American Pie (song)
Picture sleeve for U.S. vinyl single. Artwork is also used as the front cover for the album of the same name and many other international releases of the single.
|Single by Don McLean|
|from the album American Pie|
November 1971 (original)|
November 1991 (re-release)
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 singer and songwriter Don McLean. Recorded and released on the American Pie album in 1971, the single was the number-one US hit for four weeks in 1972 and also topped the charts in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. In the UK, the single reached number 2, where it stayed for 3 weeks, on its original 1972 release while a reissue in 1991 reached No. 12. The song was listed as the No. 5 song on the RIAA project Songs of the Century. A truncated version of the song was covered by Madonna in 2000 and reached No. 1 in several countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. McLean's combined version is the fourth longest song to enter the Billboard Hot 100, at the time of release it was the longest, in addition to being the longest song to reach #1.
The repeatedly mentioned phrase "the day the music died" refers to the plane crash in 1959 which killed early rock and roll performers Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens. (The crash was not known by that name until after McLean's song became a hit.) The meaning of the other lyrics has long been debated, and for decades, McLean declined to explain the symbolism behind the many characters and events mentioned. However, the overall theme of the song is the loss of innocence of the early rock and roll generation as symbolized by the plane crash which claimed the lives of three of its heroes.
- 1 Background
- 2 Personnel
- 3 Charts
- 4 Parodies, revisions, and uses
- 5 Madonna version
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
While it has been claimed that Don McLean began writing the song in upstate Saratoga Springs, New York, at Caffe Lena, a 2011 New York Times article quotes Don McLean as disputing this claim. Some employees at Caffe Lena claim that he started writing the song there, and then continued to write the song in both Cold Spring, New York, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. McLean claims that the song was only written in Cold Spring and Philadelphia. Tin & Lint, a bar on Caroline Street in Saratoga Springs, claims the song was written there, and a plaque marks the table. While some have claimed other places, such as Saint Joseph's University, as where the song was first performed, McLean insists that the song made its debut in Philadelphia at Temple University when he opened for Laura Nyro on March 14, 1971.
Except to acknowledge that he first learned about Buddy Holly's death on February 3, 1959—McLean was age 13—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's lyrics; he has said: "They're beyond analysis. They're poetry." He also stated in an editorial published in 2009, on the 50th anniversary of the crash that killed Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, 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.
It was also speculated that the song contains numerous references to post-World War II American events (such as the murders of civil rights workers Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner), and elements of culture, including 1960s culture (e.g. sock hops, cruising, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Charles Manson, and much more).
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." He also commented on the popularity of his music, "I didn't write songs that were just catchy, but with a point of view, or songs about the environment."
In February 2015, McLean announced he would reveal the meaning of the lyrics to the song when the original manuscript went for auction in New York City, in April 2015. The lyrics and notes were auctioned on April 7, and sold for $1.2 million. In the sale catalogue notes, McLean revealed the meaning in the song's lyrics: "Basically in American Pie things are heading in the wrong direction. ... It [life] is becoming less idyllic. I don't know whether you consider that wrong or right but it is a morality song in a sense." The catalogue confirmed some of the better known references in the song's lyrics, including mentions of Elvis Presley ("the king") and Bob Dylan ("the jester"), and confirmed that the song culminates with a near-verbatim description of the death of Meredith Hunter at the Altamont Free Concert, ten years after the plane crash that killed Holly, Valens, and Richardson.
Mike Mills of R.E.M. reflected: "American Pie just made perfect sense to me as a song and that’s what impressed me the most. I could say to people this is how to write songs. When you've written at least three songs that can be considered classic that is a very high batting average and if one of those songs happens to be something that a great many people think is one of the greatest songs ever written you've not only hit the top of the mountain but you've stayed high on the mountain for a long time."
In 2017, Bob Dylan was asked about how he was referenced in the song. "A jester? Sure, the jester writes songs like 'Masters of War', 'A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall', 'It’s Alright, Ma' – some jester. I have to think he's talking about somebody else. Ask him."
