Don McClean on his hit American Pie, touring and intending to die on stage


Five many years after its launch, Don McLean’s American Pie stays inescapable. The sweeping epic about politics, youth and rock and roll throughout the Atlantic has, in simply the previous couple of years, soundtracked essential moments in TV collection Stranger Things and Hollywood blockbuster Black Widow and turn out to be boxer Tyson Fury’s victory tune.

Despite its very particular cultural references, it stays ubiquitous. “It’s used in a million different ways because it is non-specific – because it is eternal in that way,” the New York State-born troubadour says over the telephone of the 1971 music. “I did not write something about a specific time. Bob Dylan wrote The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll. That’s a wonderful story. It’s a beautiful biographical piece. He wrote about Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, the boxer, and so on and so forth. And I’ve written about Van Gogh. And I’ve written about George Reeves. But this is a different thing. It’s the soul of the country. And the soul has never changed.”

McLean, identified to followers because the American Troubadour or King of the Trail, is marking the music and accompanying album’s fiftieth anniversary with a world tour (together with a clutch of UK dates), a retrospective documentary and a stage present within the works.

Since the flip of the millennium, the 76-year-old has remained largely out of the highlight, regardless of taking part in repeatedly to trustworthy followers. But the milestone has prompted many to look once more at his legacy, main to McLean in August being given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He tells me the day was particularly poignant given his life-long obsession with cowboy Western film stars equivalent to Ken Maynard, Buck Jones and William Boyd, lots of who’ve their very own stars on the path. “That was certainly a high point in my career,” he recollects excitedly. “And I’ve had a few nice things happen to me in my life – lots of them actually. But this is something that was really particularly wonderful for me because I’m a music and film aficionado. So there were all sorts of names of obscure actors and directors and singers too on that Walk of Fame that I was very proud to be a part of.”

Don McLean (Don McLean/2911 Media/PA)

In dialog, McLean is susceptible to grand, sweeping statements about music and artwork. This expertise can be current in his personal music and such grand, sweeping statements kind the centrepiece of American Pie. Take as an example the much-quoted lyric: “The three men I admire most / The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost / They caught the last train for the coast.”

His predilection additionally extends to tales of his youth in New Rochelle, New York State “My mother always said to me: ‘Donnie, I didn’t raise you, you raised yourself’. I had my own way of doing everything. And I was by myself most of the time.”

After a pause, he provides: “I realised the one thing that mattered to me more than singing, more than writing songs, more than being Don McLean – anything – was making records and albums. So I developed that really very young and it was really independent of everybody I knew. Nobody was in my world at all. Everybody else was basically white kids who were going to grow up to be working stiffs and good pillars of the community and church-goers and all that stuff. I wasn’t any of that. I didn’t want any of that.”

That craving finally led to his second studio album, American Pie, being launched in October 1971. It was an enormous success however the title observe – impressed by the aircraft crash loss of life of rock and roll nice Buddy Holly – went stratospheric, reaching primary within the US and many different international locations all over the world together with Australia, Canada and New Zealand. “If you write about specific things in a universal way then you have created something that’s universal and can last forever,” he provides. “If you write about things in a topical way, in a way that is particularly pointing out a specific time then that particular thing is going to fade.”

Don McLean (Don McLean/2911 Media/PA)

He compares American Pie to Gone With The Wind, the enduringly standard 1939 American romance set in opposition to the backdrop of the US Civil War. “It’s really not about the Civil War,” he tells me. “It’s about Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara. It’s about their love affair and their inability to connect. How much he loved her and she loves him, but they could never really let each other know that they really loved each other. There was always disconnect, ships passing in the night, this kind of thing. That’s the story.”

According to McLean, a music is just a car. “I’m telling an epic tale of rock and roll and politics and people’s rights – people’s demands,” he declares. “People in the street wanting things.”

After an extended 18 months with out stay efficiency, McLean is again on the highway taking part in the occasional present. Still, his forthcoming world tour can’t come fast sufficient. “It’s not the same as traveling and singing, which I have done since 1968,” he says. “It’s part of my DNA, I guess you might say, and I definitely feel it physically.”

Not all of the music greats of the 60s and 70s proceed to carry out as we speak and McLean sees himself as a part of a choose group with a accountability. “As I get older,” he begins. “I can sing well and I have a lot of songs that people remember and people know and love. I’m from another time period and I like to go out there and show those young people how it’s done – show them how it sounds when it’s right. I’m sure that is what Paul McCartney does. It is certainly what The Rolling Stones still do. We still hold a torch of some sort, which is valuable to people and they love it. They really do.”

After a dramatic pause, he provides: “I intend to die on stage. I have nothing else better to do.”

Tickets for Don McLean’s fiftieth Anniversary of American Pie 2022 UK Tour can be found on-line. More info at

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