|Single by Don McLean|
|from the album American Pie|
|B-side||"Empty Chairs" (promo)
"American Pie part 2" (first release)
|Released||November 1971 (original)
November 1991 (re-release)
|Format||Vinyl record (original)
CD, cassette, vinyl (reissue)
|Recorded||May 26, 1971|
4:11 (Single Part 1)
4:31 (Single Part 2)
|Producer(s)||Ed Freeman for The Rainbow Collection, Ltd.|
|Don McLean singles chronology|
"American Pie" is a song by American folk rock singer-songwriter Don McLean. Recorded and released on the American Pie album in 1971, the single was a number-one US hit for four weeks in 1972. In the UK, the single reached No. 2 on its original 1972 release and a reissue in 1991 reached No. 12.
The song is a recounting of "The Day the Music Died" (a term taken from the song) — the 1959 plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper (Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr.) — and the aftermath. The song was listed as the No. 5 song on the RIAA project Songs of the Century. "American Pie" is considered Don McLean's magnum opus and his signature song.
The song is well-known for its cryptic lyrics that have long been the subject of curiosity and speculation. In general, the six verses cover a span of ten years (as mentioned at the beginning of the third verse), beginning with McLean's learning of the news of "the day the music died" in the first verse. The second verse sets a faster tempo and is set in the rock and roll era of the late 1950s and very early 1960s, while the third alludes to the folk revival of the early 1960s, in which a “jester…with a voice that came from you and me” steals a king's crown. The mid-1960s are alluded to in the fourth verse, which is set mostly in a stadium setting as a marching band plays. The fifth verse describes an incident at the Altamont Free Concert in which Hells Angels attempted to subdue an enraged Meredith Hunter. The sixth verse returns to the slower tempo of the first as the perspective shifts to a more personal one, one of sadness and a general lack of music, noting that “the three men (he) admired most” were long gone. None of the musicians in the plane crash (or any others, save for indirect mentions of The Rolling Stones and The Byrds in the third and fourth verses, respectively) are identified by name in the song itself, but the lyrics make reference to a number of popular songs from the late 1950s and 1960s.
When asked what "American Pie" meant, McLean jokingly replied, "It means I don't ever have to work again if I don't want to." Later, he stated, "You will find many interpretations of my lyrics but none of them by me ... Sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence."
Except to acknowledge that he first learned about Buddy Holly's February 3, 1959 death when he was folding newspapers for his paper route on the morning of February 4, 1959 (the line "February made me shiver/with every paper I'd deliver"), McLean has generally avoided responding to direct questions about the song lyrics, such as saying, "They're beyond analysis. They're poetry." He also stated in an editorial published in 2009 on the 50th anniversary of the crash that writing the first verse of the song exorcised his long-running grief over Holly's death and that he considers the song to be "a big song (…) that summed up the world known as America." McLean dedicated the American Pie album to Holly.
|Australian Kent Music Report||1|
|Canadian RPM Top Singles||1|
|Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks||1|
|Dutch Singles Chart||10|
|New Zealand Singles Chart||1|
|Norwegian Singles Chart||9|
|UK Singles Chart||2|
|US Billboard Hot 100||1|
|US Billboard Easy Listening||1|
Parodies, revisions, and uses
In 1999, "Weird Al" Yankovic did a Star Wars–inspired parody of "American Pie". Titled "The Saga Begins", the song recounts the plot of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace from Obi-Wan Kenobi's point of view. While McLean gave permission for the parody, he did not make a cameo appearance in its video, despite popular rumor. McLean himself praised the parody, even admitting to almost singing Yankovic's lyrics during his own live performances because his children played the song so often.
The City of Grand Rapids, Michigan created a lip dub video to "American Pie" in response to a Newsweek article that stated the city was "dying". The video was hailed by many as a fantastic performance including Roger Ebert, who said it was "the greatest music video ever made."
|Single by Madonna|
|from the album The Next Best Thing|
|Released||March 3, 2000|
|Madonna singles chronology|
American pop singer Madonna released a cover version of the song in March 2000 to promote the soundtrack to her film The Next Best Thing (2000), with the song being serviced to radio on February 2. Her cover is much shorter than the original (it contains only the beginning of the first verse and all of the second and sixth verses) and was recorded as a dance-pop song. It was co-produced by Madonna and William Orbit, after Rupert Everett (Madonna's co-star in The Next Best Thing) had convinced her to cover the song for the film's soundtrack.
Due to the success of the single, it was included as a bonus track on her 2000 studio album Music, making the song the first single of the new album; however it was not available on the North American version. Madonna explained in a 2001 interview on BBC Radio 1 with Jo Whiley, the reason that the song was omitted from her 2001 greatest hits compilation GHV2: "It was something a certain record company executive twisted my arm into doing, but it didn't belong on the (Music) album so now it's being punished."
