As I recall, many people enjoyed the catchy chorus ("bye bye Miss American pie") but struggled with the meaning of the lyrics and the story behind the song.
"American Pie" was OK but I never got really into it. I guess that there were two reasons:
First, I'm not really into interpreting complicated lyrics. I want pop music to be simple: "boy loves girl" or "girl loves boy" and "girl does not love boy anymore".
Second, when does saturation happen? How many times can you hear a song before getting totally sick?
Remember my posts about "Stairway to heaven" or "Maggie May" a couple of good songs that were played to death by radio? Top 40 radio back then had a way of just saturating you with one hit song over and over again! The Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" is another good example of a song that was played to death by Top 40 stations.
'American Pie" did have one wonderful benefit for me and many others.
It introduced us to the story of Buddy Holly of Lubbock, Texas, Richie Valens ("La bamba") and the Big Bopper ("Chantilly Lace"). They were the three musicians who were killed in that winter storm over Iowa in 1959, or "the day that the music died".
"American Pie" may have also opened the door to "American Grafitti", "Grease", "Happy Days" and all of that 1950's music revival of the mid-70s. Again, I loved that revival because it introduced me to a lot of music that I still love today.
As you listen to "American Pie", remember that it is one man's story of pop music since that fateful day that Buddy Holly was killed. You will hear references to The Beatles, Elvis, James Dean, The Rolling Stones ("Jack Flash") and a few song titles like "Eight Miles High" and "The Book of Love".
Most of all, it is Don MClean's boyhood story:
"“American Pie” is partly biographical and partly the story of America during the idealized 1950s and the bleaker 1960s. It was initially inspired by Don’s memories of being a paperboy in 1959 and learning of the death of Buddy Holly.
“American Pie” presents an abstract story of McLean’s life from the mid-1950s until the end of the 1960s, and at the same time it represents the evolution of popular music and politics over these years, from the lightness of the 1950s to the darkness of the late 1960s, but metaphorically the song continues to evolve to the present time. It is not a nostalgia song. “American Pie” changes as America, itself, is changing."
Again, the song was very consequential years ago. It sold millions of albums and you can never discount that. It defined Don McClean's career and he is been the "American Pie" man ever since!
I have not listened to the song for years. In fact, I do not have it on any kind of personal play list. However, I repeat that I'm very grateful that Don McClean introduced me to Buddy Holly, who is one of my all time favorite rockers.
Buddy was only 22 when he was killed. Maria Elena ("the widowed bride" from the song lyrics) still lives in Texas. They married months before Buddy was killed and she still works on his musical legacy today. Make sure that you visit the Holly grave site if you travel to Lubbock, TX. It is a very popular destination for those of us who appreciate how great Buddy Holly was.
Watch "The Buddy Holly Story", a decent movie about his life. To say the least, Buddy Holly was a great rocker who contributed a lot in his very young life. I wrote a post about Buddy in 2008 and Valens in 2009. They were so young! I agree that a lot of music "died that day" when those young rockers were killed.
P.S. You can hear the song here: CLICK.