The Day The Music Died Lives on in Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’ – American Blues Scene

“You’re living with them, and you’re singing and sharing songs, and all of a sudden there’s nobody’s there. There’s just me sitting there. And I’m like, what the hell.”

Sixty-three years after what Don McLean calls “the day the music died,” Dion DiMucci still struggles with emotions surrounding the tragic plane crash that killed his friends Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Richie Valens in an Iowa corn field in the middle of their Mid-Winter Dance Party tour on a cold February morning.

The event has been immortalized in Don McLean’s “American Pie,” the longest song ever to top the Billboard Hot 100 at eight minutes and 36 seconds.

In the song McLean also decries the rise of the new youth culture with oblique references to John Lennon who “read a book of Marx,” The Byrds who are “eight miles high and falling fast,” The Beatles who “played a marching tune, and the Rolling Stones’ “Jumping Jack Flash” who “sat on a candlestick ’cause fire is the devil’s only friend.”

But it’s the Iowa plane crash that sets the stage in the first verse of McLePan’s most famous song.

February made me shiver

With every paper I’d deliver

Bad news on the doorstep

I couldn’t take one more step

I can’t remember if I hurt

When I read about his widowed bride

But something touched me deep inside

The day the music died

So bye-bye, Miss American Pie

McLean is currently on a 50th Anniversary American World Pie World Tour that has him booked into 67 venues from the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center St. Paul. Louis, Missouri on May 19th to Posthof Zeitkultur Am Hafen Linz in Austria on November 13th. He recently was presented with a plaque for multi-platinum certifications for “American Pie” and a platinum certification for “Vincent.” He’s also just released a children’s book, American Pie: A Fable.

In preparing his “American Pie” manuscript for auction in 2015, McLean referred to the song as “an indescribable photograph of America that I tried to capture in words and music.” One of his four handwritten manuscripts of the lyrics was auctioned by Christies for just over $1.2 Million. It resides in the Library of Congress National Recording Registry and was named by the Recording Industry of America (RIAA) a top 5 song of the 20th Century. But in many ways, it has cast a shadow over McLean’s career as dark as the events of February 3rd1959.

At first the song was a double-edged sword. “In order to get to this place, I just didn’t sit here and let this happen,” McLean told me in 2012. “This was an enormous struggle, an enormous struggle against so much negativity, and it’s a very personal kind of negativity. It’s ‘You stink!’ Okay? It’s not like, ‘We don’t like your songs,’ or ‘We think you’re wonderful but…’ No. (it was) ‘You’re not very good.’ And that’s a hard thing to overcome.

“It’s just been a very difficult struggle. This is a very hard business. You’re dealing with people who only understand money and power and a brick to the face. That’s the promoters, and that’s the club owners and people like that. They’re not nice people.

‘”American Pie’ was a double-edged sword because people who took me seriously as a composer and a singer and everybody suddenly saw this song as being too commercial, and so I had to overcome, again, another thing that I never dreamed or thought about….I didn’t have any money. So, all of a sudden, I was a millionaire, and I thought to myself, ‘Gee, this is pretty nice. I like this. I don’t care what I have to do to keep my career going.’

“I would have done anything before. I sang on the back of trucks and outside. I don’t care what critics say. I just keep rockin’.’ just keep movin,’ keep doing the things that I want to do. And over the years all these songs began to emerge because of all sorts of different things that happened that wouldn’t have happened if I’d laid down and said, ‘This is too much. I think I’ll get a straight job somewhere. Forget this business. I can retire anyway, right?”’”

Pundits have said “American Pie” as a whole chronicles the evolution of pop music from pop confections for teenagers to a substitute religion for the masses. The day the music died happened the day after my 15th birthday and was a wakeup call that my idols were not immortal. The first verse reveals that I was not alone in those thoughts. And by not getting on that fateful flight, Dion took on a feeling of guilt that precipitated a bout with drug addiction and a burden that’s still with him today.

“I’ve heard this a few times in my life,” Dion told me late last year, “but it never resonated ’til recently, but my priest told me back then, ‘Dion,’ he said, ‘In our life relationships don’t end. They never end. Dwell in the house of the Lord forever and ever. He said, ‘In fact, they move forward. They don’t stay stagnant.

