American Pie

  1. American Pie
  2. Till Tomorrow
  3. Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)
  4. Crossroads
  5. Winterwood
  6. Empty Chairs
  7. Everybody Loves Me, Baby
  8. Sister Fatima
  9. The Grave
  10. Babylon (Adapt. from Psalm 137)

Released by United Artists in 1971.

UNITED ARTISTS UAS-5535, Released October 1971 [LP]
UNITED ARTISTS U-8299, Released October 1971 [8T]
LIBERTY LN-10037, Reissued October 1980 [LP]
EMI MANHATTAN CDP 7 46555 2, Reissued 1987 [CD]
ULTRADISC MFSL UDCD 728, Reissued July 1998 [CD]

 Commentary on “American Pie” from The Don McLean Story

“American Pie” is partly biographical and partly the story of America during the idealized 1950s and the bleaker 1960s. It was initially inspired by Don’s memories of being a paperboy in 1959 and learning of the death of Buddy Holly. “American Pie” presents an abstract story of McLean’s life from the mid-1950s until the end of the 1960s, and at the same time it represents the evolution of popular music and politics over these years, from the lightness of the 1950s to the darkness of the late 1960s, but metaphorically the song continues to evolve to the present time. It is not a nostalgia song. “American Pie” changes as America, itself, is changing.

For McLean, the transition from the light innocence of childhood to the dark realities of adulthood began with the deaths of his father and Buddy Holly and culminated with the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, which was the start of a more difficult time for America. During this four year period, Don moved from an idyllic childhood, through the shock and harsh realities of his father’s death in 1961, to his decision, in 1964, to leave Villanova University to pursue his dream of becoming a professional singer.

The 1950s were an era of happiness and affluence for the burgeoning American middle class. Americans had a feeling of optimism about their prospects for the future, and pride in their nation which had emerged victorious from World War II, setting the world free from the tyranny of Nazi Germany. Popular music mirrored society. Performers such as Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, and Bill Haley and the Comets churned out feel-good records that matched the mood of the nation. Sinister forces such as communism were banished, and serious folk groups like the Weavers were being replaced by the beat poets who, as members of the intelligentsia, were excused their lack of optimism.

The 1960s was the antithesis of the previous decade. The exuberant simplicity of the 1950s was displaced by a much more volatile and politically charged atmosphere. People were asking questions. The cozy world of white middle class America was disturbed, as civil rights campaigners marched on Washington, D.C., and Martin Luther King Jr delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The following year saw the 1964 Civil Rights Act become law. On the world stage, America’s leading super-power status was being challenged by the Soviet Union, and its military might was being tested by the Vietnamese. Even in music, America soon found itself overrun by a British invasion. The 1960s was a turbulent time for McLean’s generation.

By 1971, America was still deeply troubled. The Vietnam War was out of control. The anti-war movement was gathering momentum and being listened to. On April 22, 1971, former naval officer, John Kerry, stated to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

 “…In our opinion, and from our experience, there is nothing in South Vietnam, nothing which could happen that realistically threatens the United States of America. And to attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom, which those misfits supposedly abuse, is to us the height of criminal hypocrisy, and it is that kind of hypocrisy which we feel has torn this country apart…”

Other events of the time, such as the successful launch of Apollo 14, did little to restore national pride. “American Pie,” in the opinion of the song’s producer, Ed Freeman, was the funeral oration for an era: “Without it, many of us would have been unable to grieve, achieve closure, and move on. Don saw that, and wrote the song that set us free. We should all be eternally grateful to him for that.”

 Extract from The Don McLean Story: Killing Us Softly With His Songs by Alan Howard Copyright 2007 Starry Night Music, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction or translation of any part of this work without the permission of the copyright owner is unlawful. Used by permission.

Don McLean Sings American Pie on Top of the Pops (October 31, 1991):


  1. Robbie McBride says:

    The best song ive heard (Rated 5 out of 5)

  2. An absolute cracker of a song – and with so much meaning to it. Undoubtedly one of Mclean's best n one of the all time classics! (Rated 5 out of 5)

  3. best song ever made (Rated 5 out of 5)

  4. no doubt!! one of the best songs (Rated 5 out of 5)

  5. audrey Aton says:

    “l love pie , and i love the song american pie (Rated 5 out of 5)”

  6. audrey Aton says:

    i like pie (Rated 5 out of 5)

  7. ghettowhitelady says:

    “I move we start an internet petition… “”The Star-Spangled Banner”” is about WAR… and we are sick of war. How about we make “”American Pie”” our national anthem? More people know ALL the words to American Pie than they do the Star-Spangled Banner (I used to… there is actually 5 VERSES)

    Anyone gets in my car, “”American Pie”” comes on, they can't sing all the words, I don't have time for them… lol that person walks home. My kids knew all the words to this song before they knew the first verse to the national anthem.

