Lyrics: American Pie

The song “American Pie” was used in a “singing” call at our class tonight. This song is very famous and also VERY, VERY long, so I won’t try to explain all of it (especially because I don’t understand all of it myself), but I thought that I would give our members a quick summary of the song so that they can think about it the next time they dance to it.

American Pie by Don McLean

Summary: This song is about how much the world changed between the 1950s and the late 1960s, especially in the United States. The songwriter, Don McLean grew up during that time (he was born in 1945), so the song follows his path from youth to adulthood — going from the bright innocence of the 1950s to the darker disillusionment of the late 1960s. The song includes many references to people/bands that were famous during those years, including Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, and the Byrds — and these bands are used to help McLean tell the story of what it was like to grow up during that time. The song is like a musical history of the era.

The day the music died” refers to February 3, 1959. On this day, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper all died in a plane crash.

Miss American Pie” can either mean Marilyn Monroe (and he is saying “bye bye” to her because she died on August 5, 1962) or it can mean “the girl next door”, which is an expression that usually refers to a young girl who lived in your neighbourhood while you were growing up.

This’ll be the day that I die” is probably referring to the song “That’ll be the day” by Buddy Holly.

If you want to know more, please read the detailed analysis of this song’s lyrics by Bob Dearborn, who was a DJ in Chicago when the song was released (1971).

Watch Don McLean perform “American Pie” on October 31, 1991: