American Pie

Browsing through old columns and read about Don Maclean not giving an answer key to “American Pie”. I recall a concert review in the LA Times a few years back in which he discussed the meaning of the immensely popular song: “American Pie means I never have to work again if I don’t want to.”

Wow! I had no idea he was so honest! :>

I thought he was planning to stick with being mysterious and watching his song become a money-making classic. (as he does in the column)

Of course, once you read the lyrics it becomes obvious what he’s talking about, as the column covers.

BTW, the column is

Kyberneticist said:

Obvious is a relative term.

For example, the king and queen are still obscure.

All that stuff about Bob Dylan.

The triumvarate - trinity reference.

The Stones and flames in the sky - concert at Altamont?

Maybe they were obvious to someone who was alive then, but some of us pups weren’t.

Of course its obvious.

The whole song is a parody/metaphor for the Hayes administration. The scandals of those days are a neat allegory for the situation of the sod farmers in the 1950s.

One explanation found commonly online.

Sorry, I should have prefaced that it was fairly obvious it was a history of rock and roll, and not one of the more wacky definitions.

The trinity reference I still think is of the three that died, as the link above covers.

And given his distaste for the music that followed after, and his strong christian background, the devil references are hardly surprising.

And here I was thinking that “American Pie” was the name of the plane that the entertainers were on… Or was it? Where the heck would I go to figure it out? HAHA?!

“If we submit everything to reason, our religion will have no mysterious or supernatural element. If we offend the principles of reason, our religion will be absurd and ridiculous.” Blaise Pascal

Thanks for the responses. It is true that some references are pretty obvious (marching band, byrds falling, janice joplin etc.), at least to us greybeards. But even though I know all the words by heart, I am still uncertain about many of them. Does the pink carnation refer to Pat Boone pop? And American Pie was the name of the airplane that Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper crashed in.

‘American Pie’ was NOT the name of the airplane they crashed in. Small airplanes (it was a Beechcraft single-engine aircraft, if I recall) are not formally named. If a band owns an airplane they might name it out of a sense of whimsy just like you might name your car, but that flight was just an ordinary charter. No airplane name.

Here is a good debunking of the ‘name of the plane’ legend.

I think it’s pretty clear what the general meaning of the song is, but I wonder how many of the references were really placed there, and how many are just people finding meanings in things that aren’t really there?

Maybe not every last word of the song is a veiled reference. Maybe he just filled out the meter and/or rhyme with dumb stuff for some parts. Whoever wrote that link above (the link that’s not big daddy Cecil’s column) seemed pretty certain and authoritative, and yet we know that Don McLean won’t say what any of it’s about. The writer’s certainty is based on a collective hunch.

I was once told that it was symbolic of the British Music invasion which ultimately led to the demise of Good Old-Fashioned American rock & roll.

Thanks for the plane info. That seems solid. I think the comment that some of the references may not have a specific meaning, just that is sounds good may be on the mark. To have every word have a cryptic meaning may beyond the reach of most mortal songwriters. By the way, one thing is missing in all this dicsussion (myself included): This is still one of the coolest songs of the rock era!!! Best Wishes to everyone.

Why did he drive his chevy to the levee? No one ever say’s anything about that line.

Because “Chevy” rhymes with “levee”?

Because he wanted to have some reference to the obsession with cars in rock and roll mixed perhaps with a reference to the Mississippi River?

This is one of those cases where it’s easy to overinterpret the song.