    Let's honor something that is TRUELY AMERICAN… Rock and roll, football, Chevy, dancing, this song has everything America is about. Not guns, bombs, fighting…

    ghettowhitelady(at) (Rated 5 out of 5)”

    • Sure – an 8 minute long National Anthem. Sounds great for all of the Veterans out who were greeted with this song upon returning from the War Great song, though.

  8. JOHN cullinane says:

    top of the tops you and your songs are so heart filling (Rated 5 out of 5)

  9. Rosalie Schroeder says:

    “I want to get a hold of Winter Wood to play at my Mom's funeral. She's still alive, but I want have it ready before the stress sets in (Rated 5 out of 5)”

  10. Michael Rattray says:

    “The three men I admire most
    The Father, Son and the Holy
    Ghost (Rated 5 out of 5)”

    • hawkingsha says:

      i am a English major student in China,i want talk about the song American pie in my thesis ,i need some source of English version as argument.

    • Harvey Wachtel says:

      Sorry — they caught the last train to the coast. The naive hope of supernatural assistance is part of what is gone with Miss American Pie.

      America and the world, like Don himself, has grown up. Charles Dickens’ Ghost of Christmas Past explains what to make of this song: “These are but shades of what has been. That they are what they are, do not blame me [i.e., the supernatural].” We can’t go back and change the past, but as Scrooge later discovered, there is another solution.

  11. Mary Beth Kaminski says:

    Is this the 8 minute version of American Pie?? (Rated 5 out of 5)

  12. A Great album starting with a great song! I love Don Mclean. He is my Idol! (Rated 5 out of 5)

  13. Jessica Bowman says:

    “This song is one of the greatest songs ever. i love the words, i love the style, i love the music, everything about this song is absolutely perfect and amazing! me, my boyfriend and all of our friends just hang out all day and half the day we replay this song over and over while we just hang out or while they work out, or while we just smoke and chill. (Rated 5 out of 5)”

  14. I an a chinese girl.I am in Xi’an China.I loved American Pie when I was 12 years old.At that time,I just fall in love with English.

  15. Actually, ‘American Pie’ is one of my favorite songs.
    Though it’s an old song, talking about 1960s, I still like
    its melody and lyrics- no, I just love the song.
    Though I’m a korean teenage girl, this song is so familiar to me.
    Listening to it, I can easily find myself humming the melody
    over and over again, even after the song’s

  16. I think this song symbolizes a decade.I heard it once when I was little and now whenever I listen to it I feel like is a part of my childhood. I just love it.

  17. I am 15 years old and this song is one of the best i ever heard

  18. I have the album if anyone is insterested in buying it. please e-mail me back.


  19. The Class of '68 says:

    “Interesting commentary from Don McLean’s web site on his classic “”American Pie.”””

  20. Love u man spot on peace.

  21. Sameer Pundeer says:

    Man you are good.Bye bye american pie is great.

  22. Geo Spring says:


  23. Mamane Djibril says:


  24. Celine Ventura says:


  25. Ivory Nuñez says:

    this song has a very deep story behind.. I love this!

  26. Domninc Tardif says:

    Ritchie valens and buddy holly.

  27. Suzee Mills says:

    My favorite song frowing up. Lots of great memories when I think of this song… never knew it was so political/ historical.

  28. Julie Slater says:

    American Pie and Vincent touched me deeply. I know all the words and have been known to sing either without any reason and at any time. Thank you Don for your perfect music.

  29. Jodi Rosenblum Garbin says:

    “My favorite song of all time “”American Pie””.”

  30. Wendy Owen says:

    “I own a censored single of American Pie…a long beeeeeep goes right through where it says: and the three men I admire most, the father, son and holy ghost!! Franco did not like religion mixed in with popular music!!”

  31. Paige Quintel says:

    The 60′s generation the most self absorbed generation America had ever seen.We are still suffering from them see Yuri Bezmenov videos.

  32. Gail Durham says:

    “My favourite song of all time, fell in love with this song when I was 7 years old and still love it now 40 years later! “

  33. Zach Whyte says:

    “I’m only 19, and this is absolutely my favorite song of all time.”

  34. Josh Dillard says:

    “My daddy used to sing this song to me when I was little (real little) and I still remember learning the lyrics when I was about 6. Whenever I listen to it, I can think of my dad drivin’ me around in his old Chevy pickup and singing it to me. I love this song for what it brought me.”

  35. Rebecca McClary Powell says:

    “Every now and then, this song gets in my head. If I’ve heard it on the radio, etc. I really like it, but it kind of gives me the willies, it has so much meaning in it. Why don’t we have more songs like it?”

  36. Joyce Tuttle says:

    “You were our paperboy, and we did all our sleigh riding in front of your house…Boy, didn’t January make us all shiver! Your music is a TREASURE. Thank you.”

