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Don McLean Finally Explains What The Heck “American Pie” Is All About For 40th Anniversary Celebration

It’s hard to believe it’s been 40 years since Don McLean’s monumental single “American Pie” was first ruling the top of the charts in 1971. The song is beloved by many and is a staple in American pop culture to this day, but for as many times as we’ve heard this storybook song, it’s still not completely clear what the song is about.

To help us finally understand the cryptic meaning behind the poetic songwriting is Don McLean himself checking in with the K-EARTH 101 Morning Show with Gary Bryan. The music icon is celebrating the 40th anniversary of both his signature song and his career in music with a celebratory concert this weekend at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, and finally revealed the true meaning and inspiration behind “American Pie”!

Although he has dozens of hits to his name, including “Vincent” and “Crying,” his most famous accomplishment was with his early success of the 8 and a half-minute long singleĀ  “American Pie.” We all know the main inspiration for the song — also known as “the day the music died” — being a lyrical tribute to musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper after the fatal plane crash cut their lives short, but the meaning goes much deeper than that.

During his interview with Gary this morning, Don revealed more of the meaning behind the words in the music of the iconic song.

“The idea that I had, was that it was about American politics in music running in sort of a parallel trough, if you will,” Don explains. “That was a concept in my head. Then I decided to make up a dream using rock and roll and other kinds of imagery to move forward from the death of Buddy Holly right up to the end, and that’s how it came out.”

The song rode the top of the charts for four weeks and remains one of the most iconic and mysterious songs in American music history. He defined a generation with his hit and even coined a term that has been part of pop culture ever since.

“I invented the term ‘American Pie.’ It didn’t exist before I wrote that song,” said Don. And now even 40 years later, old and new generations are still singing “bye, bye Miss American Pie” right along with Don McLean.

You can catch this musical treasure for a special celebratory performance for his 40th anniversary in music this Saturday, July 23rd at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts at 8 p.m. For tickets and information, visit Cerritoscenter.com and score your seat to this special concert!

To hear more stories from his four-decade long career, listen to our full interview with Don McLean below!

Don Mclean




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