasting effect on the political culture of this country would be the over promotion of drugs, sexual profligacy, and stubborn nonconformity, i.e., rebelling without a cause, to a far greater extent than anyone could have originally predicted.
As a folk artist himself, McLean seems to be bewailing the dishonorable manner in which the stars of his genre retried from the field of battle before the invaders from England. While tentatively approving Dylan's ascendancy over Elvis in the first part of the decade, 'American Pie' suggests that there was no clear verdict in this contest because of the advent of the British Invasion. One must remember that until the Beatles arrived here in 1964, American Folk music -- as then being performed by Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, etc., was deemed to be the next big thing in American popular music. I surmise that McLean's song intends to impugn Dylan's capitulation to the Beatles mammoth popularity and overwhelming influence by forsaking his acoustical guitar, refusing to tour in the mid 60's around the time his leg was broken in a motorcycle accident, and creating less and less accessible music throughout the remainder of the decade. Moreover, the Byrds, and other California folk music bands, similarly let the artists of their genre down, partly because of their geography, I suspect, but also through indulging in the electric guitars and drug abuse the Fab 4 had made fashionable
According to the theme of McLean's song, the Rolling Stones and Altamont -- and Charlie Manson's interpretation of the Beatles's Helter Skelter for that matter -- represented an highly regrettable but direct and inescapable progression of popular music in this country that was turning more and more immoral, violent, and even satanic. In fact, I believe that Heavy Metal music (I am not sure that this term was used at that point) was just coming into vogue when this song was written, but someone with more informed music tastes will have to take up this thread, if it is indeed worth taking up. I further think that McLean, as a good folky, condemned the political tragedies of the 60's ' some of which, like the three assassinations, are alluded to on multiple levels in the song -- and likely thought that the decade's raw and powerfully disturbing music forms may have helped shape the decade's deepening brutal sensibilities. If this is true, 'American Pie' is more than just a lament, it is a deeply felt assessment of the origins of (and exculpation for?) the excesses of the 60's on both sides of the cultural divide, thus thematically paralleling Hunter S. Thompson's 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' published in the same year.
I further believe that McLean may also have harbored at one point the hope that American folk-singers like he and Joplin would take back this country's rock and roll legacy. So he wrote this song with the quaint rock and roll riffs (before 'sampling' was acceptable), damnably catchy melody, and poignantly cryptic lyrics to remind people how good ol' American rock music used to be. McLean is also saying in effect that folk music is this country's link ' sans electric instruments ' to its storied rock and roll past, but that Folk had ultimately failed to live up to the promise of its legacy.
Perhaps the song's symbolism is so opaque because the idea of directly criticizing the Beatles and other like groups intimidated McLean: Lennon and McCartney had a great deal of influence and favor in those days (how many groups in 1971 had their own record label), and it wasn't cool at that time in our country's' history to be either anti-drug or jingoistic, except in an ironic sense, which is exactly how I believe this song's title was pitched to the record buying public. Too bad he didn't know that the Beatles would break-up shortly after the song was published. (Won't the Stones ever stop touring?) Maybe he realized that it wasn't fair to lay all of the ills of rock and roll at the doorsteps of the Beatles and the other British bands of the time. But his continuing protests to the contrary, I think McLean knew precisely whom he was blaming in this song for the death of rock and roll.
Consequently, my thesis is that in his song American Pie, McLean was either consciously or unconsciously rejecting the influence England's young musicians had on popular music in this country during the 1960's ('ten years on our own' is therefore sardonic) and expressing a longing for a return to the simpler native music that Buddy Holly popularized during his own youth. I am confirmed in this supposition by the harsh manner McLean references British Bands throughout the song, but I am not insensible to an alternative construction that holds that McLean was merely decrying the state of popular music at the end of the British Invasion. Undeniably, however, the song's imagery evokes the most military of sports in drawing up lines of conflict between British 60's music and vintage American rock and roll.
In one of the few edifying comments he made on this piece, McLean admitted that he wrote the song in order to foster renewed interest in Buddy Holly's work. It is interesting to note in this regard that the band Sha Na Na had gotten started in 1969 in New York City where McLean played, and also had a small set at Woodstock a year and a half before 'American Pie' was released. (It has been noted elsewhere that that festival was most remarkable for showcasing the two kinds of music popular at the time before they became irretrievably irreconcilable in one bill) Grease would appear on very slightly off Broadway in February of the following year. McLean's song therefore presaged the approaching 50's Rock and Roll revival in this country. .
