Monday, March 23, 2009

Rock of Ages: Don McLean - "American Pie" (1971)

Music changed leaps and bounds from February 3, 1959, The Day the Music Died, to 1971 when Don McLean released his song "American Pie." The world changed leaps and bounds. The 60's made everything different. The spirit of rock and roll went from a hated by parents art form to a sound of revolution to a paranoid statement of the times. One thing is certain, the music definitely didn't die. What died was the innocence and the masquerading of the 50's. Don McLean's fantastic folk rock epic is a poetic litany of what happened from 1959 to 1970. Vague references to The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, The Rolling Stones, the Hell's Angels, Charles Manson and Vladimir Lenin can be found in the song showing the difference in rock music, the end of the flower era and other paranoid events of the time (the communist threat, the Manson murders, etc.) The song became a huge hit and at eight minutes, that was a pretty intense feat to overcome. What makes "American Pie" so great is the honesty of the song. Don McLean is a forgotten poet pf the times. Just as good a songwriter as Paul Simon or Cat Stevens, McLean could weave a narrative just as well as the lot of them.

Don McLean is a family favorite. All his songs, from "Vincent" to "Empty Chairs,"are beautifully and simply played on acoustic guitars. "American Pie" has a great backing band with lots of piano and a rollicking rhythm, much in the vein of the eras greats that the song is an ode to. No matter how much I hear this track, I get teary eyed. It's a song of a simpler time trying to shine through a darker one. It's truly a beautiful song. McLean's voice is sweet and emotional and really hits the heart strings. You feel he really was devastated by the loss of one of his heroes and one of rocks greats. And although rock and roll music may have just been some sort of entertainment, it's a connection to the stars and to the artists who create great music that makes the loss of them so hard. "American Pie" is a perfect ode to a lost age.

Up Next: Marc Bolan sees the universe reclining in your hair

1 comment:

Natural Born Blonde said...

Great song and great singer indeed. One of my Dad's favorite, which became one of mine. I get teary eyes just like you do! :)