- Don McLean – vocals, acoustic guitar
- Paul Griffin – piano 
- David Spinozza – electric guitar
- Bob Rothstein – bass
- Roy Markowitz – drums, tambourine
- West Forty Fourth Street Rhythm and Noise Choir – chorus
Parodies, revisions, and uses
In 1999, "Weird Al" Yankovic wrote and recorded a 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 as a fantastic performance by many including Roger Ebert, who said it was "the greatest music video ever made".
On March 14, 2015, the National Museum of Mathematics announced that one of two winners of its songwriting contest was "American Pi" by mathematics education professor Dr. Lawrence M. Lesser. The contest was in honor of "Pi Day of the Century" because "3/14/15" would be the only day in the 21st-century showing the first five digits of π (pi).
|Single by Madonna|
|from the album The Next Best Thing (Music from the Motion Picture)|
|Released||March 3, 2000|
(New York City, New York)
|Madonna singles chronology|
American singer Madonna released a cover version of the song in March 2000 to promote the soundtrack of 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 and released on the singer's Maverick label, after Rupert Everett (Madonna's co-star in The Next Best Thing) had convinced her to cover the song for the film's soundtrack.
Released in March 2000, the song was a worldwide hit, reaching No. 1 in many countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Iceland, 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 and the 9th best selling of 2000 in Italy. 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 "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". He also jokingly said, "It means that if I don't want to, I don't have to work again." In 2017, the Official Charts Company stated the song had sold 385,000 copies in the United Kingdom and was her 16th best selling single to date in the nation.
The music video, filmed in the southern United States 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.
Credits and personnel
- Madonna – vocals, producer
- William Orbit – producer, guitars, drums and keyboards
- Don McLean – writer
- Mark "Spike" Stent – mixing
- Rupert Everett – backup vocals
- Mark Endert – engineering
- Sean Spuehler – engineering, programming
- Jake Davies – engineering
- Rico Conning – sequencer programming
- Dah Len – photography
Credits and personnel adapted from American Pie single liner notes.
|Austria (IFPI Austria)||Gold||25,000*|
|Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)||Platinum||50,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold||385,000|
*sales figures based on certification alone
- [dead link]
- longest shortest billboard songs
- "Understanding American Pie – Interpretation of Don Mclean's epic anthem to the passing of an era". UnderstandingAmericanPie.com. Archived from the original on September 6, 2003. Retrieved March 30, 2017.
- "National Recording Registry Picks Are "Over the Rainbow"". Library of Congress. March 29, 2017. Retrieved March 29, 2017.
- Don McLean's 'American Pie' fetches $1.2M Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, Mass) 8 April 2015: A.2.
- "'American Pie' Still Homemade, but With a New Twist". The New York Times. November 30, 2011. Retrieved March 30, 2017.
- "Release: Don Mclean's Original Manuscript For "American Pie" To Be Sold At Christie's New York, 7 April 2015". Christies.com. February 13, 2015. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
- "Memory Bank's a Little Off, But Sentiment Still Holds". August 12, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
- McDonald, Shannon (November 28, 2011). "Don McLean: 'American Pie' was written in Philly and first performed at Saint Joseph's University". Newsworks.org. Retrieved December 19, 2015.[permanent dead link]
- "American Pie". Don McLean.com. p. 68.
- McLean, Don (February 1, 2009). "Commentary: Buddy Holly, rock music genius". CNN. Retrieved November 28, 2011.
- O'Brien, P. (March 3, 1999). "Understanding the lyrics of American Pie: The analysis and interpretation of Don McLean's song lyrics". The Octopus's Garden. Archived from the original on April 7, 2013. Retrieved July 20, 2013.
- "American Pie". Edlis.org. Retrieved March 30, 2017.
- A2267173[dead link]
- McLean, Don (January 2005). Recording Notes: Classic Tracks: Don McLean's 'American Pie'. Jackson, Blair, Mix29.1. pp. 126, 128, 130.
