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American Pie (song)

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American Pie (song)

"American Pie"
Single by Don McLean
from the album American Pie
B-side "Empty Chairs" (promo)
"American Pie part 2" (first release)
Released November 1971 (original)
November 1991 (re-release)
Format Vinyl record (original)
CD, cassette, vinyl (reissue)
Recorded May 26, 1971
Genre Folk rock
Length 8:33 (LP)
4:11 (Single Part 1)
4:31 (Single Part 2)
Label United Artists
Writer(s) Don McLean
Producer(s) Ed Freeman for The Rainbow Collection, Ltd.
Don McLean singles chronology
"American Pie"
Audio sample

"American Pie" is a song by American folk rock singer-songwriter Don McLean. Recorded and released on the American Pie album in 1971, the single was a number-one US hit for four weeks in 1972. In the UK, the single reached No. 2 on its original 1972 release and a reissue in 1991 reached No. 12. The song was listed as the No. 5 song on the RIAA project Songs of the Century. "American Pie" is considered Don McLean's magnum opus and his signature song.


Don McLean wrote the song in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[1][2] The song made its debut in Philadelphia at Temple University[3] when he was opening for Laura Nyro on March 14, 1971.[1]

When asked what "American Pie" meant, McLean jokingly replied, "It means I don't ever have to work again if I don't want to."[4] Later, he stated, "You will find many interpretations of my lyrics but none of them by me ... Sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence."[5]

Except to acknowledge that he first learned about Buddy Holly's February 3, 1959 death when he was folding newspapers for his paper route on the morning of February 4, 1959 (the line "February made me shiver/with every paper I'd deliver"), McLean has generally avoided responding to direct questions about the song lyrics, such as saying, "They're beyond analysis. They're poetry."[6] He also stated in an editorial published in 2009 on the 50th anniversary of the crash that killed Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, that writing the first verse of the song exorcised his long-running grief over Holly's death and that he considers the song to be "a big song (…) that summed up the world known as America."[7] McLean dedicated the American Pie album to Holly.


Chart (1971) Peak
Australian Kent Music Report 1
Canadian RPM Top Singles 1
Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks 1
Dutch Singles Chart 10
New Zealand Singles Chart 1
Norwegian Singles Chart 7
UK Singles Chart 2
US Billboard Hot 100 1
US Billboard Easy Listening 1

Parodies, revisions, and uses

In 1999, "Weird Al" Yankovic did a Star Wars–inspired parody of "American Pie". Titled "The Saga Begins", the song recounts the plot of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace from Obi-Wan Kenobi's point of view. While McLean gave permission for the parody, he did not make a cameo appearance in its video, despite popular rumor. McLean himself praised the parody, even admitting to almost singing Yankovic's lyrics during his own live performances because his children played the song so often.[8][9]

The City of Grand Rapids, Michigan created a lip dub video to "American Pie" in response to a Newsweek article that stated the city was "dying".[10] The video was hailed by many as a fantastic performance including Roger Ebert, who said it was "the greatest music video ever made."[11]

On March 21, 2013, Harmonix announced that "American Pie" would be the final downloadable track made available for the Rock Band series of music video games.[12]

Madonna version

"American Pie"
Single by Madonna
from the album The Next Best Thing
Released March 3, 2000
Format CD single
Recorded November 1999[13]
Genre Dance-pop
Length 4:33
Writer(s) Don McLean
Madonna singles chronology
"Beautiful Stranger"
"American Pie"
Audio sample


American pop singer Madonna released a cover version of the song in March 2000 to promote the soundtrack to her film The Next Best Thing (2000), with the song being serviced to radio on February 2.[14] Her cover is much shorter than the original (it contains only the beginning of the first verse and all of the second and sixth verses) and was recorded as a dance-pop song. It was co-produced by Madonna and William Orbit, after Rupert Everett (Madonna's co-star in The Next Best Thing) had convinced her to cover the song for the film's soundtrack.

Due to the success of the single, it was included as a bonus track on her 2000 studio album Music, making the song the first single of the new album; however it was not available on the North American version. Madonna explained in a 2001 interview on BBC Radio 1 with Jo Whiley, the reason that the song was omitted from her 2001 greatest hits compilation GHV2: "It was something a certain record company executive twisted my arm into doing, but it didn't belong on the (Music) album so now it's being punished."[15]


Released in March 2000, the song was a worldwide hit, reaching No. 1 in many countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Italy, Germany (her first since "La Isla Bonita", in 1987), Switzerland, Austria, and Finland. The song was the 19th best selling of 2000 in the UK. The single was not released commercially in the United States, but it reached No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 due to strong radio airplay.