  37. Sachin Gunnan says:

    Heard for the first time in 1976 or 77. Has been a favourite eversince. Never really understand the meaning till I read this evening. Sachin

  38. Meloise Capeheart says:

    This is my youngest son’s favorite song..he is 33 now. Still loves to sing to it when he hears it. It is one of my favorites too! Wish there were more songs like this these days!

  39. Pamelia Dawson says:

    A legend!

  40. Isa de Quesada says:

    “Tupac Shakur in an interview claimed that this song inspired him. He said he wrote as if he was telling a story about his people in the same way as “”American Pie.”””

  41. Tony Uminski says:

    “This was the top song when I was in basic training. every time I hear it, I get this urge to start marching and peeling potatoes! great song! always played it on the radio when I needed a potty break! those 9 minutes came in handy when you’re on an oldies station.”

  42. Fred Sanford says:

    American Pie is a girl who left him, right?
    “Did you write the book of love, And do you have faith in God above, If the Bible tells you so? Do you believe in rock ‘n roll, Can music save your mortal soul, And can you teach me how to dance real slow? Well, I know that you’re in love with him `cause I saw you dancin’ in the gym. 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, But I knew I was out of luck The day the music died. I started singin’, bye-bye, miss american pie.”

    • The song is actually an allegory with several meanings in each verse. In college, one of my professor’s spent 3 weeks covering the song with what he thought it meant. I want to say that it’s mostly about the plane crash which caused the death of Buddy Holly.

  43. at the bank the other day. My dad was the sweetest, kindest person. He had a difficult background, and I was blessed to see the kindness in Dad’s Life. My daddy made a silly but sweet rendition of this song for me. It was so incredibly silly, but it fit my life. My grandfather (who was my mother’s father) called me ‘PIDDLY PIE’ because they had a “PIDDLING PAD” for folks that wanted to “piddle down their thoughts!” AND, apparently, my grandfather named me Piddly Pie. lol. My dad used this wording w/ American Pie. The song that was written and performed on my actual birthday.

    In addition, had a FANTASTIC day singing this song @ the bank the otha day!! They were just too sweet & fun & danced to everything. I think it’s too cool to have those few moments in life which are just magical.

  44. Julie Anderson says:

    Your album American Pie is the only one I have ever owned in all forms: 33, cassette, 8 track, and CD! My favorite of all! My favorite song is Empty Chairs and Pie and Vincent and The Grave. In that order. I saw you a very long time ago at The Roxy, Don. You were charming as well as so very talented! Thank you for the fine memory. Julie

  45. Kathleen Harwell says:

    Certain that this has been asked & answered a million times, why does “A.P.” refer to a train crash, when it was a plane that went down in a blizzard?

  46. My wife booked, secretly for my 76th Birthday a visit to Gateshead, England to see Don. I have been a fan for many years and what a terrific present. I feared though that as he was getting older hgis voice might have gone. My fears were unfounded, he was fantastic, and the audience were with him all the way. The finale was incredible with everyone in the theatre singing American Pie.
    Don was on stage for two houyrs with just a short break. One of the great memories of my life.
    American Pie is such an evocastive song. I want it played at my funeral.

  47. The fifties was great for white middle-class men that’s for sure. Grieving the loss of innocence generally equate to a longing to return to ignorance of social injustice and exclusion. The more significant loss of innocence came about when it became clear that the police and the military would attack, maim and kill protestors at the behest of the ruling class.

  48. justwanttobeloved says:

    I’m an African American . Today I turned 59 and found this site. Last year a few of my friends black and white took their own lives. We have to evolve. The alternative is leading quiet lives of desperation or… I can’t imagine anything good ahead. I love all kinds of music, most especially the lyrics and poetry of folk and rock. Thankfully Woodstock showed us that shared ideas were not restricted by one’s racial orientation. I learned about freedom and how deeply people could love, hate, or just be in the world from artists like Don McLean, Billy Joel, Simon and Garfunkel, the Beatles, the Eagles. I experienced joy and sorrow through the music of Elton John and the Who, national and ethnic pride James Brown. Loved the dance music of the Dicso era.

    While I have had the good fortune of finding love through the years, many crushes and such, I guess at the beginning, through the middle, to the bitter end, and in new beginnings, music, in sound tracks, play lyrics, movie scores, music of the people, for the people, and an abiding faith in God have always been there.


  1. [...] his official website (click here), it says about “American [...]

  2. [...] Mock, strummed his acoustic guitar as he led us into Don McLean’s “American Pie.” According to McLean’s biographer, Alan Howard, “’American Pie’ is partly biographical and partly the story of America during [...]

  3. [...] Künstlers Buddy Holly am 3. Februar 1959 – the day that music died. Auf seiner Webseite wird beschrieben, dass McLean die Rock’n’Roll Ära mit einer Zeit verbindet, in welcher die [...]

  4. [...] rock hit, “American Pie.” While the song doesn’t include mention of their names, McLean has said that he was inspired both by Holly’s music, as well as the way he …read [...]

Speak Your Mind