- "Don McLean explains why he won't reveal the meaning of "American Pie"". CBS News. CBS Interactive Inc. March 29, 2017. Retrieved March 30, 2017.
"But the quartet practicing in the park, that's not the Beatles?" Axelrod asked. "No," McLean replied.
- 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.
- Howell, Dave (Special to The Morning Call — Freelance) (May 24, 2001). "Singer Don McLean's As American as Apple Pie ** Mayfair 2001 ** Popular". Morning Call (First ed.). Allentown, Pa.
- "Don McLean to reveal meaning of American Pie lyrics". BBC News. February 13, 2015. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
- "American Pie lyrics sell for $1.2m". BBC News. April 7, 2015.
- Hawksley, Rupert (April 7, 2015). "American Pie: 6 crazy conspiracy theories". The Daily Telegraph.
- Don McLean: An American Troubadour (Television production). UK: Sky Arts 1. 2013.
- "Bob Dylan's Surprise New Interview: 9 Things We Learned". Retrieved March 26, 2017.
- Hasted, Nick. "The Making Of… Don McLean's "American Pie"". uncut.co.uk. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
- Hepworth, Paul (2016). 1971 - Never a Dull Moment: Rock's Best Year. Bantam Press. p. 330. ISBN 978-059307486-2.
- Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (doc). Australian Chart Book, St Ives, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
- "Ultratop.be – Don McLean – American Pie" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
- "Offiziellecharts.de – Don McLean – American Pie". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
- "The Irish Charts – Search Results – American Pie". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
- "Norwegiancharts.com – Don McLean – American Pie". VG-lista. Retrieved December 19, 2015.
- "Don McLean: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
- "Don McLean Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
- "Don McLean Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
- "Top Selling Singles for 1972". Sounds. London, England: Spotlight Publications. January 1973.
- "Billboard Top 100 - 1972". Archived from the original on 2016-02-16. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
- [dead link]
- ""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. Retrieved October 29, 2012.
- Ebert, Roger. "The greatest music video ever made". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on September 2, 2011.
- "Rock Band's final song will be Don McLean's 'American Pie'". Polygon. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
- "2015 Pi Day Contest Winners". National Museum of Mathematics. Retrieved April 8, 2015.
- Kaufman, Gil (September 24, 1999). "Madonna and William Orbit take another spin in studio". MTV News. Retrieved December 31, 2015.
- "American Pie Hits Radio". Madonna.com. Retrieved December 19, 2015.
- "Madonna's piece of American Pie". BBC News. 3 February 2000. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
- [dead link]
- "NME Track Reviews – American Pie". NME. February 26, 2000. Retrieved October 29, 2012.
- Taylor, Chuck (February 12, 2000). "Spotlight: Madonna "American Pie"". Billboard. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved April 28, 2010.
- "Don McLean Praises Madonna's 'American Pie'". MTV. February 2, 2000. Retrieved May 3, 2015.
- What do you think of Madonna's version of your song American Pie will never ever have to work again – Don McLean: (Final 1 Edition) Spanton, Tim. The Sun (London (UK)) 27 Dec 2000: 8.
- Myers, Justin (August 16, 2017). "Open your chart to me... Madonna's Official 40 Biggest Selling Singles". Official Charts Company. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- Ciccone, Christopher (2008) Life with my Sister Madonna, Simon & Schuster: New York, p.278.
- American Pie (Liner notes). Madonna. Maverick Records. 2000. 9362448372.
- "Australian-charts.com – Madonna – American Pie". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
- "Austriancharts.at – Madonna – American Pie" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
- "Ultratop.be – Madonna – American Pie" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
- "Ultratop.be – Madonna – American Pie" (in French). Ultratop 50.
- "Allmusic". AllMusic. August 16, 1958. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
- "Craig David Storms U.K. Singles Chart". Billboard. Archived from the original on October 10, 2012.