To my mind, the real irony of this song, which is so laced with ironic symbolism, is that the Sha Na Na type of nostalgia, and British performers like Elton John (and, shudder, disco 'artistes'), would soon appear making much more melodic, simple, and danceable music within the reach of general audiences. But just like this new-rock wasn't going to be served up by Led Zeppelin, it also wasn't going to be played by folk musicians. After the 60's, rock and roll was no longer the same, or no longer had was the same type of simple entertainment value, because the listeners of popular music had themselves lost their innocence since 'the day the music died.' In that sense, as it has been remarked, the song 'American Pie' does not lament the lost innocence in popular music after 1959, but this county's
Phil from Niagara Falls, Canadagood song, so is the weird al version
Harriet from Nottingham, EnglandI think the line 'The 3 men I admire the most/The father, son and the holy ghost/They caught the last train for the coast' could be a reference to the Holy Trinity (I understand that McLean was religious) and the wacky West Coast cults of the 60's. The fact that they have left on the 'day the music died' could suggest that on that day, McLean began to lose faith?
Mia from Vanderfrift, Pathis song is one of my favorites, has been since i was a kid a song that can last like this one realy says a lot about it.
Realnameya from Townsville, NyThe only reason I believe that "Helter Skelter" is not a reference to Charles Manson is because Manson's actions--though popular and big part of the time period--were not politically or musically voted...and most of us can agree that 'American Pie' is solely about music, politics, or both. It just makes more sense that it would refer to The Beatles since that's a more musical theme. Now here are just some of my personal interpretations..."Now for 10 years we've been on our own..." refers to the suckiness (I don't think so...but he does?) of music in the period following Holly's death--all of the 60's basically. Of course, this line could also just be something to rhyme with "rolling stone". I don't think "the players tried for a forward pass with the jester on a sideline in a cast" refers to the Beatles. It seems like we've already established that "the jester" is Bob Dylan. Maybe the players (fans of the old music?) tried to re-establish themselves when Dylan was out of commision after his crash. Another bit..." and as I watched him on the stage my hands were clenched in fists of rage no angel born in hell could break that satan's spell". This seems to be another reference to the lack of good music (which I totally disagree with). What's interesting though is "no angel born in hell". This could just be a word to rhyme with "spell", but it could also mean that not even a good musician of the old days or who was a fan of the old music (the angel) could even make good music--or have it become popular-- born in this horrible music scene (hell). Everything else has been said it seems like. Does anybody have any ideas on what this line means? "In the streets the children screamed, the lovers cried, and the poets dreamed. Not a word was spoken. The church bells all were broken."
Mary from Medina, Nythere's a band in the town next to me called 1959,and at the top of their website it says "the day the music died" check 'em out,theyre pretty good www.1959music.com
Pat from Seattle, WaAfter all these decades you can claim that you read this here first: The lyric: "Bye Bye Miss American Pie" means exactly what Don said, he MISSES America Pie, as in "Bye Bye, [I sure] Miss America Pie". Put it in context of the song, and it all makes sense.
Justin from Melbourne, Victoria, Australiaperhaps the reference to the jester playing for the king and queen can be further solidified as Bob Dylan by listening to his song "all along the watchtower," where the opening line is "there must be some kinda way outa here, said the joker to the thief"... this may also tie in with the fact that the jester STOLE his thorny crown
Tony from St. Cloud, MnDylan in NOT wearing a red jacket on the cover of "Freewheelin". He may still be the Jester, but as a die hard Dylan fan, I thought that I should let everyone know that the jacket he is wearing is brown and not red.
Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, Scgreat post Matthew. I think your's is the most on target.
Adam from Ann Arbor, MiI have discussed this song numerous times with my dad since he grew up with it and he has offered a few interpretations. Most of them have been mentioned here (and then some) but I found it interesting that one which I think might be credible has not been brought up at all. I believe the song does in fact discuss McClean's feelings at the "death of music" and I'm not sure how much of it is concerned with other events of the 60s, but I think if you look at the whole death of music theory coupled with who McClean was there is another interpretation. I myself don't know too much about McClean, but read on here that apparently he was a practicing Catholic and (possibly) was worried about the degeneration of music. Taking that into account, I believe that the closing lines of "The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost" can mean a lot of things (i.e the death of the big three musicians in the plane crash) but the next line "They caught the last train for the coast" can be seen not only as the loss of these particular performers but the fact that music was becoming more commercialized and marketed instead of being pure. This can be supported since in the 50s and early 60s the concentration of studios and record labels were not in the big cities but were instead smaller more "down home" placecs in the south and midwest that were concerned with making good original music. This slowly changed over time as more artists went "mainstream" (if you want to call it that) and music became commercialized. This supports the theory that McClean was not a big fan of Elvis and that the jester was Bob Dylan who wore the borrowed coat and switched from acoustic to electric on the song Rolling Stone. This last bit is a stretch, I know, but regardless music nowadays is concentrated on the coasts, in L.A and NY and everywhere but the heartland where it was created (hell there was that whole damn "east coast vs west coast" rap thing, a perfect illustration of the coastal emphasis on music.) It is possible McClean saw what was happening to music and the artists he loved and the plane crash seemed to just be a prophetic catalyst for the "beginning of the end" as it were. It's all a pretty far-stretched idea, but it's interesting to consider.
