THE MEANING OF AMERICAN PIE FIFTY YEARS LATER

Jul 18, 2022

By Christine Ross

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Fans of the iconic song by Don McLean sometimes wonder about the lyrics to “American Pie.”

Now, the 76-year-old is sharing the secrets in the new full-length feature documentary called “The Day the Music Died: The Story of Don McLean’s “American Pie ” released Tuesday, July 19.

His song is packed with cultural references, from Chevrolet to Vietnam War protests and nursery rhymes, while naming John Lennon, Charles Manson and James Dean.

The lyrics have been pored over for decades, dissected for meaning.

As a refresher, here are the lyrics below.

—————————–
Long long time ago, I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while
But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
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
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died
So bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee
But the levee was dry
Them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing, “This’ll be the day that I die”
This will be the day that I die
Did you write the Book of Love?
And do you have faith in God above?
If the Bible tells you so
Do you believe in rock ‘n’ roll?
Can music save your mortal soul?
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?
Well I know that you’re in love with him
‘Cause I saw you dancing in the gym
You both kicked off your shoes
Then I dig those rhythm and blues
I was a lonely teenage broncin’ buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck
But I knew I was out of luck
The day the music died
I started singing bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee
But the levee was dry
Them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing, “This’ll be the day that I die”
This will be the day that I die
Now for ten years we’ve been on our own
And moss grows fat on a rolling stone
But that’s not how it used to be
When the jester sang for the King and Queen
In a coat he borrowed from James Dean
And a voice that came from you and me
Oh and while the King was looking down
The jester stole his thorny crown
The courtroom was adjourned
No verdict was returned
And while Lenin read a book of Marx
The Quartet practiced in the park
And we sang dirges in the dark
The day the music died
We were singing, bye-bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee
But the levee was dry
Them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing, “This’ll be the day that I die”
This will be the day that I die
Helter skelter in the summer swelter
The birds flew off with a fallout shelter
Eight miles high and falling fast
It landed foul on the grass, the players tried for a forward pass
With the jester on the sidelines in a cast
Now the halftime air was sweet perfume
While the sergeants played a marching tune
We all got up to dance
Oh, but we never got the chance
‘Cause the players tried to take the field
The marching band refused to yield
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the music died?
We started singing bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye
And singing, “This’ll be the day that I die”
This will be the day that I die
Oh, and there we were all in one place
A generation lost in space
With no time left to start again
So come on, Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack Flash sat on a candlestick
‘Cause fire is the devil’s only friend
Oh, and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in Hell
Could break that Satan’s spell
And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died
He was singing bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye
And singing, “This’ll be the day that I die”
This will be the day that I die
I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away
I went down to the sacred store
Where I’d heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn’t play
And in the streets, the children screamed
The lovers cried and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken
And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died
And they were singing bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing, “This’ll be the day that I die”
This will be the day that I die
They were singing bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing, “This’ll be the day that I die”

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