- "Madonna: American Pie" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland.
- "Lescharts.com – Madonna – American Pie" (in French). Les classement single.
- "Offiziellecharts.de – Madonna – American Pie". GfK Entertainment Charts.
- "Top 10 Hungary" (PDF). Music & Media. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
- "Íslenski Listinn Topp 40 (Vikuna 30.3. - 6.4. 2000)" (PDF) (in Icelandic). Dagblaðið Vísir. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
- "The Irish Charts – Search Results – American Pie". Irish Singles Chart.
- "Italiancharts.com – Madonna – American Pie". Top Digital Download.
- "Nederlandse Top 40 – Madonna" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
- "Dutchcharts.nl – Madonna – American Pie" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
- "Charts.nz – Madonna – American Pie". Top 40 Singles.
- "Norwegiancharts.com – Madonna – American Pie". VG-lista.
- "Romanian Top 100: Top of the Year 2000" (in Romanian). Romanian Top 100. Archived from the original on January 22, 2005.
- "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
- Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 978-84-8048-639-2.
- "Swedishcharts.com – Madonna – American Pie". Singles Top 100.
- "Swisscharts.com – Madonna – American Pie". Swiss Singles Chart.
- "Madonna: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company.
- "Madonna Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
- "Madonna Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard.
- "Madonna Chart History (Adult Pop Songs)". Billboard.
- "Madonna Chart History (Dance Club Songs)". Billboard.
- "Madonna Chart History (Pop Songs)". Billboard.
- "ARIA Charts – End Of Year Charts – Top 100 Singles 2000". ARIA Charts. Retrieved December 29, 2011.
- Hung, Steffen. "Austria Top 40 – Hitparade Österreich". austriancharts.at. Archived from the original on December 18, 2012. Retrieved October 29, 2012.
- "Jaaroverzichten 2000" (in Dutch). Retrieved December 29, 2011.
- "Rapports Annuels 2000" (in French). Retrieved December 29, 2011.
- "Classement Singles – année 2000" (in French). Disque en France. Archived from the original on March 8, 2012.
- "Top 100 Single-Jahrescharts" (in German). GfK Entertainment. Retrieved December 5, 2015.
- "I singoli più venduti del 2000" (in Italian). Archived from the original on March 27, 2014. Retrieved December 29, 2011.
- "Jaaroverzichten – Single 2000" (in Dutch). Retrieved January 24, 2012.
- "Årslista Singlar – År 2000" (in Swedish). Archived from the original on July 13, 2015. Retrieved December 29, 2011.
- "Swiss Year-End Charts 2000" (in German). Retrieved December 29, 2011.
- "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2000 Singles". Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved 2016-07-12.
- "Austrian single certifications – Madonna – American Pie" (in German). IFPI Austria. Retrieved 2016-07-12. Enter Madonna in the field Interpret. Enter American Pie in the field Titel. Select single in the field Format. Click Suchen
- "French single certifications – Madonna – American Pie" (in French). InfoDisc. Retrieved 2016-07-12. Select MADONNA and click OK
- "Guld- och Platinacertifikat − År 2000" (PDF) (in Swedish). IFPI Sweden. Retrieved 2016-07-12.
- "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community: Awards (Madonna; 'American Pie')". IFPI Switzerland. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2016-07-12.
- "British single certifications – Madonna – American Pie". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 2016-07-12. Select singles in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Enter American Pie in the search field and then press Enter.
- 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 (http://user.pa.net/~ejjeff/bobpie.ram (Bob Dearborn's American Pie Analysis original broadcast February 28, 1972))
- Fann, Jim. "Understanding American Pie". Archived from the original on September 6, 2003. Historically oriented interpretation of "American Pie". The interpretation was specifically noted on in an archived version of McLean's website page on "American Pie".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'". Archived from the original on April 19, 2003. 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.
- The Official Website of Don McLean and American Pie provides the songwriter's own biography, lyrics and clues to the song's meaning.
- on YouTube