Daan from Tegelen, NetherlandsThank you all for your views on the lyrics. I was pretty keen to find out what it's about and regarding the fact that it is still a (partial) mystery to most of us I guess I'll make an analysis for myself based on my findings and yours. If you wish to receive this analysis when I've finished it please email me (email@example.com)
Craig from Sydney, AustraliaA great anaylse of this song is on www.wikipedia.com. Each verse has been carefully studied.
Karl from Raleigh, NcMy Two Cents -
The song references nothing except music and McLeans feelings about music.
The song is dedicated to Buddy Holly and as most people note his Feburary death is the day the music died.
The rest of the song is talking about why Rock and Roll was never the same:
Dylan sold out. The Beatles produced a bunch of non-dancing junk and Mick Jagger completely ruined rock and roll, forever. Note: I don't feel this way but I am all but certain McLean did.
My evidence, Moss grows fat on a rolling stone - Dylan only making money. BUT I didn't used to be that way. When the Jester (Dylan) played for the King (Elvis)...
I think the Players, Marching Band etc has been explained.
Also, I don;t think Hendricks or Morrison are in this. The bad guys are Dylan (the new Dylan), the Beattles and the Rolling Stones.
Sarah from Sydney, AustraliaThis is a very long song and is not advised to sung when under the influence of kareoke. its not my favourite song and i can only take small doses of it but a friend and i used to sing it when we were about seven years old walking around that playground at school, that was only eight years ago. We were both well educated and very fortunate, so if ur child does not know the words to this song or others including bohemian rhapsody, eagle rock, T.N.T or pretty woman (tragic)then start to act. DO NOT DEPRIVE UR CHILD!
Will from Schoharie, NyA few things to add:
1) The line "Do you believe in rock 'n roll" is probably a reference to the Lovin' Spoonful song "Do You Believe in Magic?"
2) "A Generation Lost in Space" is probably a metaphor for the drug-using hippies.
3)"Helter Skelter" is probably some kind of double reference to both the Beatles and Manson. If we go with Matthew's interpretation (that the Beatles and Stones destroyed rock in Don's view), then Don would be pointing to the violence and destruction caused by the Beatles song most distant from early rock and roll. The song "Helter Skelter" is one of the most influential of all time--it more or less kicked off the "heavy metal" movement that was becoming increasingly popular in '71 with the success of Led Zeppelin.
Kira from Minneapolis, MnI've read posts about people being confused by the term "Helter Skelter" in the song. Helter Skelter refers to Charles Manson. He referred to what he was doing with his "family" as being Helter Skelter.
Swift from New York, Ny"american Pie" was the name of the plane that Buddy Holly was on when he died. The song is about the day Buddy Holly died and the subsequent change in Rock and Roll music from that point on.
Bruce from Lower Burrell, PaElvis would be the King, and Mick Jagger is Satan. Don McLean saw the Rolling Stones as the death of Rock N Roll, and Mick Jagger as Satan.
Mauro Boscarol from Bolzano, ItalyNina Simone recorded a small version (1:11) of this song in 1984 during a concert at Ronnie Scott's (London).
Tom from Houston, TxRolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time (Dec 2004) does NOT include this song. What an oversight! It's a timeless classic.
Melanie from Martin, TnDave from Houston...as a big fan of Buddy Holly AND Elvis, I beg to differ. Buddy was fabulous and truly amazing but Elvis made the difference in the larger sense and did it first.
A.k. from Westchestertonfieldville, IaThere are so many possibilities for interpretation for this song. Most of you have some fascinating thoughts on the meaning of this song. I believe that it is a combination of all--a reminiscence of his childhood and what music meant to him and his individual feelings of each musician referenced and how he struggled the "day the music died", but also you can sense the religious theme and the political vibes. And I agree that the Madonna version left something to be desired. I'm a sucker for originals.
Eric Layton from Mapleton, UtI read somewhere that the line "do you recall what was revealed" might refer to the album "Two Virgins" published in 1968 where John Lennon and Yoko Ono posed nude on the cover.
