A Slice of American Pie

American singer and songwriter Don McLean became popular with his 1971 album American Pie which included the hits “American Pie” and “Vincent”.

Don McLean recorded his first album Tapestry in 1969. The album wasn’t a great success but his first major break came with his second album which was American Pie. The two singles from this album, as mentioned above, rose up to number one on the charts. His song “American Pie” was partly inspired by the tragic deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson known as The Big Bopper who all died in a plane crash on February 3, 1959. This song made the expression “the day the music died” popular. In 2001 “American Pie” was voted number five in a poll of the 365 Songs of the Century.

Don McLean’s fourth album Playin’ Favorites included an Irish folk classic “Mountains of Mourne” and Buddy Holly’s “Everyday”.

Another song which became popular came from his 1974 album Homeless Brother “The Legend of Andrew McCrew”. From the same album there was also “Wonderful Baby”.

In 1977 the single “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” hit the charts. Don McLean has great success in Europe and Australia. His album Chain Lightning charted in 1981 with the single “Crying” climbing up to number five on the pop single charts.

Some interesting recordings that Don McLean has done are:



“And I Love You So” which was a hit for Perry Como in 1973 and has been done as a cover by many different other artists including Elvis.





“Vincent” was a tribute to Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh.




“Castles in the Air” which he recorded twice.




“Wonderful Baby” a tribute to Fred Astaire which Astaire had recorded himself. The song finally rose to number one on the Billboard Easy Listening survey.




“Superman’s Ghost” a tribute to the actor George Reeves who portrayed Superman in the TV series in the 1950s.



“The Grave” which McLean wrote about the Vietnam War and was done as a cover by George Michael to protest the Iraq War in 2003.

Other songs followed such as “Since I Don’t Have You”, “Love in My Heart”, “You Can’t Blame the Train” and “Eventually”.



Don McLean was inaugurated into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2007 a biography of his life was published The Don McLean Story: Killing Us Softly with His Songs.



The last album Don McLean recorded came out in 2009 titled Addicted to Black. The album includes the title song, “Promise to Remember” and “I Was Always Young”.

© 2016 Gypsy Rose Lee

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Comments 7 comments

CYong74 profile image

CYong74 3 months ago from Singapore

Great write up of a very talented musician.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

A very talented musician for sure. Also a very troubled one. I love this series...thanks for the trip back to some very fun years.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 3 months ago from Southern Illinois

" killing us softly with his songs " My favorite! I'm glad you are writing this series, so many we tend to forget. Of course, I'll never forget Elvis. He will always live in my heart!


manatita44 profile image

manatita44 3 months ago from london

He has a very beautiful voice, touching to the Soul. A brilliant singer. Thanks Gypsy.


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 3 months ago from Riga, Latvia Author

Thank you CYong

Glad you enjoyed this Bill.

Glad you enjoyed this Ruby. Of course Elvis will never be forgotten.

Glad you enjoyed this Manatita.


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 2 months ago from Central Florida

"American Pie" is a classic that still plays on the radio today. Many of the songs you feature here I've either not heard or didn't realize they were McLean's. I always learn something from this series and enjoy listening to the music.


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 2 months ago from Riga, Latvia Author

Glad you enjoyed the music Shauna.

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