Don McLean revealed the real meaning behind his iconic song “American Pie” for the hit song’s 50th anniversary in his new uInterview.

McLean said he was “a nobody” when he put out his first album.

“I had put out an album called Tapestry, and the album was very successful in the sense that it probably ended up selling gold actually so I wouldn’t say it — but initially it was selling well and it was an underground album,” he told uInterview Founder Erik Meers. McLean recalled that radio stations would play the entire album; “they liked it a lot,” he said.

“So then all of a sudden I had another album to do, and I had spent, you know, years just collecting these songs, and working, and hoping, and praying that I could make a record, just one, that’s all I just wanted to make one album, you know, to show that I was in the world. So, Tapestry was a heck of a hard thing to get out and to do. And I kept changing it and rewriting it and you know it was getting better and better and better. It was really the hardest album that I ever put out. And it did more than I had ever hoped.”

“Then I was a year later, yeah I had to come up with something else, you know, and frankly I was tapped out,” he said. “You know, so I had a couple leftover from the first one and I started writing a few more and then “Vincent” happened and that turned out real well.”

The song, inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night,” was an instant classic.

“I played that one night for a bunch of high school kids and they weren’t paying much attention to me, but when they heard that song everybody stopped and they listened. And I thought to myself “That is interesting!” you know, because you’re testing these out, it’s like a focus group I guess you’d say today. So it was very nice, and they loved it.”

His second album also included working on “this ‘American Pie’ idea,” he said.

“I had this idea for a long song. I wanted to write a song about America. America has always thrilled me. And it’s always inspired me. The insanity of America. The magnificence of America. The creativity of everything that comes from this country. This big mess of a country of ours. You know it’s not neat, it’s not organized, you know, it’s a mess all the time! It’s always people fighting and arguing and moving somehow in a vector forward in spite of ourselves. It’s fascinating.”

“Kind of the vector idea was really what I wanted to get into the song which is pretty crazy and a hard thing to do and I came up with this idea that somehow the politics and the music seemed to influence each other going forward, so that was the vector. And I had this notion, see, where I could move forward and I created this song as a — it’s almost like a folk song, it’s verse and chorus, verse and chorus, but each chorus gets more intense and then it drops down to I guess you’d call it a coda at the end and there’s a vamp in the front which is very much like an old fashioned popular song.”

 

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