"When we were all in one place" probably means Woodstock, as Guy from Decatur, IN, already mentioned, but "a generation lost in space" I think refers to the emphasis on the space race between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. The U.S.S.R. had launched Sputnik, the first satellite, in 1957, had already put the first man in orbit (Yuri Gagarin, 1961). The U.S. landed on the moon in July of 1969, Woodstock was a month later.
Richard from Alderson, WvI was at the first public performance of this song. It was at the Washingon Square Methodist Church just off Washington Sq. Park in the West Village. McClean was just a couple of weeks from his first major concert at Carnegie Hall. Toward the end of the concert he said, "I have a new song I'd like to sing for you, I hope you like it." Needless to say, he brought the house down. I remember he said, he hoped folks would come see him at Carnegie and someone shouted from the audience, "yeah but I bet it won't be $2!" $2 was the admission price that night. I believe it was a fundraiser for the church, which hosted (and still does) a variety of social and left of center political activities. It was a great concert, but remembering Don McClean I can only say he was the stiffest performer I have ever seen. His songs stand in amazing contrast to his presentation and he remains, one of my all time favorite writer/performers. McClean offered no interpretion of the song that night but after the concert my friends and I sat around and discussed the lyrics over coffee, a conversation that still happens occassionally to this day!
Dave from Pomeroy, OhI thought the Holy Ghost were the Beatles
Tara from Pocatello, IdCouple of things... the reference to "the courtroom was adjourned/ no verdict was returned" has to do with the assassination of JFK. It is referring to both the fact that Oswald was killed before a trial and to the uncertainty of the nation following the Warren Commission Report. The ending verse references the "Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost" this is both a religious reference and a reference to John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King. I think with those three assassinations it was also, the day the music died, it was the end of a decade so important to music, the 60s. I'm just a 19 year old, but when I hear "American Pie" I can't help but take it all in and at the end I feel a sense of loss, as if I had lived through all of those events beginning with the deaths of the Big Bopper, Buddy Holly, and Richie Valens. It's a great song, full of interpretation, but most importantly, full of history.
Mr.gatz from Waterville, Me "And the three men I admire most The Father Son and Holy Ghost They caught the last train for the coast"
When you listen to songs mentioning a train coming its talking about the end of the world. When the train stops we will stop, listen to old blues songs like "hear my train a-coming" (J. Hendrix) and you'll farther understand
Zac from Jacksonville, FlOn 2/3/1959, Richie Valens was sick after the concert in Minnesota. There were only 3 seats on the plane, so another performer offered Valens his seat and took the tour bus instead. That other performer was Waylon Jennings. The plane crashed in a field near Clear Lake, Iowa. February 3, 1959 is "The Day The Music Died".
Larry from La Habra, CaThe billboard designer who claimed "They don't write songs about Volvos" was probably unaware of "'59 Volvo" by the Medallions (Dooto Records, 1959).
Mike from Wp, NySorry I spelled that wrong; its the Beechmont Tavern. Located across the street from Iona College, where Don attended.---I agree with most of that Matthew from NY. Good Job.
Mike from Wp, NyThe Levee was a bar in New Rochelle, now called the Beachmont...Rye borders New Rochelle where Don is from ("them good old boys were drinking whiskey in Rye" not "whishey and rye")
Amanda from East Grand Forks, MnHelen from South Shields - the plane they were on wasn't headed to the coast, it was going to Fargo, ND. so i don't really think that "they caught the last plane to the coast" was about them. but hey it could be. you never can be sure. and god would you people please stop saying "don't over analyze the song" !!!! that's what this frickin website is for. you shouldn't be here then!
Jimmy from Bronxville, NyThe verse "Drove my Chevy to the Levee but the Levee was dry, Them good old boys were drinking whiskey in Rye"....often misunderstood as "whiskey and rye"....actually talks about a bar named the Levee which was closed and the boys went to drink whiskey in Rye, NY. Don McLean is from New Rochelle, NY, a town south of Rye.
Ed from Victoria, CanadaDont try to ruin the song by telling people what the lyrics mean...its just an incredible song lyrically and you dont need to know what it means to appreciate it. Infact the mystery to it will make you listen to it over and over again. It's just an amazing song.
Marty from Perth, AustraliaThe biggest music debacle of the last century....Maddona's version....What was Don thinking????
Shannon from Costa Mesa, Ca"the day the music died" was when Buddy Holly, The big bopper, and richie valens all died on the same plane. they were the big musicians of the time, so when they died, it was as if the "music died"
Theresa from Peoria, IlI know a guy who sings this song when he plays in a piano bar. He likes to tell what the references are and says that the "Father, Son, & Holy Ghost" are Crosby, Stills, & Nash.