Released in March 2000, the song was a worldwide hit, reaching No. 1 in many countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Italy, Germany (her first since "La Isla Bonita", in 1987), Switzerland, Austria, and Finland. The song was the 19th best selling of 2000 in the UK. The single was not released commercially in the United States, but it reached No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 due to strong radio airplay.
NME gave it a negative review, saying that it was a "sub-karaoke fluff" and that "it's a blessing she didn't bother recording the whole thing." Chuck Taylor from Billboard, on the other hand, was impressed by the recording and commented, "Applause to Madonna for not pandering to today's temporary trends and for challenging programmers to broaden their playlists. [...] In all, a fine preview of the forthcoming soundtrack to The Next Best Thing." Don McLean himself praised the cover, saying it was "a gift from a goddess", and that her version is "mystical and sensual." According to The Official Charts Company, the song has sold 385,000 copies in the United Kingdom and is her 16th best selling single to date in the UK.
The music video, filmed in the Southern USA and in London and directed by Philipp Stölzl, depicts a diverse array of ordinary Americans, including scenes showing same-sex couples kissing. Throughout the music video Madonna, who is wearing a tiara on her head, dances and sings in front of a large American flag.
Two official versions of the video were produced, the first of which now appears on Madonna's greatest-hits DVD compilation, Celebration, and was released as the official video worldwide. The second version was issued along with the "Humpty Remix", a more upbeat and dance-friendly version of the song. This video was aired on MTV's dance channel in the United States to promote the film The Next Best Thing, starring Madonna and Rupert Everett; it contains totally different footage and new outtakes of the original and omits the lesbian kiss. Everett, who provides backing vocals in the song, is also featured in the video.
Charts and certifications
- "Memory Bank's a Little Off, But Sentiment Still Holds". Retrieved August 14, 2012.
- Tin & Lint, a bar on Caroline Street in Saratoga Springs, New York claims the song was written there, and a plaque marks the table.
- "Don McLean: 'American Pie' was written in Philly and first performed at Temple — NewsWorks". Newsworks.org. 2011-11-28. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
- Howard, Dr. Alan. "The Don McLean Story: 1970–1976". Don-McLean.com. Archived from the original on July 11, 2007. Retrieved June 3, 2007.
- "What is Don McLean's song "American Pie" all about?". The Straight Dope. May 14, 1993. Archived from the original on May 28, 2007. Retrieved June 3, 2007.
- "American Pie". Don McLean.com.
- McLean, Don (February 1, 2009). "Commentary: Buddy Holly, rock music genius". CNN. Retrieved November 28, 2011.
- ""Ask Al" Q&As for September, 1999". Archived from the original on September 2, 2006. Retrieved October 29, 2006.
- "Jedi Council – Interviews Weird Al Yankovic". TheForce.Net. September 14, 1980. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
- "The Grand Rapids Lip Dub". Npr.org. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
- "The greatest music video ever made". Blogs.suntimes.com. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
- "Rock Band's final song will be Don McLean's 'American Pie'". Polygon. Retrieved 2014-04-01.
- "Reheated 'American Pie' Madonna reinvents herself again, this time with Don McLean's '70s hit". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. 2000-02-12. Retrieved 2013-04-17.
- American Pie Hits Radio
- "It was something a certain record company executive twisted my arm into doing, but it didn't belong on the (Music) album so now it's being punished." — Madonna, in an interview with Jo Whitley, broadcast by BBC Radio 1 on 21 November 2001.
- "NME Track Reviews - American Pie". Nme.Com. 2000-02-26. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
- Taylor, Chuck (February 12, 2000). "Spotlight: Madonna "American Pie"". Billboard (Nielsen Business Media, Inc). ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved April 28, 2010.
- "Madonna : Don McLean Praises Madonna's 'American Pie' – Rhapsody Music Downloads". VH1. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
- "Madonna: The Official Top 40". MTV. MTV Networks. Retrieved December 20, 2010.
- Ciccone, Christopher (2008) Life with my Sister Madonna, Simon & Schuster: New York, p.278.
- Steffen Hung. "ARIA Charts". lescharts.com. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
- "Allmusic". Allmusic. August 16, 1958. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
- "Top40.nl". Top40.nl. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
- "Craig David Storms U.K. Singles Chart". Billboard. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
- Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 978-84-8048-639-2.
- "chartstats.com". Chartstats.com. June 24, 2000. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
- Billboard chart peaks Billboard.com. Retrieved June 22, 2009.
- "ARIA Charts – End Of Year Charts – Top 100 Singles 2000". Retrieved December 29, 2011.
- Steffen Hung. "Austria Top 40 - Hitparade Österreich". austriancharts.at. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
- "JAAROVERZICHTEN 2000" (in Dutch). Retrieved December 29, 2011.