‘So, you pray for Buddy and Richie and The Bopper. Keep them in your prayers because they are growing. They are closer to the beatific vision. They are growing in grace and in wisdom. You know, none of us is ever going to be God. Even when we’re there, we’re not God.’ But he said, ‘On that day, you see them again, you will have moved forward. It’s not going to be the same. Always keep them in your prayers.”

Don McLean’s 50th Anniversary American Pie World Tour:

JUN 02 The Egg Albany, NY

JUN 03 Boch Center – Shubert Theater Boston, MA

JUN 04 The Town Hall New York, NY

JUN 10 Ruby Amphitheater Morgantown, WV

JUN 11 The Lyric Theater Baltimore, MD

JUN 12 Capital One Hall Tysons, VA

JUN 17 DeVos Performance Hall Grand Rapids, MI

JUN 18 The Pabst Theater Milwaukee, WI

JUN 19 Big Top Chautauqua Bayfield, WI

JUN 24 Tobin Center for the Performing Arts San Antonio, TX

JUN 25 Cullen Performance Hall Houston, TX

JUN 26 Paramount Theater Austin, TX

JUL 01 The Canyon @ The Saban Theater Beverly Hills, CA

JUL 02 Mountain Winery Saratoga, CA

JUL 07 Paramount Theater Denver, CO

JUL 08 Avalon Theater Grand Junction, CO

JUL 09 Orpheum Theater Phoenix Phoenix, AZ

JUL 15 Hoyt Sherman Place Des Moines, IA

JUL 22 Victory Theater Evansville, IN

JUL 23 UIS Performing Arts Center Springfield, IL

JUL 29 Keswick Theater Glenside, PA

JUL 30 Point of the Bluff Vineyards Hammondsport, NY

AUG 20 Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center Vineyard Haven, MA

SEP 02 Goodyear Theater Akron, OH

SEP 03 Blue Gate Music Hall Shipshewana, IN

SEP 11 St David’s Dewi Sant Cardiff, United Kingdom

SEP 13 Ipswich Regent Theater Ipswich, United Kingdom

SEP 14 Symphony Hall Birmingham, United Kingdom

SEP 16 The Forum Bath, United Kingdom

SEP 17 Princess Theater Torquay, United Kingdom

SEP 18 Bournemouth Pavilion Theater Bournemouth, United Kingdom

SEP 20 Brighton Dome Concert Hall Brighton, United Kingdom

SEP 21 Cliffs Pavilion Southend-on-sea, United Kingdom

SEP 23 Bridewater Hall Manchester, United Kingdom

SEP 24 Sage Gateshead Gateshead, United Kingdom

SEP 25 The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall Glasgow, United Kingdom

SEP 27 Usher Hall Edinburgh, United Kingdom

SEP 28 York Barbican York, United Kingdom

SEP 30 De Montfort Hall Leicester, United Kingdom

OCT 01 City Hall Sheffield, United Kingdom

OCT 02 Liverpool Philharmonic Hall Liverpool, United Kingdom

OCT 04 London Palladium London, United Kingdom

OCT 07 3Arena Dublin, Ireland

OCT 09 Concertgebouw de Vereeniging Nijmegen, Netherlands

OCT 10 Koninklijk Theater Carré Amsterdam, Netherlands

OCT 14 Grieghallen Bergen, Norway

OCT 15 Stavanger Kuppelhallen Stavanger, Norway

OCT 16 Sentrum Scene Oslo, Norway

OCT 18 Lorensbergsteatern Göteborg, Sweden

OCT 20 Logomo Oy Turku, Finland

OCT 21 Helsinki Hall Of Culture Helsinki, Finland

OCT 23 Göta Lejon Stockholm, Sweden

OCT 24 Palladium Malmö, Sweden

OCT 25 Portalen Greve, Denmark

OCT 27 Fabrik Hamburg, Germany

OCT 28 Veranstaltungszentrum Kulturkirche Neuruppin, Germany

OCT 29 Admiralspalast Berlin, Germany

OCT 31 Metropol Theater Bremen Bremen, Germany

NOV 01 deSingel Antwerpen, Belgium

NOV 03 Musikteatret Holstebro Holstebro, Denmark

NOV 05 Bayer Erholungshaus Leverkusen, Germany

NOV 09 Steintor Variete Halle, Germany

NOV 12 Prinzregententheater Munich, GermanyNOV 13 Posthof Zeitkultur Am Hafen Linz, Austria

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