Ira from Milford, CtHey Gang, I'm knew here, but a long time music geek. As for the lyrics...those of you who keep posting a plea for us to stop over analyzing are obviously on the wrong page...however: Thorny Crown is definately Elvis getting drafted/Dylan taking over the 'kingdom' so to speak.....Sgts played a marching tune...look at Brian Wilson and others, they played SgtPepper over and over, wearing headphones and needles out!....Jack Flash, no doubt Mick Jaggar, but I suggest that the whole flames thing comes from the Stones own use of fire and Devil crapola... Goats Head soup? remember, the goat is another symbol of the devil... and as was posted, Mclean was no fan of the Rock and Roll that replaced his childhood heros. Finally... church bells..yadda yadda, could be a lot of things, I wonder if it's Vietnam Vets, Kent State students, or the triad of JFK, MLK, RFK (see Dion's Abraham Martin and John) they'd also make an interesting triad at the end, 3 men I admire most.... As for a missing reference to Jim Morrison... so what. ---Bbrother
Helen from South Shields, EnglandI have always pondered the line ' the father son and holy ghost' i think it is religious but also refers to the three who died. They caught their last plane (was it to the coast?)it could indded also be Luther King, JFK etc. I have found these ideas very interesting. I agree the levee refers to the Mississippi Delta, couldn't be anyhting else!
I hava an unusual relationship with this song... I always loved it growing up, and my cousin and I adore it. (i'm 24 next month!) However, I was in NYC 2 days b4 9/11 and was in Boston on the day. I;m still haunted by memoeries of that day - though form England - I have a fond attachment to the states, and 2 friends in MS. I still find it hard to listen to songs I hard int he days which followd, some of which are songs i adore. Americna pie, was the first song I heard when i turned on the radio whilst in the bath that evening. Whilst not really connected it always will be to me.
Chuck from Ny, NyMike, I think you hit the nail on the head. Like everyone else I have to throw my two cents in. 'Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry' In the late sixties and early seventies there was a national gas shortage, gas was rationed with long lines at the pumps.
Brittanie from Liverpool, EnglandOkay, I like all these fab definitions for this song. And, I'm not going to try, because it means what it means to me. But here is a little something that may help with the "KING AND QUEEN" line.- It's by Little Richard------"Elvis may be the King of Rock and Roll. But I'm the Queen"----------- I'm not saying that that's who the queen is, but I just thought it's funny because I learned that quote not 5 minutes ago on this site.
Lorne from Toronto, CanadaWow people, I'm totally blown away by the depth of research put into your post, not that thats a bad thing. Everything has been pretty much said but I have to dis-agree with anyone who makes political connections with this song, even though politics affect music and vice versa, but it is purely about the developement of rock n' rock , for better or worse only McLean knows.
Matthew from New York, NyChris, great job! Loved reading your post and comparing your notes to my own...I learned a lot about references from the "Did you write the book of love" verse, of which I knew little. However, I have to disagree with a few of your points. The "King and Queen" are not the Kennedys--don't fall into the trap of making this a political song. Remember, it's about music. The King is Elvis, and the King is the King of Rock and Roll. And then Dylan showed up and showed that an artist could write lyrics and music on a different plane than Elvis, who didn't even write his own songs...in other words, he stole his crown. The key here is Dylan didn't become King--he just took that honor away from Elvis. Unstated is that the Beatles became king, combining Elvis' sound with Dylan's mindset and lyrical focus. Also, the pun in "Lennon read a book of Marx" is that it should be Lennin (i.e. Russian leader and revolutionary), but he means John Lennon. And your whole "It landed foul on the grass" interpretation is off base. Again, stay away from the political...that is one of the few things McLain has ever said about the song. The "Players" are those writing old R&B songs, the good ole boys of Rock n Roll. After the Beatles exploaded in 64, they were relentless in their domination of the music scene until about 1966. Then, they paused for a few months to put together Sgt. Pepper. During this time the players "tried for a foward pass"--it was the time of the release of the Beach Boys Pet Sounds, the height of Motown, and so on--old rock was coming back. Even Dylan, the man who started the end of Old Rock, was on the sideline in a cast (as you correctly noted, a reference to the motorcycle accident). Then, halftime brought drugs (sweet perfume--you got that one right!!) but the Sgts who played a marching tune were the Beatles (Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band). And of course "we all got up to dance but we never got the chance" because you just can't dance to that album (one of the things often said about it at the time. It's true--try, you can't!). The Players tried to take the field, but the music landscape had changed--The Beatles were not going to yeild, and rock was moving in a new direction, never to return to the old ways. One last thing--"a generation lost in space" also references the late 1960s push to put a man on the moon, and that whole generation's obsession with the space program. Anyway, other than these couple of things, you analysis was right on. Nicely done!