- "RAPPORTS ANNUELS 2000" (in French). Retrieved December 29, 2011.
- "Classement Singles – année 2000" (in French). Retrieved December 29, 2011.
- "German Top 20 – The Chart Of 2000". Retrieved December 29, 2011.
- "I singoli più venduti del 2000" (in Italian). Retrieved December 29, 2011.
- "JAAROVERZICHTEN – SINGLE 2000" (in Dutch). Retrieved January 24, 2012.
- "Årslista Singlar – År 2000" (in Swedish). Retrieved December 29, 2011.
- "SWISS YEAR-END CHARTS 2000" (in German). Retrieved December 29, 2011.
- "ARIA Charts - Accreditations - 2000 Singles". Aria.com.au. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
- "IFPI Austria – Verband der Ã–sterreichischen Musikwirtschaft" (in German). Ifpi.at. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
- "Snepmusique.com, le site du Snep". Disqueenfrance.com. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
- ÅR 2000
- Steffen Hung. "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community". Swisscharts.com. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
- Adams, Cecil (May 15, 1993). "What is Don McLean's song "American Pie" all about?". The Straight Dope. Chicago Reader, Inc. Retrieved June 8, 2009. An interpretation of the lyrics based on a supposed interview of McLean by DJ Casey Kasem. McLean later confirmed the Buddy Holly reference in a letter to Adams but denied ever speaking to Kasem.
- Roteman, Jeff (August 10, 2002). "Bob Dearborn's Original Analysis of Don McLean's 1971 Classic 'American Pie'". This article correlates McLean's biography with the historic events in the song. McLean pointed to WCFL (Chicago, Illinois) radio disc jockey Bob Dearborn as the partial basis for most mainstream interpretations of "American Pie". Dearborn's analysis, mailed to listeners on request, bears the date January 7, 1972. Roteman's reprinting added photos but replaced the date January 7, 1972, by an audio link bearing the date February 28, 1972, the date Dearborn aired his interpretation on WCFL.
- Bob Dearborn's American Pie Analysis original broadcast February 28, 1972
- Fann, Jim. "Understanding American Pie". Historically oriented interpretation of "American Pie". The interpretation was specifically noted on in an archived version of McLean's website page on "American Pie". The material, dated November 2002, includes a recording of Dinah Shore singing "See The USA In Your Chevrolet" and a photograph of Mick Jagger in costume at the Altamont Free Concert with a Hells Angel member in the background.
- Kulawiec, Rich (August 26, 2001). "FAQ: The Annotated 'American Pie'". Retrieved September 19, 2007. FAQ maintained by Rich Kulawiec, started in 1992 and essentially completed in 1997.
- "American Pie—A Rock Epic" A multi-media presentation of Rich Kulawiec's The Annotated "American Pie".
- Levitt, Saul (May 26, 1971). "Interpretation of American Pie – analysis, news, Don McLean, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Rock & Roll". Missamericanpie.co.uk. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
- O'Brien, P. (March 3, 1999). "Understanding the lyrics of American Pie". The Octopus's Garden. Archived from the original on April 7, 2013. Retrieved July 29, 2013.
- The Official Website of Don McLean and American Pie provides the songwriter's own biography, lyrics and clues to the song's meaning.
- Bob Dylan references
- Understanding American Pie An in depth analysis of the song based on historical context.
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics
"Brand New Key" by Melanie
|US Billboard Hot 100 number-one single (Don McLean version)
January 15, 1972 (four weeks)
"Let's Stay Together" by Al Green
"Cherish" by David Cassidy
|Billboard Easy Listening Singles number-one single (Don McLean version)
January 15, 1972 (three weeks)
"Hurting Each Other" by The Carpenters
"Brand New Key" by Melanie
|Australian Kent Music Report number-one single (Don McLean version)
March 6, 1972 (five weeks)
"Without You" by Nilsson
"Pure Shores" by All Saints
|UK Singles Chart number-one single (Madonna version)
March 5, 2000 - March 11, 2000 (one week)
"Don't Give Up" by Chicane featuring Bryan Adams
"My Heart Goes Boom (La Di Da Da)" by French Affair
|German Singles Chart number-one single (Madonna version)
March 10, 2000 (one week)
"Maria Maria" by Santana featuring The Product G&B
"Freestyler" by Bomfunk MC's
|Swedish Singles Chart number-one single (Madonna version)
March 23, 2000 (one week)
"Never Be the Same Again" by Melanie C featuring Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes
"Chase" by Giorgio Moroder vs. Jam & Spoon
|Billboard Hot Dance Club Play number-one single (Madonna version)
April 1, 2000 (one week)
"Think It Over" by Jennifer Holliday