NME gave it a negative review, saying that it was a "sub-karaoke fluff" and that "it's a blessing she didn't bother recording the whole thing."[16] Chuck Taylor from Billboard, on the other hand, was impressed by the recording and commented, "Applause to Madonna for not pandering to today's temporary trends and for challenging programmers to broaden their playlists. [...] In all, a fine preview of the forthcoming soundtrack to The Next Best Thing."[17] Don McLean himself praised the cover, saying it was "a gift from a goddess", and that her version is "mystical and sensual."[18] According to The Official Charts Company, the song has sold 385,000 copies in the United Kingdom and is her 16th best selling single to date in the UK.[19]

Music video

Madonna in the "American Pie" music video. In the scene Madonna, who is wearing a tiara, is standing while an American flag can be seen behind her.

The music video, filmed in the Southern USA and in London[20] and directed by Philipp Stölzl, depicts a diverse array of ordinary Americans, including scenes showing same-sex couples kissing. Throughout the music video Madonna, who is wearing a tiara on her head, dances and sings in front of a large American flag.

Two official versions of the video were produced, the first of which now appears on Madonna's greatest-hits DVD compilation, Celebration, and was released as the official video worldwide. The second version was issued along with the "Humpty Remix", a more upbeat and dance-friendly version of the song. This video was aired on MTV's dance channel in the United States to promote the film The Next Best Thing, starring Madonna and Rupert Everett; it contains totally different footage and new outtakes of the original and omits the lesbian kiss. Everett, who provides backing vocals in the song, is also featured in the video.

Charts and certifications


  1. ^ a b "Memory Bank's a Little Off, But Sentiment Still Holds". Retrieved August 14, 2012. 
  2. ^ Tin & Lint, a bar on Caroline Street in Saratoga Springs, New York claims the song was written there, and a plaque marks the table.
  3. ^ "Don McLean: 'American Pie' was written in Philly and first performed at Temple — NewsWorks". 2011-11-28. Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  4. ^ Howard, Dr. Alan. "The Don McLean Story: 1970–1976". Archived from the original on July 11, 2007. Retrieved June 3, 2007. 
  5. ^ "What is Don McLean's song "American Pie" all about?".  
  6. ^ "American Pie". Don
  7. ^ McLean, Don (February 1, 2009). "Commentary: Buddy Holly, rock music genius". CNN. Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  8. ^ Ask Al" Q&As for September, 1999""". Archived from the original on September 2, 2006. Retrieved October 29, 2006. 
  9. ^ "Jedi Council – Interviews Weird Al Yankovic". TheForce.Net. September 14, 1980. Retrieved May 20, 2010. 
  10. ^ "The Grand Rapids Lip Dub". Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  11. ^ "The greatest music video ever made". Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  12. ^ "'"Rock Band's final song will be Don McLean's 'American Pie. Polygon. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  13. ^ "Reheated 'American Pie' Madonna reinvents herself again, this time with Don McLean's '70s hit". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. 2000-02-12. Retrieved 2013-04-17. 
  14. ^ American Pie Hits Radio
  15. ^ "It was something a certain record company executive twisted my arm into doing, but it didn't belong on the (Music) album so now it's being punished." — Madonna, in an interview with Jo Whitley, broadcast by BBC Radio 1 on 21 November 2001.
  16. ^ "NME Track Reviews - American Pie". Nme.Com. 2000-02-26. Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  17. ^ Taylor, Chuck (February 12, 2000). """Spotlight: Madonna "American Pie.  
  18. ^ "Madonna : Don McLean Praises Madonna's 'American Pie' – Rhapsody Music Downloads". VH1. Retrieved May 20, 2010. 
  19. ^ "Madonna: The Official Top 40". MTV. MTV Networks. Retrieved December 20, 2010. 
  20. ^ Ciccone, Christopher (2008) Life with my Sister Madonna, Simon & Schuster: New York, p.278.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Steffen Hung. "ARIA Charts". Retrieved May 20, 2010. 
  22. ^ "Allmusic". Allmusic. August 16, 1958. Retrieved May 20, 2010. 
  23. ^ "". Retrieved May 20, 2010. 
  24. ^ "Craig David Storms U.K. Singles Chart". Billboard. Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  25. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE.  
  26. ^ "". June 24, 2000. Retrieved May 20, 2010. 
  27. ^ a b c d Billboard chart peaks Retrieved June 22, 2009.
  28. ^ "ARIA Charts – End Of Year Charts – Top 100 Singles 2000". Retrieved December 29, 2011. 
  29. ^ Steffen Hung. "Austria Top 40 - Hitparade Österreich". Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  30. ^ "JAAROVERZICHTEN 2000" (in Dutch). Retrieved December 29, 2011. 
  31. ^ "RAPPORTS ANNUELS 2000" (in French). Retrieved December 29, 2011. 
  32. ^ "Classement Singles – année 2000" (in French). Retrieved December 29, 2011. 
  33. ^ "German Top 20 – The Chart Of 2000". Retrieved December 29, 2011. 
  34. ^ "I singoli più venduti del 2000" (in Italian). Retrieved December 29, 2011. 
  35. ^ "JAAROVERZICHTEN – SINGLE 2000" (in Dutch). Retrieved January 24, 2012. 
  36. ^ "Årslista Singlar – År 2000" (in Swedish). Retrieved December 29, 2011. 
  37. ^ "SWISS YEAR-END CHARTS 2000" (in German). Retrieved December 29, 2011. 
  38. ^ "ARIA Charts - Accreditations - 2000 Singles". Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  39. ^ "IFPI Austria – Verband der Österreichischen Musikwirtschaft" (in Deutsch). Retrieved May 20, 2010. 
  40. ^ ", le site du Snep". Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  41. ^ ÅR 2000
  42. ^ Steffen Hung. "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community". Retrieved May 20, 2010. 