Tina from Edmonton, Canadai believe the line "the three men i admire the most, the Father,Son and the Holy Ghost" is both a religious reference and a refernce to JFK, RFK and Martin Luther King. Who had all been killed by this time
Mike from Sydney, AustraliaI'm with Matthew from NY on this one - let's keep the analysis simple! As for the Helter Skelter - a waterslide? In Britain? In the 60s? No, a Helter Skelter is an old fashioned ride in what used to be called a fun fair. It is a tall slightly conical tower (like a lighthouse) with a spiral slide on the outside. You climb up steps on the inside, sit on a coconut mat and slide down. A bit tame today, but the point is that the ride is an accelerating, out of control downward spiral with a crash landing at the end, and therefore a powerful metaphor.
Matthew from New York, NyThank you Ivan!
Rudi from Melbourne, Australiai would say that this song isn't only about music but about the whole culture at the time. i would say that the 'helter skelter' reference is to charles manson.
Ivan from Louisville, KyMatthew from New york, you have completely answered the questions that I had about this song. Everything you suggested sounded entirely plausible and rang true for me. Thank you very much.
Ivan, Louisville, KY
Matthew from Shrewsbury, EnglandIt does refer to Elvis in Verse 3. The "thorny crown", a reference to Christ, also implies McLean is saying that Elvis ("The King") was a martyr.
Roger Skinner from Auckland, New ZealandIn my capacity as a singer/guitarist,I like to perform this song.I enjoy the melody and the lyrics,as does my audience,cos they always know the chorus.Don Mclean probably wrote it about Buddy Holly and that era of great rock and roll.Long live American Pie.
Matthew from New York, NyFirst of all, if you don't want to interpret lyrics, why are you reading this site?? Ok, let me just run down what things are for you all. The King is Elvis. Period. The Jester is Dylan. Period. The players are good, ole rock 'n' roll. The fun stuff. But at half-time, with "sweet perfume" (pot) in the air, the Sergeants (Beatles) played a marching tune. Like all songs on Sergeant Pepper, YOU CAN'T DANCE TO THE MUSIC. So, we all got up to dance, oh, but we never got the chance. Now the players tried to take the field (The good ole rock guys--the fun stuff you could dance to), but the marching band refused to yield (The Beatles took over. Good ole rock was dead. Long live art rock!). And this was the day the music died. Got the meaning? No US Government. No Vietnam. All music. Also, the whole thing about the devil and fire and Jack Flash--that's all Mick Jagger. Jumping Jack Flash was a Stones song. It's Altamont. It's Jagger (Sympathy for the Devil--he's Satan). No Jimmy. No Morrison. Just Jagger. McLean, a folk-rock, old-school kind of guy HATED the Stones and the Beatles and what, he felt, they had done to rock. He's not trying to tell the full story. He's calling out those he feels has ruined the good ole days. The first verse or two ("Did you write the book of love..." "Saw you dancing in the gym...yada yada yada) is all about how wonderful the good ole days were. Then Buddy Holly Died. Then Dylan took over and Elvis faded away. Then the Beatles from a band that "practiced in the parks (aka touring stadiums) into a band that played "marching tunes" that you couldn't dance to. Then the Stones bring pure evil to the scene. Then Janis Joplin, a woman who sang Blues the way it was meant to be sung, dies (I met a girl who sang the blues, and I asked her for some happy news. She just smiled and turned away). The good ole days are gone. This song is mourning them. This isn't about Vietnam or the government or even drugs. It's about the day the music died.
Gonny from Faketown, GaThe part of about Helter Skelter refers to a water slide in Britain. The Beatles have a song called Helter Skelter about this slide. Charles Manson thought the song was about an imminent race war and apocalypse. http://songfacts.com/detail.lasso?id=169
So, if you listen to the lyrics, "Helter Skelter in a summer swelter", it makes sense that a person would go on the slide in a hot summer to cool down.
Jude from Monroe, MiWhy spend so much time and energy on "analysis"? Freud said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." Why not just listen and enjoy the music? Lit "professors" in college turned me off from enjoying reading with their constant over analysis.
Ingrid from Huntington, Wvthe Helter Skleter part was about the Manson family killings of Sharon Tate and her friends in August 1969, which Sharon was 8 months pregant with Roman Polanski's son. the Manson family wrote Helter Skelter on the wall with Sharon's blood, and probly her friends.
Lynn from Liverpool, EnglandThere is a line in the song...do you recall what was revealed, the day the music died?????? I am trying to find out what was revealed, any one know???????????????
