Jotown American Pie


  American Pie  



They say that if you can remember the 60’s you probably weren’t there. Well I was there; I was just too young to get high so I remember them pretty well.

When this song first came out in 1971 everybody was speculating what its hidden meaning was. I remember the nuns at my catholic school telling us not to listen to it because it had “evil hidden meanings.”

I speculated about its possible “hidden meaning” for years and I have been singing a version of the song I call; “American Pie” close captioned for the 60’s impaired for over 20 years now.

At some point in the 80’s I began sending letters and calling Don McLean’s management to try to confirm that my take on this song was correct. After several attempts over many years I finally got a secretary on the phone and she told me that the song means that “Mister McLean won’t have to worry about his retirement.”

Like myself; many people have theories as to what the song means. The guy who is probably best known for his take on it the song is Rich Kulawiec. You can find his “Annotated Interpretation on the web if you Google his name along with “American Pie” and you will surely find it.

Anyway; this is what I believe the song is about and until Don McLean himself tells me that it means more than “I won’t have to worry about my retirement” I will continue to believe that he meant the song to be an allegory and a myth for our times.

If you come to one of my shows I will be glad to sing it for you if you ask me to.

Here it is………

American Pie
(Close captioned for the 60’s impaired)

A long, long time ago...

In the 1950’s

I can still remember how
that music used to make me smile.

Because it was happy and light.

And I knew if I had my chance,

I’d get into a band.

That I could make those people dance,
And maybe they'd be happy for a while

But February made me shiver,

Buddy Holly died on February 3, 1959 in a plane crash in Iowa during a snowstorm. This is why February 3, 1959 is known as “The Day the Music Died”.

With every paper I'd deliver,

When Don McLean's was a kid he was a paperboy (so was I).

Bad news on the doorstep...
I couldn't take one more step.
I can't remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride

Holly's bride, Maria Elena, was pregnant when the crash took place; she had a miscarriage shortly afterward.

But something touched me deep inside,
The day the music died.

Also dying in that same plane crash were Richie Valens ("La Bamba") and The Big Bopper ("Chantilly Lace"). They were all huge stars at the time and that is why Feb 3, 1959 became known as "The Day The Music Died".



Bye bye Miss American Pie,

Miss American Pie *is* real rock and roll music.

Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye
Singing "This'll be the day that I die,
This'll be the day that I die."

One of Holly's hits was "That'll be the Day"; the chorus contains the line "That'll be the day that I die"


Did you write the book of love,

"The Book of Love" by the Monotones; hit in 1958.

And do you have faith in God above,
If the Bible tells you so?

In the conservative 1950’s most people strongly believed in the Bible.

Now do you believe in rock 'n roll?

As opposed to religion.

Can music save your mortal soul?

Rock and Roll was the new religion to the kids.

And can you teach me how to dance real slow?

Slow dancing was very important in the 50’s but it’s popularity among teens waned in the 60’s when Rock and Roll with a fast and heavy beat became popular.

Well I know you're in love with him
'Cause I saw you dancing in the gym

Doing the “Horizontal Bop”; slow dancing as simulated sex.

You both kicked off your shoes

A reference to "sock hop’s".(street shoes would damage wooden basketball floors, and you can’t dance in gym shoes do people took off their shoes to dance.)

Man, I dig those rhythm 'n' blues

In the mid-50’s the first R&B records began showing up on the pop charts and white kids were listening to and buying these “race records” (as they were called at the time) for the first time.

I was a lonely teenage broncin' buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck

"A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation)", was a hit for Marty Robbins in 1957. The pickup truck was and still is a symbol for male sexuality.

But I knew that I was out of luck
The day the music died
I started singing...



Now for ten years we've been on our own

The 1960’s.

And moss grows fat on a rolling stone

The Rolling Stones symbolized the excess of the post British invasion Rock stars who were making fortunes off of the music that their predecessors – the great black blues men –  created.

But that's not how it used to be

Because the black Blues and R&B artists who created the foundation of rock and roll in the 30’s 40’s and 50’s ended up financially broke and destitute for the most part.

When the jester sang for the King and Queen

Bob Dylan is the Jester and this refers to his electric tour of England. While in England Dylan played a command performance for the Queen and Prince Consort of England.

In a coat he borrowed from James Dean

James Dean wore a red windbreaker in the movie "Rebel Without a Cause" and Dylan wears a similar red windbreaker On the cover of "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan” album.

And a voice that came from you and me

Bob Dylan's was said to be the voice of his generation (you and me).

Oh, and while the King was looking down

The King being Elvis whose influence on music was in decline.

The jester stole his thorny crown

Dylan being the Jester whose influence was growing. Dylan is quoted as saying that he wanted to be as big as Elvis and the “Thorny Crown” refers to the price he paid for that fame.

