"American Pie" by Don McLean
I"m not sure how I did it twice, but above is one of the many videos/interpretations of "American Pie" you can find on YouTube. The song was released six years before my birth, but I've been fascinated with it since I "discovered" it in high school. I did a bit of research this week, and I must admit that I am still not one hundred percent sure I "know" what the song means! Whatever you believe about "American Pie," you have to admit it's a great tune! Disclaimer: it's about 8 minutes long.
The song â€śAmerican Pieâ€? by Don McLean is historically significant because it marks popular musicâ€™s transition from the light and cheery music of the 50â€™s and 60â€™s to the more serious and thoughtful music of the 70â€™s. It is also an important song because it speaks about the social changes occurring throughout the United States during the decade previous to its release in 1971. The song is now thirty-seven years old and people are still trying to interpret its lyrics. Any song that remains the subject of such intense analysis approaching four decades must be a modern masterpiece.
Don McLean was a teenager in 1959, when Buddy Hollyâ€™s plane crashed; it affected him deeply. He saw it as the day the music â€“ the original, fun, rock and roll of the 50â€™s â€“ died. According to his â€śofficialâ€? website, www.don-mclean.com, McLean is cited as saying that the song is autobiographical in nature. At times, he says, he is a character in the song and at times he is an observer. He writes of historical events from his point of view, such as the time â€śhe read about his widowed bride,â€? referring to John F. Kennedyâ€™s assassination. While McLean may have written a song about a young manâ€™s perspective on the social changes taking place in the 60â€™s, many people have attempted to uncover a deeper meaning behind the lyrics. In just a few minutes of research, I found a complicated analysis of the song by Bob Dearborn, who interpreted the lyrics on his radio show in 1971, as well as other interpretations posted on individualsâ€™ personal websites, such as www.rareexception.com and www.faqs.org/faqs/music/american-pie.
â€śAmerican Pieâ€? is a significant song for students to learn about today because it can be used across the curriculum. Obviously, history teachers can use it to enhance a lesson about America in the 60â€™s â€“ students can identify events and interpret the social commentary in the musicianâ€™s lyrics. Music teachers can use it to teach folk music â€“ it illustrates the difference between rock and roll love songs and folk music with a social message. English teachers can use it to help set the scene for novels or readings set in the 60â€™s or 70â€™s. Itâ€™s a great song to use when studying current events â€“ students can use it as a guide to help them find music that make social commentary on todayâ€™s news events.
When I consider what â€śAmerican Pieâ€? might have meant to Americans two hundred years ago, I think of what was happening in the United States in 1908. Immigrants were flooding across the boarders to create a â€śmelting pot,â€? so they might have understood the symbolism of a pie. As guitars have been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, I believe they would have appreciated the acoustic nature of the music. However, it would have been incomprehensible for them to imagine a song played on the airwaves with offensive lyrics like, â€śfor no angel born in hell/ could break that Satanâ€™s spell.â€? Had Americans at the turn of the century understood McLeanâ€™s reference to the Vietnam War, â€śbad news on the doorstep/I couldnâ€™t take one more step,â€? they might have been discouraged to learn that the country was headed into a series of wars fought across the world.
However one interprets McLeanâ€™s â€śAmerican Pie;â€? as a simple song of a boyâ€™s point of view or a social commentary on America, there is no doubt that it is a song that will withstand the test of time, and should, therefore, be included in the education of our students.