Anna from New Ulm, MnI think that the King is Jesus Christ because, if you recall, he wore a crown of thorns.(and while the king was looking down, the jester stole his thorny crown.) Just a thought.
Don from Chicago, IlThe part, "Bye bye Ms. American Pie" is a reference to either of those three's wife or a girlfriend. Buddy Holly, in his song That'll Be the Day, sings, "That'll be the day, when you say good bye...that'll be the day when I die." Thus, the girl is saying goodbye the day he dies.
Debbie from Mansfield, MaI saw an interview with Don McLean after a performance of "American Pie" on Tv a couple years ago..in which he referred to most of the interpertation as being based upon a dream he had..has anyone else seen this, or can add to it?
Terry from Toronto, Canadacould you please send me the chords to american pie to my e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org thank you terry
Johnny from Sault Ste. Marie, CanadaNothing wrong with over-analyzing the lyrics...it makes for pretty interesting talk. And I think Dave sure misses the boat in refering to Elvis. He IS the King...and I'm sorry but his manager did not give him that title...the fans did. In fact even Buddy himself called Elvis the King and admitted that without Elvis, he and countless others would never have made it (Buddy actually saw Elvis live in Lubbock, Texas in 1955 and knew then and there what he was gonna do!).
Guy from Decatur, InThese aren't in order I'm just putting them in as they come to mind.
"The courtroom was adjourned/no verdict was returned."- reference to the assassination of JFK. "The quartet practiced in the park."-reference to the Beatles'last concert at Candlestick Park.
The part about birds and "eight miles high" is a reference to the Byrds and one of their songs, "Eight Miles High".
The players=protestors sweet perfum=weed marching band=The Beatles "Oh and there we were all in one place/a generation lost in space."- reference to Woodstock '69 and all the chaos that occurred there. "No angel born in hell can break that satan spell."-reference to the Hell's Angels and Altamont in general girl who sang the blues=Janis Joplin sacred store=popular dance clubs of the decade before that had closed
Shauna from Everywhere, MaIn every interpretation I've read, Buddy is the jester. About the coat borrowed from james dean...It's relating the two together because such immense talent came from these two very poor kids. He is stealing the crown off the king is referring to how he was sneaking up on the charts and deserved to be the king. He explains some of it on VH1 behind the music.. Is sad to see Buddy die...Think I love him..
Alex from Syracuse, NyNicley said Bruce & Dave! If Elvis is suposvley the King... the who suposevly is the Queen??
Patrick from Conyers, GaWhen McLean notes "I can't remember if I cried when I read about his widowed bride", he is probably referring to that Buddy Holly's wife was pregnant when he died in the plane crash. She had a miscarriage a short time later.
Patrick from Conyers, GaAbout the "Helter Skelter..." part: Charles Manson claimed that he could "hear" the "secret message" within the song, and it prompted him to start his "family" and order them to kill. The lyrics "It landed foul on the grass..." deals with that one of the members of The Birds was busted for possession of Marijuana.
Patrick from Conyers, GaVery few radio stations today play the full version. Most leave out the "Helter Skelter" part. Madonna had left this verse out when she recorded it.
Patrick from Conyers, GaThe lyric "While the King was looking down, the jester stole his thorny crown" could be a reference to that when Elvis' (the King) career begin to go downward, Dylan took this as a cue to become more famous, especially after Elvis died.
The lyrics "Drove my Chevy to the levee" more than likely refers to the three college students who were slain, and their story was the basis for the movie "Mississippi Burning."
Simon from Nowheresville, AzI heard Don McLean interviewed on British radio, probably early nineties, confirming that the quartet practising in the park were The Beatles but that over-analysing any of the other references ie trying to relate them to real people, was pointless - they're just lyrics. Driving a chevy to a levee, according to this interview, was just what people in the States do, from what I recall.
Oh, and the Madonna version sucked like a Hoover.
Rick from Winnipeg, Canadathe levee was probably referring to the area around the Mississippi delta where the blues began
Jenny from Sussex, NjOne interpretation I heard was that "the Levee" was actually a bar Don McLean frequented, hence the line "drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry"
Russ from Gore, New ZealandI'm in the understanding the song is named American Pie as around the time it was released the British were jumping on the rock and roll bandwagon which was formally American teritory, and so by the British getting involved they were taking away a piece of the "american Pie"
Chet from Saratoga Springs, NyThe chorus of this song was written in a bar in Saratoga Springs N.Y., called "The Tin & Lint". There is a plaque in the booth stating that Don Mclean was in fact there. There is also a newspaper article from The Saratogian telling the whole story about Don's infamous time at the bar.