Further reading

  •   An interpretation of the lyrics based on a supposed interview of McLean by DJ Casey Kasem. McLean later confirmed the Buddy Holly reference in a letter to Adams but denied ever speaking to Kasem.
  • Roteman, Jeff (August 10, 2002). "'"Bob Dearborn's Original Analysis of Don McLean's 1971 Classic 'American Pie.  This article correlates McLean's biography with the historic events in the song. McLean pointed to WCFL (Chicago, Illinois) radio disc jockey Bob Dearborn as the partial basis for most mainstream interpretations of "American Pie". Dearborn's analysis, mailed to listeners on request, bears the date January 7, 1972. Roteman's reprinting added photos but replaced the date January 7, 1972, by an audio link bearing the date February 28, 1972, the date Dearborn aired his interpretation on WCFL.
  • Bob Dearborn's American Pie Analysis original broadcast February 28, 1972
  • Fann, Jim. "Understanding American Pie".  Historically oriented interpretation of "American Pie". The interpretation was specifically noted on in an archived version of McLean's website page on "American Pie". The material, dated November 2002, includes a recording of Dinah Shore singing "See The USA In Your Chevrolet" and a photograph of Mick Jagger in costume at the Altamont Free Concert with a Hells Angel member in the background.
    • Full "See the USA in Your Chevrolet" lyrics for Dinah Shore on the "The Dinah Shore Chevy Show" (1956–1961).
  • Kulawiec, Rich (August 26, 2001). "'"FAQ: The Annotated 'American Pie. Retrieved September 19, 2007.  FAQ maintained by Rich Kulawiec, started in 1992 and essentially completed in 1997.
    • "American Pie—A Rock Epic" A multi-media presentation of Rich Kulawiec's The Annotated "American Pie".
  • Levitt, Saul (May 26, 1971). "Interpretation of American Pie – analysis, news, Don McLean, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Rock & Roll". Retrieved May 20, 2010. 
  • O'Brien, P. (March 3, 1999). "Understanding the lyrics of American Pie". The Octopus's Garden. Archived from the original on April 7, 2013. Retrieved July 29, 2013. 

External links

  • The Official Website of Don McLean and American Pie provides the songwriter's own biography, lyrics and clues to the song's meaning.
  • Bob Dylan references
  • Understanding American Pie An in depth analysis of the song based on historical context.
  • Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics
Preceded by
"Brand New Key" by Melanie
US Billboard Hot 100 number-one single (Don McLean version)
January 15, 1972 (four weeks)
Succeeded by
"Let's Stay Together" by Al Green
Preceded by
"Cherish" by David Cassidy
Billboard Easy Listening Singles number-one single (Don McLean version)
January 15, 1972 (three weeks)
Succeeded by
"Hurting Each Other" by The Carpenters
Preceded by
"Brand New Key" by Melanie
Australian Kent Music Report number-one single (Don McLean version)
March 6, 1972 (five weeks)
Succeeded by
"Without You" by Nilsson
Preceded by
"Pure Shores" by All Saints
UK Singles Chart number-one single (Madonna version)
March 5, 2000 - March 11, 2000 (one week)
Succeeded by
"Don't Give Up" by Chicane featuring Bryan Adams
Preceded by
"My Heart Goes Boom (La Di Da Da)" by French Affair
German Singles Chart number-one single (Madonna version)
March 10, 2000 (one week)
Succeeded by
"Maria Maria" by Santana featuring The Product G&B
Preceded by
"Freestyler" by Bomfunk MC's
Swedish Singles Chart number-one single (Madonna version)
March 23, 2000 (one week)
Succeeded by
"Never Be the Same Again" by Melanie C featuring Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes
Preceded by
"Jam & Spoon
Billboard Hot Dance Club Play number-one single (Madonna version)
April 1, 2000 (one week)
Succeeded by
"Think It Over" by Jennifer Holliday
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