The courtroom was adjourned,
No verdict was returned.

The debate over who was a bigger star (Elvis or Dylan) would never be settled and still goes on today.

And while Lennon read a book on Marx,

John Lennon reading and talking about Karl Marx and the change of lyrical content in the songs of the 60’s - which was about politics and change - as opposed to the love songs of the 50’s.

The quartet practiced in the park

The Beatles performance at Shea Stadium in New York.

And we sang dirges in the dark

The kids singing the serious protest songs of the 60’s as opposed the light and banal songs of the 50’s.

The day the music died.
We were singing...



Helter Skelter in a summer swelter

Charles Manson said he was inspired by the Beatles song “Helter Skelter”. Charles Manson being famous for the Tate-Labianca murders. Summer swelter being the Summer of Love (1967) and the riots of 67, 68 and 69.

The birds flew off with the fallout shelter
Eight miles high and falling fast

 "Eight Miles High" by The Byrd's was a huge hit in 1966 and it was one of the first records to be banned because of it’s reference to drug use.

It landed foul on the grass.
The players tried for a forward pass

Abbie Hoffman, Angela Davis, the Black Panthers and the SDS were the players leading the anti-war protests of the 60’s. Abbie Hoffman was one of the primary players in the protest march at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

With the jester on the sidelines in a cast

Dylan broke his leg in a motorcycle accident in 1966 and went into seclusion. 1967, 68 and 69 were the height of the protest movement which was largely inspired by Dylan’s songs yet he was never comfortable with the title of “leader” or of being called the “voice of his generation”.

Now the halftime air was sweet perfume

The smell of burning pot and tear gas that was used on the protestors at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

While sergeants played a marching tune

The Chicago Police and the Illinois National Guard forcing the protestors away from the convention center and into the streets and then into jail.

We all got up to dance

The protestors started to march.

Oh, but we never got the chance

Because of the oppressive police presence of both the Chicago Police and the Illinois National Guard.

'Cause the players tried to take the field,

The protestors attempting to march.

The marching band refused to yield.

The Chicago Police and the Illinois National Guard who held firm and began beating the marchers Also possibly the Ohio National Guard who shot and killed protestors at Kent state that same year.

Do you recall what was revealed,

The police and national guard had guns and the protestors didn’t.

The day the music died, We started singing



And there we were all in one place

Woodstock in 1969.

A generation lost in space

The 60’s were winding down and the idealism and hope that marked the beginning of the 60’s had been replaced by escapism and drug excess. The generation that held so much hope was now lost in a drug induced haze.

With no time left to start again

The 60’s were almost over.

So come on Jack be nimble Jack be quick
Jack Flash sat on a candlestick

The Rolling Stones; "Jumpin' Jack Flash" was released in May, 1968.

'Cause fire is the devil's only friend

The song "Sympathy for the Devil", by the Rolling Stones.

And as I watched him on the stage

Mick Jagger with the Stones at Altamont.

My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in hell

At the Rolling Stones concert at the Altamont Speedway in 1968, the Stones appointed members of the Hell's Angels to work security. A fan was beaten and stabbed to death by the Hells Angels.

Could break that Satan's spell

Again; "Sympathy for the Devil" and the drug induced spell helped by the music.  

And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite

The fires that burned in the American cities during the riots of 1967, 68 and 69.

I saw Satan laughing with delight

He was very pleased.

The day the music died
He was singing...



I met a girl who sang the blues

Janis Joplin.

And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away

Joplin died of a heroin overdose on October 4, 1970

I went down to the sacred store
Where I'd heard the music years before

The "sacred store" being Bill Graham's Fillmore West, or his Fillmore East; both legendary rock concert halls that flourished in the 60’s.

But the man there said the music wouldn't play

As rock grew more commercial and mainstream the smaller rock venues like the Fillmore East and West were not as profitable as the coming arena and stadium concerts that changed rock shows forever.

And in the streets the children screamed

"Flower children" being beaten by police and National Guard troops and police in Berkley, San Francisco and at Kent State.

The lovers cried and the poets dreamed

The romance of the early 60’s was being lamented as lost. Along with the protest movement and “Flower Power” and the idea that we could actually change the world (the chorus of the Crosby, Stills and Nash song “Chicago”; the home of the Democratic National Convention in 1968)

But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken

So many of the great poet/songwriters and musicians of the 60’s were either dead or burnt out; Dead singers can’t sing and broken bells can’t ring.

And the three men I admire most The Father Son and Holy Ghost

JFK, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy and/or Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper.

They caught the last train for the coast

They were all dead.

The day the music died.

The 60’s were over.


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