Bruce from West Columbia, ScI must disagree with one of the comments. While the "King and Queen" reference may not concern Elvis Presley, the line "And while the King was looking down/The jester stole his thorny crown" is without question a reference to Elvis' being drafted, serving in the US Army, hence, being out of the music scene. When he returned, The Jester --Bob Dylan specifically but also as representative of the music scene by that time-- was now the King, or the "son of man" as Christ referred to Himself. Hence, "thorny crown."
"No angel born in Hell could break that Satan's spell" is of course a reference to Altamont, the Hell's Angels, and to Mick Jagger, AKA "Jumping Jack Flash": "Jack be nimble, jack be quick, Jack Flash sat on a candle stick/cause fire is the devil's only friend." When the fan was murdered by Hell's Angel's, The Stones were playing "Sympathy for the Devil." This leaves to question, however, the line: "As the flames flew high into the night to light the sacrificial right..." Personally, I believe this to be the reference to Hendrix, especially since his death precedes the "girl who sang the blues", Janis Joplin, both in fact and in the song. One other question is begged: Where does Jim Morrison fall in here? Morrison, Hendrix, and Joplin were all dead within a one year period.
Some other musings: "Did you write the book of love?" cf. "Wonder, wonder, who wrote the book of love."
"I know that you're in love with him cause I saw you dancin' in the gym/You both took off your shoes...Man I dig those rhythmy blues...." The popular "sock hops" of the '50's obviously referenced. cf. "At the Hop" by Danny and the Juniors.
"When the Jester sang for the King and Queen..." Why not the King and Queen of the prom? This ties in with the teenage imagery ("I was a lonely teenage broncin' buck with a pink carnation and a pickup truck"; see also the "sock hop" reference).
"Helter Skelter in a summer swelter" obviously refers to the terrible murder of Sharon Tate and the other heinous activities of Charles Manson's "family."
"The Birds flew off for a fallout shelter/Eight Miles High and falling fast...." A clever joining of concepts. Of course, "the birds"--animals--are threatened by nuclear holocaust, thus they look for "shelter." The bomb is falling from "Eight Miles High." The Byrds of course sang this song which was about many issues including nukes.
"Eight Miles High and falling fast / It landed foul on the grass." The song was highly criticized as an anti-war, anti-american, possibly pro-communist tune.
"It landed foul on the grass. The players tried for a forward pass with the jester on the sidelines in a cast." I suggest "the players" are the US Government War effort, the "forward pass" as continuing escalation of the War by first Johnson then Nixon, and the "side lined jester" meaning that peace efforts of folks like Dylan went unheeded.
"The halftime air was sweet perfume..." Reefer. Grass. Pot. You know, dope. (Note the continuing theme of teenage years with football games.)
"Sergent's played a marching tune." Too easy!
"We all got up to dance, but we never got the chance. Cause the players tried to take the field, the Marching Band refused to yield." The players as the government, National Guard, etc. The Marching Band is not Sergents but Sergents followers, the peace demonstrators.
"A generation lost in space." President Kennedy wanted an American to walk on the moon before 1970. The race was on during the 1960's to "make it so." At the writing of "American Pie," an American had walked on the moon. An entire decade had passed since the passing of "the big three". Vietnam was out of control and vile. There was no time to start over and regain the innocence of the earlier days of Rock and Roll as personified by Holly, Valens, and The Big Bopper. When "the music died," the purity and innocence died with it.
As far as analyzing McLean's lyrics, I think it is fine not to do so. But his work is far more rewarding to the informed listener, thus I encourage analysis. I don't know what McLean thinks or thought of Elvis at the time he wrote his wonderful song. Clearly, he refered to the perception of Elvis by the masses, if not of his own perception. Peace.
Keight from Dillon, Mt"Fire is the devils only friend, oh and as i watched him on the stage, his hands were clinched in fists of rage" I heard that was about Jimi Hendrix lighting his quitar on fire. But im' not sure :)
Dave from Houston, TxDon't try to over-analyze the lyrics. He talks about how life felt the day of the crash, and how life felt 10 years later. A wonderful mood-poem set to music.
The Elvis business is nonsense. His manager gave him that title. Buddy Holly was a composer and lyricist, an original and an innovator, always looking to help music grow. Elvis re-recorded hits of (mostly black) stars. No Buddy Holly fan would EVERY consider Elvis to be "The King".
Jo from Sheffield, EnglandOne interpretation says that Elvis is 'the King' referred to in the line 'the jester sang for the King and Queen'.
Sandy from Conway, ArWas there a supposed reference to Elvis in American Pie?